Monday, November 9, 2009

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Villa Leoncini, 1926. With a pecky cypress beamed ceiling, fireplace and tiled walls, the historic Ballinger House’s intimate dining room was one of New York architect Howard B. Major’s earliest Palm Beach commissions.
by Augustus Mayhew

“Is there anywhere else in the world to go?” asked a Palm Beacher, in response to an inquiry about the island’s real estate market during the ongoing crunch. True, the alternatives, Naples, Boca Grande, Vero, among other spots, hardly rival Palm Beach’s attraction as a setting for one of James Patterson’s next fictions. Burt Minkoff and Jim McCann, associates at The Corcoran Group, are boldly trying to sell the Madoffs' North Lake Way pad, probably now seen and known by most of Mumbai and Shanghai, describing the house as an “… amazing Caribbean light-filled home” with “en-suite bedrooms,” although several of their island broker brethren have declared the house a total teardown. And, who knows, last week's arrival of another platinum music mogul, Sony/ATV’s Martin Bandier, joining the legendary Tommy Mottola, who last year paid $6 million for a North End spec house, may spark just the right market alchemy for sustaining 21st-century Palm Beach’s real estate wave.

Here are a few of the latest transactions and a look at some of Palm Beach’s available historic houses. As much as the town proclaims its reverence for tradition, teardowns and new-build spec houses blot the landscape with oversized pop-ups, most often, insensitive to a neighbor’s presence.

The historic Ballinger House is under contract
Villa Leoncini’s formal motor court entrance circles around the center fountain past the detached three-car garage with upstairs quarters before landing in front of the wrought-iron front entrance gates opening into a lower vestibule leading up into a reception gallery that sweeps north to the patio and pool and south, into the tropical gardens.
The late Wynne Sharples "Didi" Ballinger (1923-2008) was a Palm Beach mainstay for many years. Serving on The Four Arts and PB Zoo boards, Mrs. Ballinger was the founder of the Horticulture Society of South Florida and benefactor for the Preservation Foundation's annual Ballinger Award, established in honor of her husband, Robert Ballinger, an architect who served as a chairman of the town's Landmarks Preservation Commission. A former emergency room physician, after two of her children were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, she began a CF research institute for Pennsylvania in 1960.

Didi Ballinger’s landmarked South End estate, Villa Leoncini, on the market for the first time in two decades, was priced first at $11.9 million, recently retagged at $9.9 million, before an Under Contract notice was posted on the Sotheby’s International Realty web site. Represented by Wally Turner, sales associate with Sotheby's, the Med-Rev L-shaped house features a three-story tower, guest house and award-winning gardens, a showcase for the owner’s tropical plantings that are archived among the Smithsonian's Garden Club of America Collection.
Villa Leoncini's three-story entrance tower. A view of the entrance gallery from the dining room.
Known first as La Torre Bianca, the distinctive tile plaque expresses the axiom, Fides non Timet, "Faith not Fear," and Ave Maria. A statuesque palm, one of the estate's many museum-quality plantings.
The Lake Como-inspired villa, designed in 1926 by architect Howard Major, was built for the Nelson Odmans, who named the house La Torre Bianca. Mr. Major, author of “Domestic Architecture of the Early American Republic," was a frequent contributor to architectural journals and forums, who later in his career eschewed the Med-Rev style in favor of more classic design genres.

Associated with Addison Mizner's atelier before opening an office, his first commission was Howard Whitney’s beach house in Gulf Stream.
Howard Major's Viento y Mar, seen above, the front loggia addition at the Whitney beach house, designed to resemble a Spanish village with an inner connected ensemble of buildings. Between the Mizner sconces, the paneled doors were salvaged from Playa Riente, one of Addison Mizner's greatest houses.
The original 1925 Mizner blue-and-yellow tiled exterior staircase with a nautical rope rail at the old Whitney beach house in Gulf Stream. Architect Howard Major's original entry with a studded Mizner Industries door at Viento y Mar.
In Palm Beach, architect Howard Major’s best-known work remains Major Alley, the complex of attached residences on Peruvian Avenue built shortly after Mizner completed Via Parigi. Major described it as the English Tropical Bermuda style.

