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Just as architect Francis Burrall Hoffman Jr. had conceived Vizcaya as a picturesque historical illusion modeled on Old-World classical grandeur for owner James Deering, he designed Heamaw and Villa Artemis as similar adaptations for Henry Carnegie Phipps and Amy Phipps Guest, introducing a new architectural paradigm for Palm Beach’s oceanfront.
Highlighted by large interior courtyards enclosed by living areas and upper-story rooms opening onto walkways overlooking the central patio, both houses featured side entrances along southerly elevations allowing the principal rooms to have views of the ocean beyond. And yet, although Heamaw and Villa Artemis shared various stylistic features at their inception, their destinies were enormously disparate.
During Hal and Gladys Phipps’ lifetime, Heamaw was an architectural exemplar with fitting add-ons and flourishes by Addison Mizner and Treanor & Fatio. Following Gladys’ death in 1970, however, a new owner’s indifference to Heamaw’s provenance and disregard for its structural integrity resulted in the property’s abandonment. Subsequently, the house was defaced and vandalized with salvaged fragments scattered, some even carted to the Everglades and affixed to a Belle Glade office building. At the time, the house’s demolition was characterized a godsend, transformed into a subdivision — “Bamm-O. Bammity, Bamm-Bamm.” Since then, Heamaw has passed into oblivion without a trace that it was ever the site for a Palm Beach landmark designed by three of the past century’s most notable architects.
Although more than 40 years since the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was established and more than a century since Villa Artemis was built, it remains undesignated as a local or national historic landmark. The oversight is even more baffling considering Amy Phipps Guest’s leading role in some of the 20th-century’s major social and humanitarian causes. Nonetheless, it should not be surprising that Villa Artemis and several other significant architectural landmarks that might have been landmarked 40 years ago in other communities, remain undesignated on Palm Beach.
401 North County Road
No matter whether at their New York townhouse, Long Island estate, the Camp Chaleur fish camp, or the Florida beach house, Hal and Gladys Phipps could be found shuttling between the putting green and tennis court, the bridge table and the kennels, or saddling up on the polo field and at the racetrack. Considering their stellar Social Register standing, their every activity made news. In the months before construction began for their Palm Beach house, Hal, Gladys, and the dogs headed for the Everglades.
During that spring and summer, Amy, Hal and Gladys, and Michael Grace made news as crowds gathered to watch the construction of Villa Artemis, Heamaw, and Los Incas, their new Palm Beach oceanfront mansions. Rather than informed too much by Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Old Havana-styled, lakefront colossus, their three houses were inspired by the Italian villas that lined the Riviera del Brenta between Padua and Venice.
“Perfect in design, magnificent in proportions.”
Hal and Gladys Phipps greeted 200 guests at their wedding reception held in 1907 at her family’s Livingston Manor, tallying more than $1 million in wedding gifts. After a several month honeymoon yachting in the West Indies, the couple popped-up at Palm Beach, registering at the Royal Poinciana Hotel in February 1908, much to the surprise of their friends. As Gladys took to the golf course, Hal headed to Jack Bradley’s Palm Beach Gun Club for the bird shoots.
“First Lady of Turf”
What began for Gladys Phipps with a stable of less than a dozen yearlings from Payne and Helen Whitney’s Greentree Stable, a card game debt some say, would develop into one of the racing world’s most formidable racing stables, awarding her standing at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Early on, Gladys retained trainer James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons to manage and run Wheatley Stable, her nom de course, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, under the watchful eye Arthur “Bull” Hancock (played by Fred Thompson in the film Secretariat). For four decades, Gladys was as familiar a presence in the stables as she was in the winner’s circle from Belmont to Hialeah Park. And while her yellow-and-purple silks often finished in the money, her most significant contributions to thoroughbred racing were thought to be her broodmares and sires.
Wheatley Stable first ran at Hialeah in 1928, the pre-Widener era when Florida’s anti-wagering laws did not permit bookmaking or betting. When Joseph Widener, E. R. Bradley, and the Munn brothers ushered in parimutuel betting at Hialeah in Jan 1931, Helen Whitney’s Greentree was the largest stable with 29 horses; Gladys’ Wheatley Stable saddled five. The following year, Greentree had 54 horses; Wheatley ran 25.
Ogden Phipps shared his mother’s passion for thoroughbreds, registering his own silks during the mid-1930s, becoming longtime chairman of New York’s Jockey Club. Following E.R. Bradley’s death, his estate sold his Kentucky Derby-winning “gilded bloodstock” to Robert Kleberg, grandson of Richard King, founder of the 900,000-acre King Ranch, the Whitney’s Greentree Stable, and Ogden Phipps. After “drawing straws,” Phipps acquired five mares, four yearlings, and three sucklings.
“Aunt Gladys was not to be messed with. She was known to sort things out with a look and a short sentence,” observed a Phipps family member. “A wonderful lady in my book. from a lady who had the eyes of an eagle when it came to knowing how many times the jockey blinked on one of her horses. Actually, both my aunts, Amy and Gladys were definitely great in every way. They do not make them like that anymore!”
Heamaw: The Aftermath
Following Gladys’ death in October 1970, her estate sold the property for $625,000 to Philadelphian and former West Palm Beach resident Hannah Gertrude Hogan. “One of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen,” Hogan told The Palm Beach Post.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t.
