Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Palm Beach Social Diary: Now & Then

At twilight the eastern sky turned otherworldly at Palm Beach where prominent beachcomber David Reese was celebrating his birthday with drinks and dinner for a gathering of family, friends, neighbors, longboards and shortboards..
Palm Beach Now & Then
By Augustus Mayhew

A Palm Beach party in August?  Despite an almost daily feels-like temp of 100-102, power lines being buried, bridgework finishing/beginning, and construction sites forever buzzing with nail guns, tile cutters and power drills, resident emeritus and surfing kahuna David Reese was joined by a crowd of 50 surf swells at his North End cabana to celebrate his 85th birthday with drinks and dinner well-served by Ann’Z Catering. Back when hang ten was a criminal offense along the shoreline, David was one of the leading advocates that kept

Surfers vs. Town of Palm Beach in the courts until the town’s anti-surfer ban was wiped out. For someone whose deep-rooted family has lived on the island for more than140 years, accomplishing many of the town’s notable firsts, Dave’s 85th probably did not make him feel a day older, especially the presence of his six-month old grandson Camden Reese Coursey.  In 1910 David’s great-grand E. N. “Cap” Dimick headed up the Royal Park Development Company, turning the more than160 acres from the ocean to the lake between Worth Avenue and Royal Palm Way into the town’s first showcase subdivision. Since then, the Cushing Demolition truck and cement mixers have never stopped. And then a look at a seldom profiled developer, London – Cape Town entrepreneur Arthur O. Edwards who although moving to Palm Beach after the 1920s pizzazz chalked up several profitable developments, including Singer’s Island.

August 19, 2017
David Reese’s 85th Birthday Cabana Party
North Ocean Boulevard - Palm Beach
David Reese and his daughter Ashley Reese.
A lifelong Palm Beach resident, David’s invitation read casual, a splash of North Shore aloha shirts, shorts, flip-flops, wahine wear, and the like. 
The Endless Summer, film poster. Inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996, David Reese co-founded the Palm Beach Surfing Association.
David Reese, center, with longtime friends Romeo Robichaud, left, founder/president of Oregon-based Robichaud Batten Systems, and Bill Holmes, manufacturer of the iconic 1960s Holmesy surfboards, the area’s first.
Guests signed in on a Holmesy Surfboard birthday card for Dave.
Guests brought four-legged family members.
The orchestra kept everyone on island time.
Drinks before dinner were at Dave’s cabana a few steps from the North Shore cabana where dinner was served.
North Shore Beach Club, rules.
Christmas card, 2016. North Shore Beach Club.  David’s cabana walls are filled with more than 40 years of NSBC annual photos. Apparently, many North Enders live on Palm Beach to live on the beach, an unrestrained decorum rules unlike the protocols in the South End Estate Section.
Camden Reese Coursey arrived with his parents from San Francisco for his grandfather’s birthday.
Architect Paul Twitty.
Bebe McCranels.
“Is that Ken Griffin’s boat?” someone asked.
David with longtime surfer Tom Warnke, trustee and historian of the Florida Surfing Museum located in Lake Park.
Guests have one more drink before dinner.
North Shore Beach Club, directional signs. Let’s see, Vanuatu would be …
Dinner was served at the club’s cabana.
Artist Patti Hartig.
As a tropical wave approached from the Bahamas, guests enjoyed dinner with an onshore wind and Caribbean flavor.
Bebe and Scott McCranels with Joann and John “Chummer” McCranels. Scott and his father Chum are the only father-and-son surfers in the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.
The cake-and-candle ceremony awaits.

David Reese – Then. Dave was one of the founders of the Eastern Surfing Association.
85th birthday cake. “David Reese – The Eternal Beach Boy.”
David Reese - Now. Bravo!
Bagatelle, north elevation. The Reese residence.
Singer Island, 2017, view north from David  Reese’s cabana party. Previous developers Paris Singer and Arthur Edwards would probably not recognize today’s Singer Island where towering condominiums shadow the town’s otherwise low profile. Here is a look at the lesser known Arthur Edwards who having built and developed London’s bespoke hotels came to Palm Beach.

For more information contact Florida Surfing Museum at Lake Park  738 Park Avenue, Lake Park. 561-601-6703.
Arthur O. Edwards: Empire Builder at Palm Beach

During the three decades Arthur Edwards took part in Palm Beach’s development, his accomplishments were built largely on Paris Singer’s vision and deeds. Although Edwards’ self-made bundle never equaled Singer’s family-based wealth, both were English-educated civil engineers that shared a worldly cultural heritage who became naturalized American citizens.

