Welcome to the 305 – Miami, Florida. Miami has sun, surf, and a truly unique history that has left countless abandoned places just begging to be explored.
People didn’t really settle in Miami until after Henry Flagler extended his rail line down to Miami in the late 1890s. After that, the city of Miami was incorporated and experienced exponential growth earning it the nickname the Magic City. While most of the country was going through the Great Depression Miami continued to grow fueled by legal gambling and lax prohibition enforcement. During World War 2 many Florida cities were heavily affected by the war but Miami magically remained largely unaffected.
The 1960s brought thousands of Cuban immigrants as Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba. It was also a time of great social unrest as the Civil Rights Movement sparked riots. During the 80s Miami gained notoriety as the largest port of entry for cocaine. The cocaine trade brought millions of dollars into Miami which quickly spread throughout the city’s economy. It put Miami on the world’s map as one of the most glamorous subtropical cities.
But life in the fast lane can only last for so long. In the 1990s Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami leaving behind $20 billion in damage. After several financial scandals, Miami was left with the title of the fourth poorest city in the United States by 1996.
Finding The Best Abandoned Places in Miami
Because of Miami’s history of ups and downs it is also one of the most interesting places for urban explorers. Get a glimpse of Miami’s past through our list of the top 10 coolest abandoned places in Miami, Florida.
North Dade Detention Center
Opened in 1974 the North Dade Detention Center was built to serve the needs of the local population. The center was closed just two years later in 1976 and then leased to the State of Florida to be used by Miami Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation as a work-release center until the mid-2010s.
Miami Dade County corrections facilities are widely regarded as the worst facilities in the United States. They have a history of violence, mistreatment of the mentally ill, and overcrowding. In 2010 a federal report listed Miami Dade Pretrial Detention Center as one of the worst in America for inmate sexual abuse. The center complied with federal prison standards and has become a national model for preventing rape and sexual abuse.
The U.S Department of Justice eventually closed the psychiatric ward and transferred the inmates to a better facility with more modern programs and up-to-date facilities. Miami-Dade still has problems with its correctional system but this was a step in the right direction.
Today, the North Dade Detention Center still stands as one of the abandoned places in Miami although it has been badly vandalized and damaged from storms. The walls are covered in graffiti and the center eerily quiet, and this is one of the most common abandoned places in Miami for urban explorers.
Deauville Beach Resort
The Deauville Beach Resort was constructed in 1926 by Joe Elsener a real estate investor. At the time the resort was a luxurious casino and beach club known for having the largest swimming pool in Florida.
A few years later Elsener filed for bankruptcy and the Deauville was sold at a public auction. The resort was purchased by the Deauville Casino Corporation and they kept Elsener on to be the general manager.
In 1936 the resort was sold to bodybuilder Bernarr Macfadden and the name was changed to Macfadden-Deauville. The resort was operated as a health spa. Eventually, the building was demolished in 1956 to make way for a new hotel.
The new Deauville Beach Resort was designed by Melvin Grossman. Grossman also designed Ceaser’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Acapulco Princess Hotel in Mexico. The Deauville was declared Hotel of the Year when it opened in 1957 boating 538 rooms, a swimming pool, ice skating rink, radio station, restaurants and shops, even a beauty salon.
The new hotel attracted a lot of celebrities such as Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Betty Grable President Kennedy, and President Reagan. Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, and Tony Bennet played in the ballroom for swanky guests.
In 2017 the hotel had an air conditioner installed without electrical permits. The city ordered them to stop using it but they didn’t listen. This resulted in a fire from the faulty wiring. The electrical room was the only room that was damaged however the guests were evacuated and relocated so that the hotel could make repairs.
The hotel has remained closed since that time. It sustained further damages from hurricane Irma. The abandoned building is rumored to be full of water, mildew, and remains without power. A lawsuit against the owners from the city of Miami is pending because the abandoned hotel attracts homeless people and vandalism. Furniture is scattered about and the chandeliers still hang from the ceilings in this time capsule from the not so distant past. While not completely bogged down in graffiti (yet), this is definitely one of the most sought-after abandoned places in Miami.
Redland Coral Castle House
The Redland Coral Castle was built in 1932. It remains a mystery who built the house and for what purpose. Visitors to the house called it the Coral House and would wander through the home’s gardens and extensive property.
