Located on a thin barrier island across Biscayne Bay from the city of Miami, the future site of Miami Beach was variously occupied by a coastguard station, a coconut plantation, and an avocado farm before its establishment as a winter resort in the early 1900s.
Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher had a vision of transforming the largely unpopulated barrier island into an elegant winter resort. Fisher encouraged local real estate investors to undertake filling operations to increase the area of the island and build hotels, bathhouses, an aquarium, and an 18-hole golf course.
The Town of Miami Beach was chartered on March 26, 1915 and received municipal status two years later. Carl Fisher tirelessly promoted Miami Beach through the 1920s as a fashionable winter playground for wealthy visitors from the Northeast and Midwest. Among the most lavish and popular hotels were The Flamingo Hotel, The Fleetwood Hotel, The Floridian, The Nautilus, and the Roney Plaza Hotel.
Even after the market crash of 1929, Miami Beach still attracted tourists, and investors constructed the mostly small-scale, stucco hotels and rooming houses, for seasonal rental, that comprise much of the present "Art Deco" historic district.