Arthur Octavius “Archie” Edwards (1876-1960) arrived on Palm Beach during the 1930s, having amassed a fortune in real estate and construction interests in South Africa, India and the British Isles — places he first engineered bridges, tunnels and railway systems.
Unlike Singer’s financial reversals prior to his death in 1932, his holdings crushed by debt that undercut his standing as the resort’s most influential developer, Edwards’ prudence and caution lead to his success in the area’s speculative real estate roulette.

At Palm Beach, Edwards developed the Stotesbury Park subdivision from a lakefront tract carved from the legendary El Mirasol estate. He acquired Addison Mizner’s iconic Via Mizner enclave of apartments and shops in the wake of several years of foreclosure proceedings.

During the post-WW II era Edwards turned what was once the resort’s northernmost stretch known as Singer’s Island into the Town of Palm Beach Shores. Ironically, Edwards’ thriving year-round community was built where developer deluxe Paris Singer’s plans for the ultimate millionaire’s playground triggered the collapse of his Palm Beach enterprises.

British class

Born in Ripley, Derbyshire, England, Arthur Edwards was the son of London civil engineer Edgar James Edwards. Having studied and trained under Sir Robert Elliott-Cooper, the era’s most prominent engineer, Edwards designed and supervised the construction of Britain’s state railways in its far-flung dominions and colonies before turning to real estate development in London. As founder and chairman of Edcaster Ltd, a multinational conglomerate, he focused on the luxury hotel market.  By then, Edwards’ business interests extended from blocks of flats in London’s Kensington Park and Queensway to Cape Town, where he owned factories, warehouses, the Union Dominion Trust Ltd finance company, diamond mines, and a Ford dealership. 

In 1925 the second Duke of Westminster formally leased his family’s historic Grosvenor House estate to Arthur Edwards. Edwards headed Grosvenor House Ltd and Grosvenor House - Park Lane Ltd, companies organized to build London’s largest most modern hotel with a sizeable two-wing addition with 472 rooms and 150 flats. Soon after construction began, Edwards was concerned the design too traditional, especially since the new hotel was being built to attract the American market of emerging millionaires. Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was retained to enhance the project’s architectural ambiance. Lutyens had toured the United States, making note of skyscrapers framed with Georgian architectural details. Along with the crescent-shaped colonnade, he topped the main building with distinctive classical elements. Though the Duke of Westminster was said to have hoped for a recreation of Paris’ Rue de Rivoli by the time the project was finished with French salamander stone at a cost of £2 million in May 1929, it was clear the project suggested New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Grosvenor House Hotel-Park Lane, London. Edwards’ Grosvenor House Hotel (Image A) as planned rendering was transformed by the Lutyens additions and embellishments ( Image B) into a more significant architectural landmark.
The Grosvenor House was patterned on New York apartment hotels where there were private bathrooms and each bedroom had a separate formal entrance. An ice skating rink was installed in the basement that later became London’s most formidable banquet area. The complex was divided into separate blocks with deep setbacks from the street. When the hotel opened, its Georgian stone pavilions were described by The Times’ architecture critic as “an overgrown small building much like a big woman who dresses to look petite.” In 1935 Edwards’ company purchased the freehold from the duke for £475,000.

As Europe grew consumed with war, Edwards relocated to the United States with his second wife Jadwiga Kossakowski, described as a former Polish countess according to available records. Edwards’ first marriage to Janet Irvine Edwards ended in a 1936 divorce on the grounds of “misconduct.”  For their American base, the Edwards’ bought Northwick, a Philadelphia Main Line estate, and a house on El Brillo Way at Palm Beach. Edwards had the opportune of serving on the Everglades Club’s proxy committee that supervised the club’s disposition of its various properties, choosing instead to devote itself to civic charities rather than real estate developments. Having retired from his position at Grosvenor House in 1939, Edwards pursued making bets on the recovering Palm Beach market. 

Betting on Palm Beach

In March 1940 local newspapers headlined “Pennsylvania Family buys Palm Beach Tract.” Arthur Edwards purchased a 22-acre lakefront parcel carved from Eva Stotesbury’s El Mirasol estate. Since her husband’s death in May 1938, Stotesbury had begun cutting back on her households. Before letting go of the acreage surrounding her Malmaison tea house for $155,000, earlier that season she had sold Herbert Pulitzer a smaller south side tract for $100,000 with 200-feet of oceanfront along Wells Road extending to North County Road. Even before the sale was recorded, Edwards hired Arnold Construction as his agent to develop the tropical sanctuary into the 56-plot Stotesbury Park residential subdivision. The original plans called for retaining the estate’s exotic palms and citrus trees as well as adding fountains, seven lakefront parcels, 49 home sites on Coral Lane, Emerald Lane, and El Mirasol Drive, a crescent-shaped thoroughfare hooking onto North County Road.
Stotesbury Park, aerial and subdivision plat.
With Stotesbury Park sales interrupted by wartime uncertainties, Edwards’ next bet was another one of the resort’s iconic properties. He acquired the Addison Mizner Building, a complex of attached buildings extending from Worth Avenue to Peruvian Avenue along Via Mizner that faced complex foreclosure proceedings for more than a decade. As early as 1926 creditors had begun foreclosure suits against Mizner’s various interests. The architect’s personal and business holdings were split between Addison Mizner Inc. and Mizner Industries.