The home was apparently lived in but that didn’t stop tourists from visiting and sending pictures back home. In the 1980s the home was bought by James Cloninger. He operated Cloninger Air Boats, a workshop, just south of the property and he owned some agricultural fields to the west.
During Hurricane Andrew the interior of the building was destroyed along with the roof and second floor of the building. The storm left behind only the shell of the building.
In 2011 James Cloninger died and left Coral Castle to his family. The home sold in 2015 for an estimated $1 million. Today the property is used as a farm and nursery. The house is still standing and is used for portrait photos, and is a great example of the wonderful abandoned places in Miami.
Parkway West Regional Medical Center
Parkway West Regional Medical Center opened in 1974 after taking two years to construct. The hospital was 11 stories high with 127 rooms and over 300 beds. The hospital was operated until it closed in 2002.
In 2009 local business investors had plans to renovate the hospital into an assisted living facility. The new community would cost $22 million to be named Diamond Pointe. Diamond Pointe was projected to have 150 rooms and approximately 50 to 100 employees. Unfortunately this project never came to fruition.
So the hospital continued to sit as one of the abandoned places in Miami. Over the years it deteriorated attracting taggers, scrappers, and urban explorers. Today the walls are covered in graffiti, mold covers every surface and large pieces of metal hang from the ceiling.
The building has gathered more than $2 million dollars in code violations and the police often pick up trespassers. Finally a new owner came on the scene and has begun to plan a new life for the building. Trustee Yaniz Nakash taled about gutting the building and turning it into commercial and residential units however in 2015 these plans fell through. As of today the property still remains vacant and it is facing foreclosure.
Miami Marine Stadium
The Miami Marine Stadium was the first stadium in the United States built exclusively for powerboat racing. It was designed by 28-year-old Hilario Candela, a Cuban immigrant on land that was donated to the City of Miami by the Matheson family. The stadium cost approximately $2 million and was opened in 1963.
This one of a kind stadium featured a floating stage in front of the grandstand and was host to many world-class powerboat events. Eventually the stadium became a host to other events such as boxing, concerts, and Sunday services.
During the 1980s the stadium began to see a decline in attendance. This decline in attendance can be directly related to new restrictions, political pressure from the city, and a lack of event promotions. During this time the stadium was also facing growing competition from newer venues.
The last race held in the stadium was the 1987 Inboard Hydroplane National Championship. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew destroyed South Florida causing billions of dollars in damages. Engineers for the City of Miami condemned the stadium because of cracks in the foundation. Years later engineers determined the structure to be sound but in need of repairs estimated to cost $2 million.
Progress was made in 2008 when the stadium was listed as a historic place by Miami’s Historic Preservation and Environmental Board. During 2010 the Miami- Dade Commissioners passed a resolution to allocate $3 million to the stadium to begin its historical preservation and return it as a venue for water sports to the city.
The City of Miami gave control of the stadium to a preservation group in 2013 and they returned in 2014 with a plan to move forward with the revitalization. However, the plan would have cost $121 million and was shot down by the city commission. The city then put the project on hold and it has since remained abandoned attracting homeless people and vandals it the property.
Coconut Grove Playhouse
The Coconut Grove Playhouse was originally constructed as a movie theater in the late 1920s. Designed by Richard Kiehnel in opened in 1927 as part of the Paramount theater chain. It was the second movie theater with air conditioning in the state at the time of its opening and it had the third-largest Wurlitzer organ in the United States at the time.
After the theater opened the stock market crashed in 1929 and Paramount Theaters went bankrupt in the mid-1930s. The theater was closed and then used as a school for Air Force navigators in World War II.
In 1955 George Engle purchased the theater for $20,000 with plans to create a performing arts theater. Engle hired local architect Alfred Browning Parker to refurbish the theater. It was then renamed The Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Engle closed the theater in 1960 after failing to attract an audience and disappointing sales. He leased the building to the Miami Actors Company from 1964 to 1965. The building was then purchased and sold by a number of people before the state of Florida acquired it in 1980.
The state transferred the title over to Coconut Grove Playhouse Inc. to operate the theater. In 2006 the theater was celebrating it’s 50th anniversary when it abruptly shut its doors because the liability insurance lapsed. The theater reopened again amid mounting debt and announced it’s last season.
