Now & Then: A Miami Time Machine - Part 1

Part One: From sun therapy to divorcee singledom, and now, serenity… the history of The Standard Spa, Miami Beach on Belle Isle is anything but standard.
Miami Beach's very own The Standard has a singularly special magnetism. Sitting at the nexus of the past, present, and future, the history of Belle Isle has elements of all three, and they all align here at our little tropical oasis. Join us as we gracefully dive (headfirst, of course) into the enigmatic story of the place you all know and love - The Standard Spa, Miami Beach. Jump into our time machine.
Transforming mangroves into what is now Miami Beach.

Our journey starts at the very beginning for 40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach which rests upon Belle Isle. Unique amidst the specks of tucked away islands that make up the Venetian Causeway (or Venetian Islands), Belle Isle is, in fact, the only naturally occurring island along the channel. At the end of the 19th century, much of Miami remained wild, untamed mangroves and swampland. Originally the island was named Bull Island; the land mass was thankfully renamed Belle Isle - a moniker more apt, we’d say.

Farmer and developer John S. Collins (sound familiar? Yes, Collins of the iconic Collins Avenue fame) came into ownership of the barrier island now known as Miami Beach and sought to offer the land for waterfront homes and development. The only problem with this initiative was that, being the late 1800s, Miami Beach was completely inaccessible except by ferry. Collins partnered with titan of industry Carl G. Fisher, who was pivotal to the completion of the first ever bridge to connect the Miami mainland to Miami Beach. Known at the time as the “longest wooden bridge in the world,” the bridge stretched 2.5 miles along the route that is now Venetian Causeway and over Belle Isle, crossing the doorstep of The Standard Spa, Miami Beach.

With this crucial link now connected, Miami Beach and correspondingly Belle Isle could flourish and expand. With the gilded decadence of the 1920s, came a rush of expansion known as the “Florida Land Boom.” At this time, the other Venetian islands were dredged and created, and the wooden bridge was replaced with arched drawbridges. The island, and thereby The Standard Spa, Miami Beach has its origin story alongside the cultivation of Miami Beach itself.

An isle for exploring your wellbeing.

The profile of Belle Isle was raised significantly by two elegant contemporaries who established estates on the fashionable island: J.C. Penney (yep, you know the one) and Joseph H. Adams. Penney played proprietor to the rich, famous, and influential, hosting then president-elect Herbert Hoover before his official inauguration in 1929. It was inventor, innovator, and entrepreneur, Adams who we can thank for transforming Belle Isle into a mecca for wellness. With the founding of his center, The Belle Isle Sun-Ray and Health Spa, the Isle became known as a place of restoration, heliotherapy, and hydrotherapy. 

Adams was a scientific pioneer, specializing in research surrounding the “curative value of light,” specifically sunlight, as well as the benefits of Miami’s semi-tropical area, called the “Miami Zone” by Adams. One of the brochures for The Belle Isle Sun-Ray and Health Spa touts the “Miami Zone” as the best location in the world for “sun and water therapy [...] the oldest healing agents known to man.” 

As we’ve learned, this island, where 40 Island Avenue sits, has the essence of wellness from the start. Serendipitously at the root of Miami’s own genesis, stay tuned for the continuation of our journey through time into the 70s, 80s and today on our sojourn to the birth of yours truly. In the meantime, rejoin comfortably to the present until we share Part Two of our time machine.

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