Barbara Capitman is our 2010 Woman In History Honoree
She was born in Chicago and attended New York University. In her early years she was a reporter for The Atlantic City Daily World and was an advertising copywriter. When she moved to Miami in 1973, she used her literary skills to help stimulate interest in 1920′s and 1930′s Art Deco buildings throughout the country.
Much of South Beach’s buildings were neglected and abandoned at the time, but Barbara Capitman was a visionary thinker and was greatly inspired by finding the world’s largest concentration of Art Deco architecture.
In 1976 she helped found Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) and led a highly criticized fight to save Miami Beach’s Art Deco architectural buildings. Miami Design Preservation League finally won its landmark battle on May 14, 1979, and the Art Deco District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first time a 20th century district was recognized as Historic by the U.S. government.
This act brought federal tax relief to the depressed area, and South Beach began to show signs of economic and cultural growth. One by one, the abandoned buildings were restored into vibrantly colored Art Deco works of art which almost immediately became backdrops for International fashion catalogues, films and television shows; and suddenly models, celebrities, and photographers began to flock to the new pastel playground.
“Art Deco is the heart and soul of South Beach, and Miami Design Preservation League carries forth its spirit,” says Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower. Our community’s success story is a tribute to MDPL’s championing our historic district. Preserving the community’s architecture, character and integrity led the way to the economic and cultural revival we all benefit from today.”
The League was the world’s first Art Deco Society and Capitman’s efforts led to the formation of Art Deco preservation groups throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
Barbara also hosted a radio show and authored the books “Art Deco Trademarks”, “Rediscovering Art Deco U.S.A.” and “Deco Delights – Preserving Miami Beach Architecture”.
Barabara Capitman died twenty years ago in March 1990 but her indelible mark on South Beach history will never be forgotten. WE are proud to name Barbara Baer Capitman our 2010 Women’s History Honoree and have asked early preservationist to come and share a few memories about her and the preservation of the Art Deco District.
Perhaps the next time you walk down Ocean Drive you will think of Barbara. WE invite you to visit the new Miami Design Preservation League’s ART DECO WELCOME CENTER located on Ocean Drive at the corner of Barbara Capitman Way (10th St) and we hope it inspires you to join in the Preservation Movement that continues in South Beach and surrounding communities. Click the link below if you would like to make a $50 Donation to MDPL help preserve the memory of the woman who led the fight to preserve our community. Your donation will include a 1 Year Membership to MDPL and a contribution to The Barbara Capitman archives.
WE also invite you to meet 14 year old author Hannah Imberman,
A teenage preservationist and author on MiMo (Miami Modernism)