Via Mizner. When Arthur Edwards owned Via Mizner’s shops and apartments, including what is called the Villa Mizner, Studstill & Hollenbeck managed the property for him.
When Edwards closed on the complex of 19 shops and offices along with five apartments, including the renowned Mizner apartment, for $77,000 on July 14, 1944, according to court records, the sale did not include Mizner’s architectural practice. In March 1934, one year after Mizner’s death, Madena Galloway, general manager of Addison Mizner Inc., announced that longtime architect William Manly Kinghad merged his practice with the Mizner office. That same year Mizner Industries reorganized as Mizner Products Inc., managed by E. C. Peters. With Mizner’s personal bankruptcy proceedings having been settled, in 1939 Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville filed suit against Addison Mizner Inc. claiming defaults in the amount of $129,600 against the Via Mizner complex and a vacant parcel near Boynton once owned by Mizner. In June 1940 the court approved the reorganization of Addison Mizner Inc. as the Addison Mizner Building Inc. 

When the bank sold the Via Mizner property in April 1944 there were six bidders. As litigation is believed to follow golf, tennis and bridge as one Palm Beach’s major enthusiasms, a lawsuit was filed to stop the sale. Russian-born Bulgarian portrait artist Kyril Vassilev, who was leasing the Addison Mizner apartment, claimed he made a binder with the bank two months earlier for $75,000 guaranteed by a $5,000 deposit with the stipulation that if the bank received a higher bid, he would offer $500 more than the highest bid. Ruling Vassilev’s offer was too indefinite and uncertain, the court dismissed his claims and the bank proceeded in selling the property to Edwards. The Studstill & Hollenbeck real estate office that facilitated the earlier sale of Mizner Industries handled the transaction and managed the property for Edwards. A year later the Addison Mizner Building complex was sold again. Edwards sold it for $122,500 to Rosemor Inc., a Florida corporation formed by New York residents Rose and Mortimer Sachs.

Interest in Stotesbury Park was rekindled after the war. By September 1946 only one lakeside lot remained unsold. That same year, Archie and Jadwiga Edwards became American citizens. With a growing confidence in the market and recognizing the dissimilar demands of a post-war economy, Edwards determined there was a need for a “year-round community, more like Daytona Beach than Palm Beach.” 

When Riviera Beach voters failed to pass a bond issue that would have acquired the 210-acre south section of Singer’s Island and converted it into a public park, Edwards stepped up and paid $475,000 for the tract with 3,000-feet of oceanfront bordered to the south by the Palm Beach Inlet and the west by Lake Worth. Two decades earlier, the site was where Paris Singer’s Palm Beach Ocean Development Company had planned a luxurious enclave connected to Palm Beach with a gondola over the inlet. 

Singer’s Folly at Palm Beach Ocean
Singer’s Island, 1924-1927

In early March 1924, Paris Singer published a letter to members of the Everglades Club explaining that because of health concerns he proposed to sell the club for approximately $850,000 to its 472 current members that would then be governed by a board of directors. Along with Singer as head of the newly formed Everglades Club, a non-profit corporation, the officers were Anthony Drexel Biddle Jr., vice-president, Martin Sweeney, secretary, and W. L. Kingsley, treasurer. The board of directors included Earle Charlton, James Gerard, Harris Hammon, L. Quinton Jones, Gurnee Munn, R. S. Pierrepont, E. T. Stotesbury, E. F. Hutton, J. Leonard Replogle, John Sanford, and Barclay Warburton. Within several weeks, a few more than 200 members had subscribed. Apparently, club members were almost split whether to become a member-owned club. In August, Singer announced a dissolution of the corporation, having found it “impracticable” to proceed.
Letter to Everglades Club members announcing proposed sale of the club, March 5,1924. Despite Singer’s offer to sell the club, there were apparently members who balked. Thus, he continued to expand his portfolio of Palm Beach properties.
Dissolution of Everglades Club reorganization, August 1924. Five months later, Singer’s offer was withdrawn.
It was during this period, perhaps anticipating relinquishing his ownership of the club, that Singer pursued a significant expansion of the Everglades Club and a series of acquisitions paying top-of-the-market prices for properties that three years later would be “under water,” facing heavily mortgaged foreclosures. Having paid the Kenan family more than $1 million for Whitehall, in April 1924 Singer’s Ocean & Lake Realty Company set up the Whitehall Building & Operating Company and proceeded to turn the main house into a private club before adding a ten-story addition and reorganizing Whitehall into a hotel.

