2-5. Biscaya Hotel, Miami Beach 1976-1977

The Biscaya Hotel was my point of entry to a decade-long look at the elderly Jewish people who constituted South Beach. The hotel was in South Beach but had nothing to do with anything beyond its walls. It was a grand hotel when the city was young and the good life was alive and well along Biscayne Bay. But vacationers migrated to the ocean a mile away and the bay-front hotels closed. The Biscaya was the last of its kind; it was razed in 1977. A high-rise condominium has taken its place.

The Biscaya had become a halfway house, a retirement residence, and a dumping ground for old, lost and wayward people. Isolated at the foot of the MacArthur Causeway, the hotel was in plain sight but unseen and ignored. Its residents lived cocooned within the confines of the deteriorating building and its weathered surrounding walls. The gardens had become weeds and the structure had fallen into disrepair long ago. Inside a Felliniesque environment existed, invisible and unimaginable to the world outside.

As a child, my family had a cabana there.