Apparently, she had failed to secure the property, leaving the property open during the summer and fall months without a caretaker. According to Hogan, vandals trespassed and broke-in to the main house, “ripped it apart,” painted graffiti on every wall, and carted architectural fragments away “piece-by-piece.” The Town of Palm Beach Police Department blamed it on “children and teenagers.” Hard to believe, even in 1970s Palm Beach?
Hogan announced she had to scrap plans to renovate the property because of “extensive vandalism” and set demolition for July 1972, seeking approval for her five-lot Chateaux Enchante subdivision. The Palm Beach Post opined that perhaps “the house was filled with ghosts” and the house was “torn apart and wounded, awaiting final destruction.”
Nonetheless, while waiting to gain her zoning approvals, Hogan agreed to allow the defaced, ruined, empty house, with no water or electricity, to host an April benefit for the Junior Opera Guild. Remember, it is Palm Beach. The utilities were turned back on for a one-night-only and …
The last rites were administered by the Big Chief Wrecking Company, as cypress ceilings, marble fireplaces, glass doorknobs, cast stone balustrades, and carved moldings were chiseled and hammered, then tied-down and hauled away in pick-up trucks. “Tortured months of being pulled apart by salvage hunters and vandals,” was coming to an end.
The following month, architect Ames Bennett and developer-builder Robert Gottfried pulled the first permit for a $250,000 house, followed the next month by a $400,000 house designed by John Volk. And rather than build on the oceanfront parcel, Hogan also sold it, moving to a smaller house on South Ocean Boulevard. She died shortly after.
Heamaw: Afterlife at Belle Glade
1 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Among the refined collectors was Bertram Dudley (B. D.) Cole who was planning a new building for his insurance company in downtown Belle Glade. Cole salvaged 16 tons of coral keystone, crafted by Mizner Industries from their Windley Key quarry, from Heamaw’s arches, balustrades, railings, entryways, window surrounds, moldings, columns, and capitals, as well as doorways, wrought-iron grilles, and accessories, then grafting them onto his new building. Abracadabra, flash forward 50 years and lawyer Thomas Montgomery who now owns the building, has maintained the building exactly as Cole build it.
“I have not changed a thing,” said Montgomery. “I believe he hired an Italian craftsman who refitted the pieces from the Phipps estate to the office building.” Lawyer Tom Montgomery’s law office may only be 46 miles west of Palm Beach, but it felt like another planet when I pulled into the parking lot, immediately recognizing the pieces that once graced Phipps Row on North County Road.
656 North County Road
When The First Church of Christ Scientist in West Palm Beach sold its two-acre Lakeview Avenue and South Flagler Drive properties adjacent to the church to The Related Companies for $21 million in 2021, church members had not forgotten that it was Amy Phipps Guest who bought the property for the church nearly a century earlier for $20,000. Several years earlier, it was Amy’s sister-in-law Gladys (Mrs. Henry Carnegie) Phipps who had bought the adjoining property for the church building, according toCynthia P. Hammar, church historian.
“Also, our records show Amy Phipps Guest was instrumental in obtaining Horace Trumbauer as the architect. Since he designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with which Mrs. Guest was familiar, that is why she suggested a similar design of the museum’s central temple for the church. Mrs. Guest especially admired the Museum’s blue tile roof and paid to have similar tiles from Italy used for the church building,” Hammar added.
In concert with Guest’s architectural taste for the church, when she selected an architect in 1916 for her Palm Beach house, she opted for Francis Burrall Hoffman Jr. whose groundbreaking design for Vizcaya still stands as South Florida’s most significant 20th-century architectural standard.
Built at a cost of $60,000 in Palm Beach’s North End adjacent to the town’s historic Indian Mound tract, Villa Artemis was named for Guest’s daughter, Diana, as Artemis was the earlier mythological name for the Roman goddess Diana. A Harvard-Ecole des Beaux Arts trained architect who apprenticed with Carere & Hastings, Hoffman’s work would find a more appreciative audience for his work on Jupiter Island and Boca Grande rather than Palm Beach.
For Villa Artemis, Hoffman devised an upper-level loggia inspired by his work at Vizcaya, patterned on a similar loggia at Villa Pliniana on Lake Como. For Deering, he had crafted a double-columned loggia between the courtyard and the bayfront terrace opening on two sides rather than the customary three-walled loggia. At Villa Artemis, window and door surrounds were trimmed with Grecian-style panels. Originally, there were loggias on both the first and second floor framed by Doric columns overlooking the pool, highlighted by a small circular Greek-styled temple with views of the ocean beyond.
By the time Amy and husband MP Frederick Guest’s house at Palm Beach neared completion during World War I, they had both become prominent political and cultural personalities. In 1911, they acquired Aldford House, one of London’s sizable, albeit eclectic, mansions in Mayfair.
The Guests’ residence “with marble halls paneled with carved English oak, and gold-framed mirrors” became a 50-bed American Red Cross Hospital for the US Navy’s wounded soldiers during the war. Amy was instilled with a strong sense of patriotism ever since the Spanish-American War when she enrolled in a nurse’s training program at New York’s St. Luke’s Hospital in 1898, at the ready for the front lines.
January-February 1919. “Guest Villa Leased by Edward B. McLean.” Villa Artemis was declared “ the most elaborate place ever built here with the single exception of Whitehall …”
A World of Our Own, Part III
Los Incas & Casa Bendita