After years of failure the state retook control of the theater in 2012. The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs put forth a plan to demolish much of the building leaving only the front part to be restored. A modern theater is slated for the part of the building that is being torn down to be run by GableStage the company that operates the Biltmore Hotel.
Currently, lawsuits and disputes with local opposition groups have stalled the plans for the building. It sits today as one of the coolest abandoned places in Miami and is listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places. As of now, it is one of the coolest abandoned places in Miami.
Crandon Park Zoo
In 1948 the City of Miami had recently acquired some land on Key Biscayne. It purchased two black bears, three monkeys, and a goat and created the first public zoo. Over time more animals and attractions were added as well as a miniature railroad that ran around the perimeter of the zoo.
During these times conditions at the zoo were inhumane compared to today’s standards. Concerns about the welfare of the animals began to grow. Then on Labor Day in 1965 Hurricane Betsy made landfall off the coast of Key Largo killing 250 animals. Many of the animals drowned in their enclosures. The city began plans for a bigger and better zoo which finally did open in 1980.
The Crandon Zoo location is now a botanical garden where visitors can take in the tropical vegetation and see some of the remaining cages from Crandon Park Zoo.
When you drive down Biscayne Bay and look out to the ocean you’ll be able to spot seven buildings hovering above the water. These buildings were built on wood and reinforced concrete pilings. This is the tiny neighborhood of Stiltsville.
Part of Biscayne National Park, the buildings are owned by the National Park Service and managed by the Stilsville Trust. These homes were once part of a thriving 27 building community. They are located one mile offshore.
Eddie Walker created Stiltsville in the 1920s during Prohibition. These shacks were made as gambling and liquor establishments for people who disagreed with the law. Over the years, partying, hurricanes, and fires took their toll on the buildings and now there are only 7 left.
Visiting the structures is allowed by gaining a permit from the Stiltsville Trust and you can only access them by boat. Only in Florida do you find cool abandoned places in Miami out in the middle of the ocean.
Neptune Memorial Reef
Forty-feet underwater lies a “lost city”. The lost city is part of an underwater cemetery that features roads, gates, and crumbling ruins. Originally named the Atlantis Memorial Reef this underwater cemetery acts as an artificial reef and is sponsored by the Neptune Society a cremation company.
Cremated remains are cast into concrete memorials and placed within the sunken city where divers can visit their loved ones. Bert Kilbride, the oldest living scuba divers in the Guinness Book of World Records is laid to rest here at the top of one of the cemetery’s entryways.
The “lost city” was created with bronze and steel accents to create a marine environment for fish and coral. The area is free to visit and open to all divers. It should come as no surprise that, of all the abandoned places in Miami, this is one of the most difficult to reach.
The Academy of Arts and Minds
Founded in 2003 Bridgeprep Academy of Arts and Minds Charter High School was a performing Arts and public charter school located in Coconut Grove. This school was located in a former shopping mall and was founded by Manuel Alonso-Poch a real estate lawyer. Not only was he the founder he was also the school’s landlord, but it’s also a spokesman, donor, food service provider, and financial manager.
Up until 2011 the State of Florida gave the school an “A” grade and enrollment increased. A lack of resources and a high turnover rate by the school’s employees were also noted by the community. Eventually the school found itself in a controversy when it was discovered that it was charging students to attend basic classes which is illegal. Several parents wrote notes to the school board and cited Alonso-Pach’s conflict of interests.
By 2013 the school’s grade slipped from an “A” to a “C” the school declined in quality and parents complained about the lack of textbooks, teachers, and bullying. The school was finally shut down in 2018 after years of controversy. Now the building is added to the list of abandoned places in Miami that have been vandalized over the past years. There are no current plans for the building.
Abandoned Places in Miami Have a Unique History
Miami has experienced unique booms and busts unlike the rest of the country. Many of these properties would not be abandoned places in Miami today if the city government would have been more helpful in revitalization efforts. Visiting these historical places gives a glimpse into the history of Florida and the settlement of South Florida.
Miami has a surprising number of abandoned places for urban exploration. From hospitals to schools, theaters, and old liquor dens there’s plenty for urbex enthusiasts to explore in Miami. If you enjoyed this article, read about interesting abandoned places in Jacksonville, Florida next.