|Ecole de Beaux Palm Beach
by Augustus Mayhew
As Mediterranean as Palm Beach regards itself, with ficus hedges secluding Venetian loggias, Spanish patios and Tuscan courtyards, the tropical island still retains some vestiges and memories of the Gilded Age grandeur once architecturally akin to the more elaborate Beaux-Arts country houses found in Tuxedo Park, Oyster Bay and Newport.
However influential Henry Flagler as a developer, hiring Carrere and Hastings to design Whitehall for his third wife as a drop-dead wedding present in a baronial style appointed with Louis-Louis interiors, Renaissance objets and palm trees might not have been his most lasting aesthetic legacy, as proven by the following decade’s proclivity for a barrel tile-and-stucco skyline that became the prevailing Palm Beach style. Here is a look back when drawing rooms and boudoirs made room for calling cards, hand-held mirrors, tea cups and walking sticks.
Southways. Hoppin & Koen, architect, 1919-1920.
|When Theodore Frelinghuysen (c. 1865-1928) and his wife, Elizabeth Mary Frelinghuysen (1871-1967), retained Col. Francis L. V. Hoppin (1867-1941) as the architect for their Palm Beach house, they were already a part of the Fifth Avenue-Tuxedo Park-Newport-Lenox social set that Col. Hoppin was also a member. A dedicated clubman, Mr. Frelinghuysen was a descendant of New Jersey’s most prominent political and social family, his father having served as Attorney General of New Jersey, a US Senator and as Secretary of State.
In 1881, Mr. Frelinghuysen's brother, George, married Sara Ballantine, of the Newark brewery family. After Theodore Frelinghuysen's first wife died, a Coats Thread Company heiress, he married a widow, the former Elizabeth Mary Thompson Cannon, the daughter of a Detroit mayor whose first husband, financier and clubman Henry LeGrand Cannon, died suddenly in 1895. The widower and the widow became bold-faced names on the Social Register's timetable of dog shows and dinner parties.
|Other Frelinghuysen family members also made Palm Beach their winter address. Mr. and Mrs. P. H. B. Frelinghuysen lodged at the Everglades Club when they came down from their Morristown house. Mr. and Mrs. Frederick T. Frelinghuysen resided at “Priscilla Cottage” on Sunrise Avenue when they left their icy Park Avenue apartment. By far, Southways was the family’s most prominent residence in Palm Beach. When President Warren G. Harding visited the island in 1923 and was entertained at Southways, the cottage colony began calling the house “The Winter White House.” Even though Theodore Frelinghuysen died in 1928, his wife kept the house another forty years, until her death in 1967, when the NYT referred to her as a “grande dame of a bygone era.”
Shortly thereafter, Southways was sold to a Bethesda, Maryland couple, Charles and Antoinette Gallant, who bought the property in 1968 from Mrs. Frelinghuysen’s estate. “My father owned a company in Washington, D.C., an avid yachtsman as well, and both my parents loved Palm Beach. My father died a few years ago and my mother still lives here," said Steven Gallant, an area real estate broker and appraiser. “I always thought the Frelinghuysens chose Hoppin because he designed their house in Tuxedo Park,” he added. But, however much the couple’s Tuxedo cottage built in c. 1899 might look like a Hoppin design, the Tuxedo Park Historical Society is unable to confirm whether it was one of the firm's designs.
|Like Carrere and Hastings, Francis Hoppin apprenticed with McKim, Mead and White before opening his own firm with Terrence Koen. Born in Providence, R.I., Hoppin attended Brown and MIT before completing his architectural studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. When society's aesthetic arbiter, Edith Wharton opted for Hoppin to design her Lenox house, The Mount, after a falling out with Ogden Codman, Hoppin’s standing grew among Tuxedoites, Great Neck swells and Newporters.
Rather than the more overwhelming showplaces that made Carrere and Hastings more in demand, Hoppin & Koen was appreciated for well-proportioned gentleman’s estates with Adam-style dining rooms and oak-paneled libraries, often simple symmetry without elaborate details. Along with Manhattan townhouses, among the firm’s opus magnums were Shoremond (1910), Bois Joli (1910), Wolver Hollow (1914), Framewood (1918), Bennett Cottage (1910) and the Blackton estate. Mr. Hoppin's brother, Howard, was also an architect, a partner in the firm Hoppin & Ely in Providence.
|Whitehall. Carrere and Hastings, architect, 1902.|
|The Banyans. Architect unknown, 1888-1903.|
|Los Incas. Architect unknown.|
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew
Historic photos courtesy of Library of Congress