|by Augustus Mayhew
As Palm Beach's real estate roulette wheel twitched and wobbled for much of last year, I often wondered how much longer I could spin the flip-flops and lateral moves before my column went kaput. Then, abracadabra, the island's tip-top house movers have spent the past ten days wrapping up the decade with an upbeat tic. Real estate's pyramidal investment strategy, popularized in California more than forty years ago based on the location-location-location mantra, must undergo a one-eighty makeover if it is ever to regain former confidence levels as a viable cyclical, considering its foundation has been supplanted by financing-financing-financing and the illusive math of square footage. Although 2010's scenario may include increased upside-down meltdowns, more than several mansions are heavily mortgaged, there is measurably less ennui and more expectation of a turnaround within the list-and-sell clique.
At Publix last week I was standing somewhere between the bananas and the nuts when I overheard that even when/if the Picower estate settles with the Madoff trustee, philanthropist Barbara Picower will not be leaving her Billionaire's Row oceanfront cottage. Sometimes, this translates in Palm Beach speak as, a few brokers might have already made their first overtures. Over on the cereal aisle, a couple were sounding thrilled that "Cats" was being promised as the Theatre Guild's first production if live theater returns to Palm Beach.
|You remember, "live theater" was when road shows performed Neil Simon and Noel Coward comedies and faced what was known politely during my years spent backstage in the theater world as the most challenging audience in America. Palm Beach audiences were notorious, aside from the Royal Poinciana Plaza and Playhouse's perceived locational, structural, functional and economic obsolescence, already reported to have set in by the late 1970s when big name retailers were replaced with service professionals, and the theater became known more as a matinee house.
Some theatergoers didn't bother whispering when the house lights went down, they yakked it up as if they were in their living rooms. So much so, that once, a play's star stopped the show to ask audience members to shut up. Not only did PBers arrive late and left whenever they liked, but their stampede to valet parking during curtain calls made for theater legend.
For many years, I worked with Jim Riley, at one time the theater's tech consultant, producer and set designer. Jim's father, James F. Riley, a Palm Beach Town Councilman, was Bessemer's VP in charge of real estate in New York and Florida who supervised the plaza and playhouse construction project. I can not recall how many marathon weekends were spent on the nightmare logistics caused by the theater's incurable waterfront location, albeit scenic and much to the delight of the union stagehands and matinee bus drivers.
Nonetheless, the Town Council will deliver the last word on the plaza and playhouse, who more familiar with the civility and grace of the well-mannered Palm Beach audience. That is, unless the International Court of Justice, The World Court at The Hague agrees to hear the case in 2020. And, with three Council seats in play for the town's February election, expect the winter months of public meetings to be the best stage show in town.
Here are some notable sales, some notes between deals, a spotlight on architect Howard Chilton's work, superbly-crafted Mid-century buildings lacking barrel tile and loggias but no less significant in their Ike & JFK era style and some images from my weekend visit to Winter Park for a portrait photography workshop.
Krakoff sells Blossom Estate waterfront for $10.65 million
The executive creative director and president of Coach Inc., Reed Krakoff, sold a vacant Blossom Estate 5.98-acre parcel for $10.65 million to attorney Ronald S. Kochman, as trustee under the 1255 S. Ocean Blvd. Realty Trust. The property consists of two combined waterfront lots that include a protected sanctuary within the Blossom Estate subdivision. In 2004, Mr. Krakoff paid $9.4 million for the lakefront acreage adjacent to an Audubon Society bird sanctuary and buffered by a mangrove area. Architect Richard Meier designed a multi-level house for the Old Palm Beach setting but later Krakoff decided against building. At one time, the property was listed for $19.75 million. The county's property appraiser's record shows a current appraised value of $10.7 million. Lawrence A. Moens, of Lawrence A. Moens Associates, was the listing agent and selling broker.
