An Open Letter to Dr. Hochstein

Dear Dr. Hochstein, I just want to let you know that I am appalled and disappointed about your choice to tear down an amazing 1925 Walter DeGarmo historic home.  Of course I don’t know the details of the condition of the home, except the minor things you expressed to The Miami Herald last February; but based on all the historic DeGarmo homes I have visited in Miami and Miami Beach, do you not see its worth?  Seriously, when a woman walks into your office, don’t you always see an inner beauty and a frame to work with?

In your own website you express,

Modern plastic surgery has opened the doors to an entirely new world of self-improvement. You no longer need to feel self-conscious about an imperfection. Whether it is something you were born with, something that developed through the effects of gravity or the sun, or whether it occurred due to trauma, anything can be improved.

How many times in your plastic surgery career have you looked at a patient and said, “Oh God no! Down with everything!! You need a complete and total overhaul and there is NOTHING I can do for your appearance.”

Leonard, you have the gift to mold, shape and improve – you have the gift of seeing potential where no one else can – you have the ability of turning vanilla into mocha chip with hot fudge and a cherry on top.  Please tell me you are not as shallow as people are making you out to be.  From a former patient that trusted your expertise, one that is an architect and specializes in Historic Real Estate:  I ask that you open your eyes to the gorgeous skin that is right in front of you because you have the ability of making it better.

Please tell me you are working with professionals with real expertise and you are not playing the “do it yourself” game. I’m talking architects and REALTORS that will guide and advise you through the process … or do you not trust other professionals as so many trust YOU under the knife? Please give yourself the chance and pleasure of working with unique and timeless bones before building another irrelevant and superficial home without guts in our Miami landscape.

And finally, in the words of my my 16-year old son, “Instead of tearing that baby down, why don’t you give it a sweet pair of tits?”

Yours truly,

23 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Dr. Hochstein

  1. This is exactly whats wrong with Miami. You nailed it on the head, Ines, as usual. As an architectural designer who just finished a total rehab of an 80’s “Mediterranean” on Sunset Island, I know that good bones can be found, and the beauty trapped under bad makeup can be revealed without a tear-down! Miami’s history is so thin and tenuous that it deserves extra care… like the skin of an aging client, Dr. SO be gentle with her, lift her eyes (windows), fix her hair(roof)line, and pull those boobs back where they once were. Find the beauty inside of her and show it off again. And if that’s not your style, and you really want a 22 year old bride, you married(bought) the wrong girl. Because this one is a real lady and she deserves better.

    1. Thanks for that Ritch – it boils down to seeing potential where no one else wants to. We are NOT a disposable society and we need to respect our context and history. Yes it’s easier to tear down and yes it’s private property, but being sensible should be a priority.

  2. I was inside that house for an estate sale. It’s falling apart and it smells. Tear it down and build a McMansion. Those big boxes will be the icons of Miami and Miami Beach 100 years from now!

    1. Michael….with current construction methods, those McMansions will not be around in 100 years and people will still be trying to tear down DeGarmo homes.

        1. hahaha! Sorry Michael….I detected a bit of sarcasm, but needed to be sure

  3. Interesting letter Ines. This entire process has been a profound experience for me. I marvel at the arrogance of people like yourself who somehow think they know better what I should do. This level of self indulgence is something I have a hard time understanding. You compare this private residence to people? You insult me as if I were breaking some law or doing something that the average resident of miami beach is not allowed to do. You also talk about the many walter degartmo homes you have been to in miami and miami beach. Please tell me where they are because I am not aware of any private such homes still standing in miami beach. This, of course, is a trick question as this is the only home in miami beach he designed. You also say that this is a historic home. The fact is that it is not. If it was I would not have purchased it. You also pretend to lecture me about the use of professionals as if I am some child in need of your guidance. Obviously you did not see the engineering report although it is public record. It must be too much work to look that up when you can write your letters? Let me give you a few details. The house is 30 inches below flood level, has cloth wiring that has caught fire multiple times, has no working plumbing to the second floor and has no air conditioning that is functional. I was also told to get core samples including the interior of the homes from pressure by preservationists like yourself and they showed that the home has already outlived its expectancy. You may not know this ines, but back then they mixed sand with concrete which did not make for great durability. I do not even have to mention the fact that the house is only 20 feet deep and has a kitchen smaller than my current bathroom because you will not understand the needs of a modern family to serve your selfish goals, and for what? This is not a museum. We will not be giving tours or selling tickets for admission. This is a private home that will be obscured by landscaping. It will not be the barren property that has fallen on disrepair from no upkeep or gardening. Where were the people like yourself when this was happening? Even the chair of the miami beach design review board could not understand why the fuss over this house when there are so many more worthy. Are you also aware that the two main people fighting my family namely mike kinerk and daniel ciraldo live in pre 1942 homes that they have refusede to designate historic? Now I am sure that a principled person like yourself lives in a historic home and has designated it such but can you imagine the hypocrisy of these people? At least if you’re going to talk the talk…you know the rest. You obviously have my office phone number and could have easily called but instead you wrote this cowardly letter. There may be times in your life when you face adversity and are criticized by cowards hiding behind their keyboards. You can rest assured that I will never be one of those people. You see I respect individuals and each persons inalienable right to make their own decisions and would never force my point of view on anyone.

