Vintage Color Snapshots: Florida, 1953

(first posted 2/12/2017)    I recently scanned some more of my father’s Kodachromes, including these shots taken during a much calmer – and much less female – Spring Break in 1953.  So, no beach-babe-filled pickup beds, but still a feast for the eyes.  Sun, sand, mid-century style, and as you will see, plenty of CCs.

First up, here’s downtown Fort Lauderdale, with a range of early 50s iron on display.  What  can you spot here?

Meanwhile, along the beach front, a surprisingly sober set of sedans makes a quite a contrast  to the brilliant white of the Horizon Motel.  I can only imagine what this place looked like around 1975.

Again, the Lauderdale Biltmore’s crisp lines and airy windows seem years ahead of the cars on the road, but a ’57 Plymouth would fit right in.  It’s interesting that in the decades before WWII, car design was arguably more advanced than mainstream building design, only to see those trends reverse before meeting up in the early 1960s.

At least things are a bit snappier next door, giving the coeds crowding the Biltmore’s fish-mural’d pool deck something to look at.  And finally, convertibles.  That lime-green Ford coupe coming up to the beach is quite nice, too.

No cars here, except for the two-tone job speeding by at the front, but the Esquire Hotel more than holds its own.  Flat roofs, pipe railings, textured brick, freestanding sign letters, giant picture windows.  Every mid-century trope beautifully on display.

And it looks great at night, too.

Of course, all play and no work has its limits, so let’s pay a quick visit to the University of Miami in Coral Gables to study parking lot demographics.  Fun fact: This administration building was begun as a much taller, Spanish Mission Revival structure in the 1920s, abandoned as a partial steel frame during the Depression and WWII, and finally finished as we see here in the late forties.

Like much of Florida, the University of Miami experienced exponential postwar growth, with new buildings – and shapely coeds – popping up everywhere.

Same campus, different lot.  And some serious pastel shades on display.  There’s something about Kodachrome and deep outdoor shots like this – it almost looks like a model.

Speaking of tropical pastels, even the Masons got into the act, palm tree included.  That medium-blue Fleetwood Sixty Special is a stunner.  Which begs another question: Which of the cars on the streets here would you want to own today?

On this trip, the classics my dad captured weren’t limited to the roads.  Just have a look at this stunning Chris-Craft cabin crusier, shot on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Or how about this pair, with a classic motor yacht on the left, and a fine sailing ketch on the right.  Personally, I’d rather be on either of these than the overwrought monsters favored by the rich and famous these days.

Perhaps you’d prefer a sport fisher, visible from the picture window in your contemporary home.

According to the slide caption, this was a “$150,000 home under construction.”  If only that were the case today.

Time to bid Florida, and 1953 adieu.  But not before we stop into HoJos for fried clams and ice cream, of course.  And special thanks to my dad, Bill Swartz, who took the time to record all of this 64 years ago.