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In 1932, a promising Jewish architect made his way from New York City to the young and booming resort town of Miami, Florida and would change the landscape of the Magic City forever. His name was Henry Hohauser and for over 20 years his architectural firm would design more than 300 buildings in and around Miami. In fact, he would be credited with bringing the city’s architecture out from under its Spanish Colonial past and give it the more modern and optimistic look known today as “Miami Modern”. One of those buildings he designed still stands today and is the feature of today’s Motel Monday – The Pelican Motel  on Ocean Drive in Miami.

The Pelican Then

Postcard with artist’s rendering of the Pelican Motel sometime after it first opened in 1948.
Postcard of the Pelican Hotel, circa 1948, Public Domain

The three-story, 30 room Pelican was built in 1948. The concrete stucco building was built in the Miami Modern style and featured a single-story, full-span open porch under the main roof. The roof itself was flat with a parapet. The outside was ornamented with brick veneer and the primary entryway was a simple glass double door with a tri-colored terrazzo floor design just before it.

According to a postcard from sometime around 1948, back when it was the “Newest Hotel on Ocean Drive” the hotel touted itself as “Ultra Modern” and “Air-Cooled”. Amenities included a solarium and a recreation room.

The postcard also shows a few bathing beauties sunning themselves on a beach with waves lapping the shore just a few meters from the front door.  However, either the artist of the postcard took a few artistic liberties or a lot has changed since 1948. Today you have to walk a couple hundred meters by first crossing Ocean Drive, then walking through Lumming Park, before the waves are finally lapping at your feet.

Of course, this image may have changed over the last 70 years or so, but that’s not all that’s changed about the Pelican.

The Pelican Now

Renzo Rosso, Italian designer and founder of Diesel clothing company, bought the then little-known Pelican Hotel in 1990, hired famous Swedish designer Magnus Ehrland, and together they renovated the 32 room hotel and turned it into one of the most famous hotels in Miami. With the Ford Modeling Agency occupying offices on the first floor, their clients (who included the likes of Helena Christensen and Naomi Campbell) soon helped make the Pelican the hotel to stay at when in Miami.

Photo of the exterior of the Pelican Hotel in Mimi Florida the way it looks today.
The Pelican Hotel today. MrBill3, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pelican underwent another refresh in 2020.  This time it was a two year renovation headed by Renzo’s son, Andrea Rosso, who restored the hotel’s original furniture – not an easy thing to do considering the themed rooms once featured one-off pieces and vintage antiques gleaned from all over the world.

Today, the themed-room concept continues, though perhaps the kitsch has been toned down a little. These days (and nights), you can stay in the “Executive Zebra” suite, for example, which is covered in a variety of animal prints. Then there’s the “Lust in Space” room with its space walls, Mid-Century Modern furnishings, and a chrome chandelier that any lover of Space Age design would lust over.

Of course there are 30 other rooms with names like “Big Bamboo” room, the “People from the 50s” room, the James Bond penthouse (Renzo Rosso’s favorite room when he’s in town) and the “Go Bananas” suite. However, we don’t want to spoil all the fun by telling you what they’re all about. You’ll just have to discover them on your own.

One other new thing at the hotel is the addition of a new street-level eatery, the Pelican Café which features both indoor and outdoor seating. Watched over by Italian chef Wendy Cacciatori, the café offers upscale Italian fare plus some American favorites.

If you’re looking for a boutique hotel that’s kind of retro, kind of quirky and always comfortably stylish, then make plans to stay at the Pelican Hotel the next time you’re in Miami.  For more info, call them at +1 305-673-3373 or visit their website here.

Illustration of the Stuckey's Mystery Box.
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Of course, whether it’s the beaches of Miami or the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, wherever you’re headed on your next road trip, take Stuckey’s along for the ride.

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