|Sale Johnson buys Bear's Club estate for $4.95M
Nancy Sale Frey Johnson-Rashad, a former Wellington resident, paid $4.95 million to Dev Bala Van Lefferdink and Morgan Van Lefferdink for 124 Bear's Club Drive, Jupiter. The sale amount appears to be equal to the existing mortgages on the property. Following her divorce from Johnson & Johnson heir and New York Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV, Sale Johnson sold her Fairway Island residence in Wellington for $1.875 million to Mark and Katherine Bellissimo. In 2007, Sale Johnson married Ahmad Rashad, Emmy-Award-winning sportscaster and a former NFL football star. The new Bear's Club residence was listed for $6.995 million. The five-bedroom house with a guest house was described as an "Italianate estate with every conceivable luxury appointment," situated on a 2-acre lot overlooking the Bear's Club signature Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. In 2001, the Lefferdinks, who are New Canaan, Conn., residents, purchased the lot for $1.15 million from The Bear's Club Development Co. The property was listed with The Bear's Club Sotheby's International Realty.
Dexter Shoe heir pays $4.1 million for Watermark condo
The estate of Alexander Grass sold a One Watermark Place condo, unit 1004, at 622 North Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach, for $4.1 million to Waterville, Maine residents Peter and Paula Lunder. In 2004, the seller paid $4.35M. In 1993, the late Dexter Shoe founder and Two North Breakers Row resident, Harold Alfond, and his nephew, Mr. Lunder, the company president, sold the family's Maine-based biz to Warren Buffet for $415+ million. Several years ago, when the Lunders donated their art collection to Colby College, they were described as "famously simple" by the Boston Globe.
Notable philanthropist Florence A. DeGeorge sold her Admiral's Cove Intracoastal Waterway estate at 176 Spyglass Lane, Jupiter, for $6.15 million to John L. and Doris W. Notter. The five-bedroom house with 365 feet of waterfront on 1.4 acres had reportedly been listed for $7.9 million. Lawrence DeGeorge, Mrs. DeGeorge's late husband who passed away in April 2009, was a former CEO of Times Wire and Cable. Mr. and Mrs. DeGeorge were benefactors for many local causes including the Florence DeGeorge Boy's and Girl's Club, completed in 2006 in West Palm Beach.
In June 2009 Mrs. DeGeorge purchased a smaller waterfront house at 3132 Cassekey Island Road in nearby Jonathan's Landing for $1.975 million. A director with Hilton Worldwide and the Conrad Hilton Foundation, Mr. Notter's business interests are in California and Florida. Previously, after selling their 196 Spyglass Court house for $4.7 million in 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Notter bought another Admiral's Cove house at 122 Victory Drive for $1.975 million.
NYC attorneys buy North End landmark for $4.76 million
Park Avenue residents Brian Wille and Robin Remick paid $4.76 million to L. E. Bierly, Jr. and Christopher P. Drake for their 315 Tangier Avenue house, the 2007 Ballinger Award-winner designed in the two-story plantation style during the 1930s by architect John Volk. The house was previously priced at $6.4M before being retagged at $5.9M. Paulette Koch and Dana Koch, associates with The Corcoran Group represented the sellers. Mr. Bierly and Mr. Drake, of the Boston-based Bierly-Drake Associates interior design firm, paid $3.05 million in 2005 for "Magnolia House" and began an extensive renovation. In 2006 Bierly & Drake sold 243 Garden Road for $3.5 million, purchasing it in 2003 for $1.85 million. In 2008 the design team became the fourth owners within the past five years of 230 Esplanade, landing it for $1.5 million.
