‘Rich history of Sunny Isles Beach’ features Paul S. George, PhD, historian, author

By Bari Auerbach

As a prelude to its festive 20th anniversary celebration weekend, the City of Sunny Isle Beach hosted the Aventura Marketing Council/ Chamber of Commerce June breakfast meeting featuring Paul S. George, PhD, resident historian for History of Miami Museum, author of 15 books, over 200 reviews and past president of the Florida Historical Society.

FP.1 – Gary Pyott, Chairman, Aventura Marketing Council / Chamber of Commerce; Guest speaker Paul S. George, Ph.D.; Mayor Bud Scholl, Comm. Jeanette Gatto and City Manager Chris Russo, City of Sunny Isles Beach

FP.1 – Gary Pyott, Chairman, Aventura Marketing Council / Chamber of Commerce; Guest speaker Paul S. George, Ph.D.; Mayor Bud Scholl, Comm. Jeanette Gatto and City Manager Chris Russo, City of Sunny Isles Beach

Before George shared rich history and “little known secrets” of Sunny Isles Beach and surrounding areas, AMC Chairman Gary Pyott welcomed hundreds of business and community leaders to Trump International Resort along with Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl, Vice Mayor Dana Goldman, Comm. Jeanette Gatto, City Manager Chris Russo, Deputy City Attorney Fernando Amuchastegui and Police Chief Fred Maas.

Considering the Sunny Isles Beach tax base now exceeds $11 billion, residents had much cause for celebration when the city recently hosted a 20th anniversary weekend extravaganza with music, food, fun and a fabulous fireworks finale.  In his State of the City address, Scholl reported, “For the fifth year in a row, we have reduced our millage rate. Our collective assessed real estate value, now over $11 billion, demonstrates the incredible value creation that has been experienced since incorporating in 1997.”

Scholl also highlighted progressive initiatives including beach renourishment; beautification and capital improvements including resurfacing of Collins Avenue following the undergrounding of utilities; innovative technology solutions; the opening of five-acre Gateway Park; and enhanced cultural events. New stellar properties including the Ritz Carlton Residences, Armani Casa, Turnberry Ocean Club, the Residence Inn by Marriott and Porsche Design continue to attract international visitors and residents to “Florida’s Riviera.”

Reflecting on the city’s remarkable renaissance, Paul George noted, “Sunny Isles Beach is spreading magical charm throughout the whole area and is probably the most rapidly- changing community in all of America.”

George’s whirlwind historical retrospective dated back to the 1800’s when U.S. mail carriers known as the “barefoot mailmen” had to travel on foot or by boat because there was no road connecting their route between Palm Beach and Miami. On their trek, they kicked off their shoes and walked along sandy shorelines near Sunny Isles Beach.

George also shared the pioneer spirit and contributions of entrepreneurial developers and architects who laid the groundwork for the area’s bright future including Harvey Graves, Henry Flagler, George Merrick and Norman Giller. He recalled the days of prohibition, gambling, segregation and World War II, when there was an army gunnery range at Bal Harbour. Then the heyday of the ‘40s and ‘50s when Sunny Isles Beach became the “motel capital of the world” renowned for the first two-story motor hotels with rooms for $4 a night; and the Castaways in the ‘60s with its famous aquarium bar and go-go dancers.

Reflecting on the good old days, decline and then return to glory days, George said, “Over the years, the incredible transformation of Sunny Isles Beach and its escalating tax base has been absolutely unbelievable.” Summing up the success story of Sunny Isles Beach, Mayor Scholl predicted, “Hopefully by this time next year we’ll be a ‘$12 billion sandbar.’ There are still great things on the horizon!”

For more information about Sunny Isles Beach, visit the city’s website sibfl.net or contact the Visitor Center: 305-792-1952