Constructed between 1940 and 1942 using the Florida Georgian style of architecture that typified many other hotels on Ocean Drive, the Betsy South Beach Hotel connects to the former Carlton Hotel, which is now part of the property, through a public art piece known locally as The Orb. Formerly the Betsy Ross, the property was added to the State Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Built in 1940 and opened in 1942,
the Betsy was designed by L. Murray Dixon, one of the two fathers of Miami’s
Art Deco District–the other being Henry Hohauser. The Betsy was the last
Florida Georgian style building erected near the beach on the land side of
Similar to other large hotels during World War II, the United States government used the hotel to station troops as they trained in the area. In addition to providing much needed business for hotels during an era when rationing reduced tourism, government contracts with large resorts and hotels allowed for the billeting of troops without the construction of temporary barracks.
The hotel's current owner, Jonathan Plutzik, is the son of poet and hree-time Pulitzer Prize finalistHyam Plutzik. Plutzik acquired the hotel in a bankruptcy sale in 2005, and after a multimillion-dollar
full makeover from interior designer Carmelina Santoro and Miami-based
architects Shulman + Associates and Diamante Pedersoli, the hotel reopened in 2009.
When the opportunity arose to more
than double the hotel’s footstep by taking over the historic but neglected Henry Hohauser-designed Carlton Hotel next door, Plutzik launched a two-year
expansion that merged both buildings into one property that opened in fall of 2016. The expansion involved the preservation
and rehabilitation of the two historic hotels and existing facades, the
refurbishment of the Carlton lobby, the addition of new structures and roof
complex, as well as the revitalization of 14th Place/Espanola Way alley on the
north side of the property. The Betsy’s original Colonial-style wing stands as
the only example of Florida Georgian architecture in the area, and it connects
to the fully renovated Art Deco wing in the former Carlton by a piece of public
art called The Orb.
Betsy’s PACE programs take place year-round
and embrace all arts disciplines. PACE is the cornerstone Betsy program that
weaves Philanthropy, Arts, Culture, and Education into everything the Betsy
does. The hotel also offers The Writer’s Room, a working studio space for visiting
writers housed inside the hotel where they are invited to write at Hyam Plutzik's
desk, which opened in 2012. All the hotel asks for in return is for the Writer's Room resident to do
a community-facing event, such as teaching a Master Class at the local high
school or University.