In addition to La Torre Bianca-Villa Leoncini, he is credited with the original Tarpon Island house and for Mrs. Henry Ittleson, Toy Bee, her Japanese Modern house atop North Lake Way. During the 1950s, Major conceived the plan for Port Royal subdivision in Naples and designed several houses in the exclusive enclave.

Here are some other views of the historic Ballinger House ...
At La Torre Bianca in Palm Beach, the scene from the pool looking east towards the dining room and service areas.
From the dining room, 8-light french doors open onto the patio and pool.
A longtime Palm Beach resident, Mrs. Ballinger left a lasting legacy.
Mrs. Ballinger had bought Villa Leoncini in 1989 from Dr. Richard Wright, two years after her husband died. The Ballingers first Palm Beach house was La Bellucia, the Addison Mizner-designed oceanfront at 1200 South Ocean Boulevard, an estate owned for many years by Ailsa Mellon Bruce (1901-1969), Andrew Mellon's daughter who Forbes magazine first described as the richest woman in America during the 1950s. Mrs. Mellon-Bruce divorced Mr. Bruce at Palm Beach County's courthouse in 1945, charging him with desertion and mental cruelty, according to the court records. The Ballingers bought La Bellucia from Paul Mellon, who was the executor of his sister's estate.

La Bellucia, 1200 South Ocean Boulevard
A view from the beach, sea oats and seagrapes provide a buffer between the house and the ocean.
La Bellucia, built for Wyllie Lyon Kingsley, a Rome, New York banker, sits on more than three acres next door to the Bath & Tennis Club, built seven years after the Kingsleys’ house was completed. La Bellucia is listed for $27.5 million by Paulette Koch and Dana Koch, associates of The Corcoran Group’s Palm Beach office. Although priced considerably less than what other nearby Billionaire’s Row properties have sold for during the last decade, the asking price is more than the $14 million Malcolm Glazer’s holding company, First Allied Jax Corporation, paid the Daniel J. Mahoney heirs for the property in 2000.

Ten years earlier, in 1990 Mrs. Ballinger sold La Bellucia for $4.95 million to Daniel J. Mahoney, Jr., former publisher of The Palm Beach Post and chairman of the board for Palm Beach Newspapers. Mr. Mahoney's father was the publisher of The Miami News who had married the daughter of James Cox (1870-1957), the Ohio governor who amassed a newspaper and media chain, Cox Enterprises based in Atlanta.
La Bellucia's ocean view from the loggia between the living room and the dining room, opening onto an ocean terrace to the east and the pool-patio area to the west.
A classic Mizner entrance opens into a vestibule. La Bellucia's fountain is on the north wall that separates the house from the Bath & Tennis Club.
The view from the living room looking southeast.
Looking northeast towards the ocean and the Bath & Tennis Club.
The current owners, the Glazers, also own 1482 South Ocean Boulevard at Widener’s Curve, an oceanfront house purchased in 1989 for $2.5 million. Mr. Glazer’s diversified holdings reportedly began with trailer parks and now include sports teams, shopping centers, nursing homes, food processing, energy-related companies and an oceanfront Mizner-designed mansion.
Just beyond the north wall, getting prepped for the season, the landmarked Bath & Tennis Club, designed by irrepressible Joseph Urban in the same fan-shaped form he utilized at PB's Paramount Theater and that can also be traced at Mar-A-Lago.
History for sale: Provenance with a price
Cielito Lindo's entrance glass mirrors the house across the street, once apart of it before the street split, leaving the original Donahue house in several fragments that were reworked into other houses.
Although, Casa Nana has been temporarily taken off the market, here are some other prime Palm Beach historic landmarks on the market. Linda A. Gary’s office represents a historical trifecta: Cielito Lindo, Marion Sims Wyeth artful 122 Kings Road magnificence for Jessie Woolworth Donahue; Hogarcito, another Wyeth, the E. F. Hutton’s Golf View Road house before the then Mrs. Hutton, Marjorie Post, stepped up to Mar-A-Lago, ascending to the mythic role of "Queen of Palm Beach."