Landmarked Casa Giravento sold for $9.3 million
|Edward Falcone sold 115 Via la Selva, known as Casa Giravento, for $9.3 million to Edward and Selaine Niedel. In 2004 Mr. Falcone bought the historic mansion situated on nearly one acre for $7.3 million. Built for Warner L. Jones in 1928, Casa Giravento was known for more than forty years as the seasonal residence of Detroit real estate tycoon, Wesson Seyburn, and his wife, Winifred Dodge Seyburn, daughter of auto pioneer, John Dodge. In what was PB's version of "Dodge City," Mrs. Seyburn's sister, Isabel Dodge Sloane, lived nearby at Concha Marina and her aunt, Mrs. Horace E. Dodge, owned Playa Riente, regarded as Addison Mizner's most magnificent house. Upon Mrs. Seyburn's death in 1980, her estate sold the Via la Selva property. Rosalind Clarke and Laura Coyner, agents with The Corcoran Group, listed the house for $9.95 million. Paulette Koch and Dana Koch, also associates with The Corcoran Group, represented the buyer.
Between the deals
North Lake Way residents for more than 35 years, Robert and Arlette Gordon are selling their spectacular 3-story lakefront house. Tagged at $16.9M by their son, Scott Gordon, a Fite Shavell associate, the Gordon house may not qualify for a landmark plaque but it does seem the Gordons lived there forever. Even in a town where walls and hedges have turned nearly every house into its own medieval fiefdom, don't miss a peek at the 1220 South Ocean $60+/- million spec chateau's entrance gates. The decade may be ending but South Ocean Boulevard royal Conrad Black, the Socrates of conservatism, remains locked up, while the resort's intelligence community deciphers the latest update on Rush Limbaugh's condition. Yes, Eles Gillet is living next door to Rachel Uchitel.
Palm Beach Modern: Howard Chilton (1909-1992)
|“You must capture the view, the sun’s rotation, the prevailing wind,” said architect Thomas Howard Chilton, in describing his design style for a 1980’s Palm Beach Daily News interview. A Florida native and the son of a carpenter, Chilton graduated from Palm Beach High School before attending NYU’s School of Fine Arts and Architecture (1931). Affiliated with a New York firm before moving to Palm Beach during the 1940s, Chilton designed more than 15 distinctive S-shaped Midtown apartment buildings and 700 houses during his fifty-year career in the Palm Beach area.
Known for his iconic Florida Modern style, Mr. Chilton was a versatile architect with practiced innovative design skills. Many of his residential designs could be found throughout Palm Beach and Martin counties as well as the island’s North End, where during the past 25 years many Mid-century Modern houses were demolished during the ongoing make-every-house-a-mansion movement.
|“I have tried to get away from square boxes and was inspired by the curvilinear lines found in Greek amphitheaters,” Chilton said, when talking about his iconic serpentine wave-shaped buildings that give PB’s Midtown streets their sense of panache. Mr. Chilton's wife, Sylvia Chilton, was a noted Palm Beach artist. For their Ibis Island Intracoastal point house, now demolished, the noted architect opted for a round living room.
In a 1960 speech at The Colony Hotel, Howard Chilton predicted that during the following three to five years, Palm Beach would see a phenomenal growth of co-ops and condominiums from Royal Palm Way to Worth Avenue, making for what became one of the town's major building booms as well as the introduction of the parking garage into the local landscape.
Here is a glance when Modernism reigned as Palm Beach's most popular architectural style and a brief showcase of Howard Chilton’s accomplished, yet overlooked, Mid-century Modern designs.
The Lake Drive Apartments, 455 Australian Avenue
|300 South Ocean Boulevard|
|A view from the pool, located in a courtyard on the building's west side.||Just amazing! What looked to me like one of Palm Beach's oldest surviving coconut trees found sheltered on 300 South Ocean's west side.|
|One Royal Palm Way, 100 Royal Palm Way|
|Park Place, 369 South Lake Drive|
|The Southlake, 315 South Lake Drive|
|Melbourne House, 227 Australian Avenue|
|The Melbourne House pool is situated in front of the building.||The Melbourne House lower level port cochere entrance.|
|The Australian of Palm Beach, 429 Australian Avenue|
|389 South Lake Drive|
|2500 South Ocean Boulevard|
|The Crescent, West Palm Beach|
|Palm Beach Memorial Park, Hypoluxo|
|Rollins College & Winter Park Ramble|
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.|