  4. Dr. Hochstein,
    Thank you for your comment and also for your telephone conversation today. I reiterate that my intent was not to offend, insult or embarrass you or your family and I apologize if it appears that way. The purpose of this post was simply to openly ask you to reconsider your choice to demolish a grand and historic Walter DeGarmo home.

    I am sorry you consider the tone arrogant and self-indulgent, but I know I cannot change your mind. I will take this time to answer all your points.

    1. As for other DeGarmo homes in Miami, they are all over Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Miami Shores and there is even a great example on Star Island (Casa Di Paolo at 27 Star Island). Some of these have been restored and modernized to perfection and are great examples of how to retrofit old, historic homes to modern times.

    2. I have not seen the engineering report, but the few items you mention, and are included in the Herald article are pretty standard for homes built in the 20’s. There was no South Florida building code back then and building grade, flood levels, plumbing, electrical, etc. would have to be brought up to code. It is standard to replace cloth wiring, as it is standard to replace galvanized and cast iron plumbing. Homes did not have air conditioning either, so finding a way to air condition these historic homes can be challenging at times.

    3. Homes do not have a “life expectancy,” as a matter of fact, these 20’s homes have lived through numerous hurricanes and have withstood the test of time over and over again. I can just imagine 300 year old structures in Europe being demolished for time expectancy issues.

    4. As for mixing sand and concrete and spalling issues, yes those can be frustrating but more common than we would like to admit in South Florida. Most spalling can be repaired and we see these efforts frequently.

    5. For the record, I have lived in historic homes, I have restored a 1920’s mediterranean revival home and happen to have designated it historic as well to preserve it. I also served in a historic preservation board and have given historic tours with Dr. George. So my love and passion for historic homes is not superficial talk.

    As I said on the telephone today, I am not forcing my point of view upon you since you will ultimately do what you want with your property. I am simply expressing my opinion on the historic relevance of the property and openly exercising freedom of speech, since so many have asked how I feel about the demolition.

  5. Excellent exchange between owner and you, Ines–and how I wish issues like these could more often be resolved via discussion rather than government mandate. And yes, I’m hoping that Dr. Hochstein reconsiders tearing down an historic landmark and considers alternatives. Perhaps you can help Ines?

  6. Roberta,
    I would be more than glad to offer my help, but I’m afraid Dr. Hochstein will have nothing to do with me because he was clearly offended and would not accept my apology.

  7. Great post Ines. You were speaking from your heart obviously with no intention to insult or injure. It’s a beautiful home and historic homes are such precious gems. Sadly it obviously wasn’t taken the way it was intended.

  8. Thanks Fran – after such attacks from the media, I understand his point of view, but he obviously doesn’t get mine. Cheers!

  9. Just hate these tear downs. So sad! It’s happening A LOT in Venice with the $1-2M, 100 year old historic craftsman homes for the modern concrete look. In Brentwood old McMansions, $10M-20M, 50+ years old for new McMansions. Hope the new home is built to stand for many years. I love that the conversations between you and the Dr. Thanks for sharing and not censoring. Very emotional exchange by 2 passionate people.

  10. Thanks Kristine – I’m glad others have interpreted my true tone – it’s all about the integrity of the architecture and nothing more….no personal attacks and true conversation.

    1. This doctor is extremely arrogant. The general issue here though is not the doctor, but the policy in place with the city of Miami Beach. The mayor openly stated that we have no current preservationists sitting on the Design Review Board, these homes like 42 Star Island, which are without a doubt historically significant to our city will not be saved unless we do something to change the current status quo. We are in an election year, please ask your Mayor elect what he will do to make a change. Great letter and response Ines!!!

      1. Thank you Alex, at least the current mayor made a positive move with the 6 month moratorium for all homes that are 50 years or older. It’s a step in the right direction which should give any review board enough time to make a decision.

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