Published on : Saturday, March 25, 2017
From the moment it first opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1930, The Surf Club in Miami has hosted history. It is an institution whose reputation looms large in the imagination of so many more people than can ever have visited it, let alone been members. When tire tycoon Harvey Firestone first had the idea of a new type of social club, on board his yacht the Marybelle, he could never have imagined how enduring the appeal would be of what he would soon create.
On this same 9-acre (3.6 hectare) stretch of oceanfront in Surfside, Florida, located in the northern beaches of Miami, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club today comprises 77 guest rooms, a selection of hotel residences, Le Sirenuse Restaurant and Champagne Bar, three pools, a pristine beach, and Spa and Wellness Center.
“The Surf Club’s success has always been determined by quality, passion and relaxed precision and that remains our priority today; being intuitive, exceeding our guests’ every expectation and creating memories that will last a lifetime,” says General Manager Reed Kandalaft.
The Surf Club Yesterday
The Mediterranean Revival building and beachside cabanas that made up The Surf Club were designed by Russell T. Pancoast. They formed elegant backdrops that would frame the beach and sea, and cradle the crowd from the outside world at the same time. It quickly became a magnet for members that crossed industry, culture and class. It was a home away from home for people who shared provenance, privilege and a preference for pleasure.
Archive photos show poolside fashion shows directed by Elizabeth Arden, Shah Mohamed Reza of Iran on the tennis court, his wife on water skis and Winston Churchill painting in his cabana. There was booze on the beach during prohibition, kayaks in the swimming pool, black tie boxing dinners and lavish themed galas, one time with elephants, another with 300 tables made of ice. It was a place of myth, legend and endless laughter. The names that rolled up were pioneers of the good life: Noel Coward, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Frank Sinatra, Tennessee Williams, Joan Crawford, Liberace.
They came to The Surf Club for its reputation as a place where proper impropriety was allowed. It was for people with good taste seeking good times. It combined power and pleasure, ceremony and swagger – its members felt off duty but on show, together. It provided its crowd with somewhere they felt they belonged, somewhere safe: a ballroom and beach, behind closed doors.
Firestone’s mission was to embrace the possibilities of a new era and provide a new crowd that was emerging with a new type of offer that supported who they were, how they lived and how they behaved. It was a social club with sophistication in its bones, matched by a singular understanding of who its members were and what brought them together. It respected privacy but allowed freedom.