He bought the oceanfront Gus’ Bath complex, turning half the facility into the private Palm Beach Swimming Club, for exclusive use of club members. In the North End, he paid Frances Cragin $1.75 million for her 35-acre Garden of Eden estate that would be redesigned as a golf course for Palm Beach Ocean, his elaborate Addison Mizner designed hotel-resort-residential trophy property located then in what was the northern part of Palm Beach. Singer secured more than $1.5 million in financing for Palm Beach Ocean using the Everglades Club as collateral. It was only months after creditors began filing suits against Mizner’s Boca Raton project, that Paris Singer’s pyramidal real estate holdings collapsed.  Singer left Palm Beach after the 1930 season, leaving his sons to settle the acrimonious aftermath of his quixotic pursuits.
Palm Beach Ocean, advertisement. 1925. Much like Mizner’s Boca Raton development, Everglades Club members eagerly invested in Singer’s alluring developments.
Palm Beach Ocean, advertisement. 1926.
Blue Heron Hotel, Singer’s Island. Addison Mizner, architect, 1926. Rather than recall Mizner’s artistry or Singer’s vision, the Blue Heron Hotel’s structural frame served as a ghostly reminder of the era’s zeitgeist. The unfinished nine-story, seven-wing luxury hotel was finally dismantled during the summer of 1940 by the Scott & Whitaker Company, the same firm that took down the Royal Poinciana Hotel. Although the Town of Palm Beach had approved the demolition of the Blue Heron’s existing framework in June 1937, it was repeatedly deferred at the request of the Peninsular Holding Company who claimed to have interested parties who may have wanted to incorporate the structure’s remains. Courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
But rather than fulfill Singer and Mizner’s plans for another exclusive millionaire’s playground, Edwards’ plan was geared for more middle-class residents, with more than 600 residential lots advertised between $1,800 and $4,000 with the perimeter reserved for commercial businesses and apartment buildings. Officially chartered as the Town of Palm Beach Shores by the Florida legislature in 1947, street intersections were bounded by stone balustrades and a private beach and boat docks were originally earmarked for residents only. The next year Edwards completed the oceanfront 120-room Inlet Court Hotel, renaming it The Colonnades in 1950 and adding a convention banquet facility four years later. 

Singer’s Island becomes Palm Beach Shores
Town of Palm Beach Shores, promotional brochure.
Palm Beach Shores, aerial c. 1947. Paris Singer’s seasonal resort playground became a year-round communityCourtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Town of Palm Beach Shores, promotional brochure.
Town of Palm Beach Shores, promotional brochure.
Town of Palm Beach Shores, promotional brochure.
Inlet Court Hotel, 1948. Palm Beach Shores. Courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Town of Palm Beach Shores, promotional brochure.
North End, Palm Beach & Town of Palm Beach Shores, Singer Island, aerial. By 1970 both the North End and Palm Beach Shores were almost fully developed. Courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Lake Shores, Hypoluxo Island, 1952. As he was building Palm Beach Shores, Edwards developed Lake Shores at the north end of Hypoluxo Island.
1482 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach. Situated on Widener curve, Arthur & Jadwiga Edwards’ oceanfront house was across the boulevard from Il Palmetto, the Joseph Widener estate. Although Edwards lived on Palm Beach, he served as mayor of the Town of Palm Beach Shores from 1952 until 1954. Courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Upon Arthur Edwards’ death in 1960, the hotel was sold to John D. MacArthur, philanthropist and developer of Palm Beach Gardens. MacArthur, who spent winters at The Colonnades, built his empire selling life insurance beginning with Bankers Life & Casualty Company. He is perhaps best known as the benefactor of the annual MacArthur Fellows Program administered by the MacArthur Foundation. Edwards’ wife Jadwiga continued to make Palm Beach her winter home. When her estate was probated after her death in 1988, the Edwards’ 33-acre Villanova estate was subdivided. Northwick’s main house and 19th-century hunting lodge became the Arthur O. Edwards Center educational facility for the Devereux Foundation.

Coming Soon
1906 South Ocean Boulevard, east elevation. Designed by NYC-based STONEFOX architects, the house “for a contemporary art collecting couple” is under construction.
1906 South Ocean Boulevard, rendering upon completion. Image STONEFOX / Architecture Interior Design Art.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur