By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Almost every Saturday the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) sponsors a unique way to experience the varied history of South Beach. The ‘South Beach Scandals Tour’ is a 90-minute walking tour focused on the illegal activities and shady characters in Miami Beach history.
Topics include political corruption, illegal gambling, alcohol during prohibition, and organized crime figures, from the 1940s illegal gambling rings and prohibition to the 1980s that inspired Scarface and more.
One of the most notable points-of-interest is the former Versace mansion, the scene of perhaps South Beach’s most notorious murder, the killing of iconic fashion designer Gianni Versace in 1997.
The tour departs from the Art Deco Welcome Center, 1001 Ocean Drive at 11AM, and tickets can be purchased online or on site. Adults pay $30, veterans, students and seniors pay $25, and children under twelve are free.
Howard Brayer is the guide for the tour and shares, “The Scandals tour was given for a number of years only for the annual Art Deco Weekend festival. [and] has been offered on a regular basis since mid-2017.”
Brayer adds, “One of the stops on the tour is inside the Essex House Hotel at 10th Street and Collins Avenue, where I talk about illegal gambling in Miami Beach hotels. At its peak in the late 1940’s, up to 200 hotels featured illegal gambling.”
“One of the things I point out are the arrows in the terrazzo floor, pointing to a small room, now a bar, off the main lobby. This would have pointed the way to the room where the gambling was taking place. Often people have a look of surprise when I point that out.”
The experience is also offered as a private tour upon request for groups of ten or greater ($35 per person), or for a flat rate of $350 for groups less than ten people. Tour reservations should be made at least two weeks in advance. For more information on setting up a private tour, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miami Design Preservation League is a not-for-profit preservation and arts organization founded in 1976, which preserves, protects and promotes the architectural, cultural, social and environmental integrity of Miami Beach and the surrounding areas.
MDPL provides cultural and educational programs to Dade County residents, surrounding counties, citizens of Florida and to national and international visitors and tourists.
Their programs are developed for the general public and have special appeal to those interested in art, design, architecture, history, preservation, urban and community planning and development.
The next tour is on Saturday, June 15th, and tickets and schedule can be seen here.