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The Pool at the Raleigh Hotel

Josh Loring

Miami's Art Deco District, located in the South Beach section of the city, is home to a variety of buildings designed and built in the 20's, 30's and 40's, which introduced the Art Deco style initially made popular in France prior to World War I . The district is so important to the history of architecture in the U.S. that it became the first 20th-century neighborhood to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Miami Design Preservation League, a non-profit devoted to, among other things, preserving the architectural integrity of Miami Beach, explains that the city's building boom was part of the second phase of the Art Deco movement known as Streamline Moderne.  Architects in Miami during this time period created a sub-category of the style that would later be referred to as Tropical Deco, and featured "whimsical flora, fauna and ocean-liner motifs to reinforce the image of Miami Beach as a seaside resort."  If not for the efforts of both the League and the National Register, the neighborhood would probably look a lot different today - a likely victim of mass new development that runs rampant throughout the rest of the city. 
The use of the Art Deco style in South Beach was vast, utilized for both government and private construction, but most notable of these buildings were the boutique hotels that popped up just blocks from the beach.  With names like the Clevelander, the Tides, the Cardozo, the National and the Penguin, these hotels, which remain in use today, typically stood only a few stories high, with just a handful requiring you to tilt your head back and look up towards the sky.  Instead of the massive walls of glass and steel that occupy much of Miami's beachfront horizon, the landscape in the Art Deco district remains sparse, largely the same as it was in the forties, and as you walk around the area you get that rare feeling of being transported back to a past time.
One of these hotels, the Raleigh, had its Art Deco style extend beyond the building to its pool, where the unique shape, which includes a shallow wading area around the perimeter, coupled with its lush tropical surroundings, make for a truly unique hotel pool experience. Built in 1940 during Miami's pre-war boom, the pool at the Raleigh gained much publicity, with LIFE Magazine at one point in the forties declaring it the most beautiful pool in America.  Esther Williams, the competitive swimmer turned actress, used the pool as the backdrop for many of her popular films in the forties and fifties.  Take a virtual tour of the hotel and pool here, and check out the below photos from our recent stay.