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Miami Beach’s Star Island: A Brief History of the Island and its Luxury Real Estate

August 15, 2016

A Brief History Of Miami Beach’s Star Island

Before it was the home of Puff Daddy and Shaquille O’Neal, before the Russian barons and Saudi sheiks took up residence, Miami Beach’s Star Island was just sand and dirt at the bottom of Biscayne Bay. There was no bridge to Miami Beach, and the barrier island itself was largely undeveloped — a spit of hot mangrove swamp three miles from the city of Miami.

Bridge at Star Island Miami Beach FL

Then Carl Fisher came along and changed everything. Fisher was a self-made man, an entrepreneur from Indiana who turned a bicycle repair shop into a multi-million-dollar fortune. He raced cars, sold cars, and built highways for them. Then, as a real estate developer, he built destinations for the highways. And if there wasn’t a place to construct real estate, he created new land entirely.

In that sense, Fisher has done more to shape Miami than anybody since Henry Flagler, South Florida’s founding father. He’s the one who dreamed up The Dixie Highway back in 1914. Then he cleared the swamp, named it Miami Beach, and connected it to the mainland with a three-mile wooden bridge. With that he laid the foundations for Miami Beach luxury real estate, developing five-star hotels and promoting Miami in the north as a holiday destination.

Aerial View of Star Island MIami Beach FL

Then there’s Star Island. As Will Rogers once put it: “Fisher was the first man to discover that there was sand under the water … that could hold up a real estate sign. He made the dredge the national emblem of Florida.” With help from the Army Corps of Engineers, Fisher financed the dredging of Biscayne Bay, creating the many bay islands that now house some of Miami Beach’s most valuable luxury real estate: Star Island, Hibiscus Island, Palm Island, the Venetian Islands.

The 1920s Gilded Age saw an explosion of super-luxury real estate on Star Island. The big name in Miami architecture at the time was Walter De Garmo. If you don’t know his name, you definitely know his work or his legacy if you’ve been to Miami Beach. De Garmo pioneered the Mission Revival and Mediterranean Revival styles that dominate the regional landscape.

In 1925, he built 42 Star Island, a gorgeous Star Island home that would later be demolished in 2014 by a famous plastic surgeon who was making way for a more modern home. In 1924, De Garmo built another Star Island villa that would eventually be purchased by millionaire entrepreneur John Jansheski, who vowed not to demolish it but rather (impressively) to pick it up and move it to make way for a new mansion.

Later, modern architects would leave their mark on Star Island, developing some of the most high-tech and world-renowned properties in South Florida, the settings for fun times and movie shoots. (Miami Vice loved Star Island.) But what has always made this neighborhood so interesting is the people who live there. By virtue of their wealth and the diversity of their origins, Star Islanders are a special and eclectic set, securing their legacy in the history of this exclusive place simply by virtue of having lived there. It’s not too many people who can say, “My house on Star Island…”

For more information on the Star Island homes and luxury Miami Beach properties available please contact one of our luxury real estate specialists at ARIA Luxe. Please feel free to also reach out to us at +1 (305)-791-0002.

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