Save 1753 North View Drive: Sunset Island Home of "Body by Fisher" Automobile Inventor

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The masterpiece home at 1753 North View Drive is at risk of demolition after its new owners purchased the home in an off market transaction and promptly filed a demolition application to the Design Review Board of Miami Beach. Its provenance and history are too important to overlook. Demolition of the home would be a senseless tragedy and would erase an important part of Miami Beach and American history.

The residence at 1753 North View Drive on Sunset Island number 1 was designed by Carlos B. Schoeppl in 1937 for W. A. Fisher, president of  the Fisher Body Corporation and vice president of General Motors.

Architectural Significance:  An extraordinary example of Mediterranean style of the 1930s, the W.A. Fisher house is integral to the architectural development of Miami Beach. Its architect, Carlos Schoeppl, was a prominent designer in the city and had established his national reputation with the publication of his work in the January 1935 issue of Print magazine and the August 1935 issue of American Architect. The latter issue was devoted to Miami Beach design for its transformation of “a mangrove swamp”  into a unique expression of “American architecture.” 

The W.A. Fisher house quickly became an architectural icon and part of Florida tourism. The noted photographer Samuel Gottscho documented the house in 1939,  Gray Line tourist boats featured the house on their south bay cruises, and a postcard of the house’s Biscayne Bay facade was published by Kromekote Postcards.

Historical Significance: The house was among the first to be erected on Sunset Island, and as noted in the Miami Herald, set the standard for future development.  The developer of Sunset Islands, Stephen A. Lynch, was a pioneer in the distribution of movies in the 1910s and 1920s. He moved to Miami Beach after divesting himself of movie theater ownership. He developed Sunset Islands to reclaim the land “from the mosquitos” and to build winter houses for America’s wealthy citizens. Among them was William A. Fisher, a vice president of General Motors and president of Fisher Body Corporation, who with his brothers, was also a patron of noted Art Deco architect Albert Kahn.

W. A. Fisher was a president of the Fisher Body Corporation and vice president of General Motors. He was born in Norwalk, Ohio, on September 21, 1886, the third of seven brothers who would dominate the nascent automotive industry. The two eldest brothers moved to Detroit and worked for the C. R. Wilson Company, a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages that was transitioning to building automobile bodies. They learned the trade, and in 1908, secured financing from their uncle to found the Fisher Body Corporation. The younger brothers, including William, moved to Detroit and joined the business.

By 1914, Fisher Body was the largest auto-body manufacturer in the world having produced 370,000 car bodies for Ford, Cadillac, Studebaker, Buick, Oldsmobile, Packard, and Chevrolet. At its peak, the company employed over 100,000 workers in forty plants, including the Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Body 21 in Detroit. The brothers sold sixty percent of the company to General Motors in 1919. They sold the remaining stake in 1926, and Fisher Body became the coach building division of GM, where William Fisher became vice president. He resigned from GM in 1944, then he and his wife, the former Lura Titus, devoted much of their time to philanthropy. Fisher died in 1969 and Lura Fisher in 1976.

History At Risk

The current owners Alex Kleyner and Diana Ulis, of the Sunset Island Land Trust, have plans to demolish the 11,000 square foot mansion as well as the 5,285 square foot home next door to build a 25,317 square foot new home in its place designed by Kobi Karp. Mr. Kleyner is the CEO of National Debt Relief.

The City of Miami Beach should work with the owner to figure out how the property can be saved. We must say "enough is enough," and not allow our history to continue to be erased for short-term gain.

The City of Miami Beach code requires the Design Review Board to explore reasonable alternatives to demolition including historic designation, among other options. We urge the Board to do so and to say NO to the current design proposal.