But, the more intimate Everglades Club golf course house stayed in the family, becoming the Franklyn Hutton house, where Barbara Hutton spent her winter childhood when she was not at Cielito Lindo, her grandmother's house, or her Aunt Marjorie's Mar-A-Lago; and, Villa Today, Maurice Fatio’s lakeside Moderne Mediterranean mansion, where a former owner kept panels from the SS Normandie in the entrance hall. Then, a glance at an Italianate Fatio, Casa Giravento at 115 Via Selva, built for Warner Jones in 1928 and listed last week for $9.975 million by Rosalind Clarke at the Corcoran Group.

Cielito Lindo
With ocean views to the east, the Waterway to the west and Mar-A-Lago's tower to the south, Cielito Lindo's incomparable Tower Room features a splendid pecky cypress ceiling and the original tiled floor with hand-painted inserts. Photo courtesy of Linda A. Gary Real Estate.
Built in the late 1920s, the house known as Cielito Lindo was once part of the Donahue's much larger ocean-to-lake estate that was subdivided while the main house was partitioned. The former house's foyer became the living room at 122 King's Road and although no longer the grandiose extent it was when it was built, the existing house is embellished with the some of Palm Beach's finest details. The lady's Portuguese powder room has the original gold sink with gold fixtures. The family room is paneled with 18th-century English pine. The asking is $8.75 million.
Originally extending from the ocean to the lake, Cielito Lindo's gardens were among the island's most imaginative. For the interior, the Donahues relied on Elsie Sloan Farley. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
A view from the upper east side terrace looking southwest towards the pool and garden fountain wall.
The original garden fountain with spouts along the base, seen above in c. 1930, can still be found in the garden. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
A playful Neptune plaque highlighted by Florida sailfish.
A tiled plaque on the wall of the east terrace.
The garden view of Cielito Lindo, some consider it Wyeth's most consummate work.
Hogarcito
Hogarcito, an aerial view. Photo courtesy of Linda A. Gary Real Estate.
Designed in 1921 for Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Hutton by Marion Sims Wyeth, Hogarcito is one of Palm Beach's most historically coveted properties. Situated on the Everglades Golf Course at 17 Golf View Road, the Hutton house is often considered a prototype for Mar-A-Lago, the Wyeth-designed showplace some consider the ultimate Palm Beach cottage. A cereal heiress from Battle Creek, Marjorie Post Close Hutton had been coming to Palm Beach for years, always renting cottages, when Wyeth was asked to design her house. Wyeth utilized a crescent, camp-like configuration of rooms, that he later implemented on a far grander scale and dimension at Mar-A-Lago. The current owner, Bruce Bent, bought the house in 1987 from Adelaide Rea, the former Adelaide Belle Lehman who married Robert Wilson Rea in 1982, shortly after Mr. Rea's wife, Helene, died. The current asking price for Hogarcito is $14.995 million.
Hogarcito, a view from Golf View Road.
Villa Today
Designed in 1931 by Maurice Fatio at 260 Via Bellaria, Villa Today offers 167 feet of water frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway.
After an extensive update by owner, Linda Horn, who owns a New York antiques, collectibles and decor shop, LINDA HORN at 1327 Madison Avenue, she listed the property with her son, Christopher Horn, an associate at the Linda A. Gary Real Estate office on Worth Avenue at County Road. The Horns bought the house in 2004 for $9.85 million from Pat Supper's estate, according to the property appraiser's records. The following year, Steve and Linda Horn, Inc. bought 930 South Ocean Boulevard for $9.45 million, the house on the corner of Bellaria and South Ocean previously owned by George S. Mann, the Toronto businessman. Originally, Villa Today was designed for Charles and Audrey Chadwick. Reportedly, Mrs. Chadwick supervised the interior, outfitting the house with Modern and Impressionist paintings, as well as works by Salvador Dali. Previously priced at $19+ million, the asking price is currently under review according to Christopher Horn, the landmarked house features five bedrooms, staff quarters, a guest house and a three-car garage, among other amenities.
A double staircase leads up to Villa Today's front entrance on Via Bellaria.
Casa Giravento
Five years after Edward Falcone bought 115 Via la Selva for $7.3 million, he has placed the 9,700-sq.ft. six bedroom house on the market for $9.9 million with Rosalind Clarke and Laura Coyner, associates with The Corcoran Group Real Estate. Landmarked in 1990 and designed with a subdued Florentine rusticated facade, Casa Giravento features a three-story central tower affording panoramic views, a 30-by-20 living room, a pool house and a first-floor master suite. Built for Warner L. Jones in 1928 at a cost of $55,000, for many years Casa Giravento was the residence of Winifred Dodge Seyburn (1894-1980), daughter of auto pioneer, John Dodge.
Casa Giravento's distinctive wooden latticework doorway is capped with an arched wood transom with a starburst design.
Sony/ATV CEO buys Il Lugano condo for $3.3 million

