Envisioning the creation of one of the most opulent and magnificent hotels in the world, hotelier Ben Novack purchased the Firestone Mansion, home of auto tire magnate Harvey Firestone in 1952 for $2.3 million. He tapped Morris Lapidus, who was known for his modernist sensibilities and flair for theatrical spaces, to be the hotel’s project architect. When it opened in 1954, Fontainebleau Miami Beach was the largest and most luxurious hotel in South Florida. Located on the oceanfront in the heart of Millionaire's Row, Fontainebleau Miami Beach is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels on Miami Beach. Its signature features included a 17,000-square-foot lobby with the now-legendary “Stairway to Nowhere,” six acres of formal gardens designed to replicate Versailles and thousands of dollars in antique furnishings to authentically convey the hotel’s French period theme.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel reigned as Miami’s leading resort and Lapidus’ gently curving façade came to symbolize the very essence of glamorous Miami Beach. For nearly 25 years, the Miami Beach hotel was so well-known that no sign was necessary to identify it. Celebrities and entertainers, ranging from Elvis Presley and Bob Hope to Lucille Ball and Judy Garland, made the hotel so popular that Novack was once forced to post armed guards to bar non-guests from entering.
Over the years, the Miami Beach oceanfront hotel has costarred in numerous major Hollywood productions including, Goldfinger, The Bellboy, Scarface, The Specialist and The Bodyguard.
In 2005, Fontainebleau Miami Beach closed its doors, kicking off a 2½ year, $1.0 billion renovation and expansion, which was completed in Fall of 2008, and reopened with rave reviews and an A-list celebrity-attended grand opening bash featuring the Victoria Secret Fashion Show and performances by Usher, Mariah Carey and Robin Thicke.
In 2012, American Institute of Architects granted Fontainebleau the award for the Top Building in Florida, after more than 2.4 million votes cast in the "100 Years. 100 Places." competition.