Martin Bandier,
current Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, paid $3.3M for 300 Seminole Avenue, a fifth-floor three- bedroom waterfront apartment at Il Lugano condominium in Midtown Palm Beach. Mr. Bandier manages the joint venture created in 1995 between the Sony Corporation and trusts formed by the late "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, to control the publishing rights for 250 Beatles songs, as well as other recording deals with Taylor Swift and Bob Dylan, among other music legends.

Barbara Green Kay sold Bandier her apartment, bought in April 2004 for $3.05 million. The waterfront condo was listed for $3.975 million by Carole Hogan, agent at Brown Harris Stevens of Palm Beach. Burt Minkoff, associate with Corcoran Group Real Estate's Palm Beach office, represented the buyer.

In May 2008, Lee and Laura Munder paid $12.1 million for a 6th-floor double unit, a 5800-sq.-ft. four bedroom apartment, the highest price paid at Il Lugano or any other lake front condominium in Palm Beach.

North Lake Way waterfront nets $11.9 million

Felice M. Forman has sold a new custom-built house at 1072 N. Lake Way for $11.9 million to David and Holly Dreman. The house was listed at $14.9 million. The five-bedroom Georgian-style lakefront house was custom-built by the Forman family. Designed with a two-story central pavilion flanked by one-story wings, the house features a paneled library, lakeside family room and four-car garage. "It is a gorgeous house in beautiful condition that had lots of interest and several offers," said Linda A. Gary, the listing agent with Linda A. Gary Real Estate. "The buyers had been looking at houses in Palm Beach for a few years and found the perfect place," said Moira Wolofsky Fiore, the buyer's agent. Fiore, associate with Moira J. Realty Inc., represented the buyer.

GE’s Jack Welch pockets $13.6 million from two Lost Tree sales

Former chairman and CEO of General Electric, John F. "Jack" Welch Jr., sold two adjacent vacant waterfront lots in exclusive Lost Tree Village for $8.45 million to William C. Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, and his wife, Barbara D. Weldon of New Hope, Pa. In a separate sale recorded Tuesday, Welch sold another Lost Tree residential property, 11823 Turtle Beach Road, for $5.15 million, to Donald and Georgia Gogel. Mr. Gogel is president and CEO of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Inc., a New York private equity investment firm.

In 2006, Welch, as trustee for the John F. Welch Jr. Revocable Trust, bought 1264 Lake Worth Lane in Lost Tree Village with 113 feet of water frontage for $2.975 million and 1284 Lake Worth Lane, with 111 feet of frontage, for $5 million. He subsequently demolished an existing house on the lot, records show. A longtime resident of Lost Tree, Mr. Welch most recent purchase was 11935 Lost Tree Way, a 10,000-square-foot waterfront house, for $7.6 million in 2007, which he retains as his principal Florida residence.

Barnes & Noble chairman buys adjacent lot for $1.35 million

Stanley N. Gaines and Gay Hart Gaines have sold 1465 North Ocean Boulevard, a curved corner out parcel of their estate, for $1.35 million to Noble Causeway LLC, a company located at 1446 North Ocean Boulevard, the oceanfront residence of Louise and Leonard Riggio. Mr. Riggio is the chairman of Barnes and Noble bookstores whose company, Noble Causeway, appears to also be the name of one of the Riggios' thoroughbred racehorses. In 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Riggio paid $14 million for 1446 North Ocean Boulevard, next door to the Gaines' estate. Although Stanley and Gay Gaines had initially planned to demolish their existing house and rebuild, in 2007 they received ARCOM approval for additions to 1473 North Ocean Boulevard, their principal residence. For many years the national chairman of GOPAC, Mrs. Gaines is the current vice-chairman of National Public Broadcasting Corporation.

Wellington barn sells for $3 million

If only Palm Beach houses would sell at the rate of Swellington’s gilded barns. The latest, a Tennessee trucking magnate has added a Wellington equestrian facility to his portfolio. Las Tres Palmas LLC sold 12987 Via Christina, its 2.92 acre equestrian complex at Wellington’s Equestrian Club Farms, for $3 million to Sequoyah Farms South LLC, a Tennessee company. Listed for $3.55 million, Las Tres Palmas, a Florida company based in Aspen, Colorado, bought the property in 2006 for $2.35 million. Described by the listing agent as having “granite throughout,” the property features 3,300-sq.-ft of living area with a 14-stall barn, a practice arena with dressage mirror, two lounges and grooms quarters, among other amenities.

Greg and Kimberly Watkins own GK Performance Horses, based at Sequoyah Farms in Andersonville, Tenn. Their Tennessee facility features a $5 million 28-stall 44,000-sq.-ft barn outfitted with antler chandeliers, odor deodorizers, organic fly repellent, video security, wood-and-steel stables with rubber comfort mats and hay imported from Montana. Mr. Watkins is president and COO of Highway Transport Inc.

Watson Blair buys Midtown co-op
Watson Blair has bought a co-op apartment at the 300 South Ocean Boulevard, pictured above, Unit 4B, for $2.275 million from Moira Imperial and Tara and David Gronberg. Designed in the Mid-century Modern style by architect Howard Chilton, the apartment overlooks the town’s public beach. Mr. Blair is a former JP Morgan banker.
Vecellio buys house across the street

Perhaps emulating their neighbor, Mr. Nelson Peltz, who owns both sides of North County Road, Leo Vecellio, CEO of The Vecellio Group construction-related industries, paid Robert Snyder, CEO and founder of the Maryland-based Cambridge Information Group, $2.1 million for 200 Bermuda Lane that Mr. Snyder had paid $2.56 million for in 2006. Mr. Vecellio took title in the name of a Missouri-based LLC. Last year, the Vecellios reportedly paid in the vicinity of $45 million for 589 North County Road, recently encircled with scaffolds, perhaps doing some touch-up work. What can you expect for $45 million?

Araskogs sell Old Marsh golf course house for $2.14M


Rand and Jesse Araskog, of Palm Beach and Southampton, have let go of their Old Marsh Golf Club property to David and Kathleen Graciano for $2.14 million. The Araskogs 10,000-sq.-ft house at 12980 Brynwood was built in 1989 fronting the golf course and scenic lake. The Araskogs retain their Palm Beach residence at 320 El Vedado.

Sloans Curve townhouse nets $2.5M


A Merrick, New York couple, Allan and Faye Adler paid $2.51 million for a 3,500-sq.-ft. townhouse at 7 Sloans Curve Drive. The seller, Connie B Porter, purchased the unit in 2000 for $2.6 million.

Seabreeze cul-de-sac house sells for $2.8 million
Robert Van Hellemont sold his 444 Seabreeze Avenue residence for $2.867 million, according to a warranty deed filed 6 November. In 2005, Mr. Van Hellemont bought the four bedroom approx 5,000-sq.-ft. house for $2.5 million from Linda Miller and Leverett Saltonstall Miller, a founder of the National Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame, whose grandmother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founded the Whitney Museum.
Scaffolds removed, Palm Beach Town Hall's re-restoration nears completion. Saturday, 2:30 p.m., 7 November.
Town of Palm Beach's organizational vision statement, stenciled on the side of town vehicles:
 
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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