Virtual history: Landmarks Discovered @ Palm Beach

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The Preservation Foundation’s executive director, Amanda Skier, seated right, welcomes the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s chief curator, Debi Murray, seated left, to discuss the life and work of architect Maurice Fatio, a partner of the Treanor & Fatio firm, for an upcoming episode on the Foundation’s Landmarks Discovered series. Pictured above, Skier and Murray rehearse a scene with the videographers in the oceanview living room at 930 South Ocean Boulevard, designed in 1929-1930 by Fatio at a cost of $200,000, including the furnishings and purchase of the grounds from Henry C. Phipps.

During the past summer the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, realizing house tours, group meetings and live lectures may have become events of the past, began reformatting the multidimensional appreciation of the Town’s historic architecture and transforming the experience onto 21st-century platforms — laptops, iPads, iPhones, and YouTube.

Voila! Landmarks Discovered, an online video production exploring the Town’s historic landmarks and influential architects, is hosted by Amanda Skier, the foundation’s executive director, and Katie Jacob, program director. Each episode focuses on a landmark, sharing the property’s history through a virtual tour and archival materials with commentary by design professionals, historians and preservationists. The format allows the Foundation to connect with a broader audience and create a more dynamic dialogue about architecture’s role shaping the community’s quality of life.

The Town of Palm Beach’s Landmarks program began in 1979 with the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance and the appointment of a Landmarks Preservation Commission.

This new series features insightful interviews with architects, designers, building contractors, and craftsmen, revealing the practical challenges of rehabilitation projects along and pointing out aspects distinguishing the original from modern-day construction and materials.

930 South Ocean Boulevard, entrance fanlight. During the 1980s, owner George Mann replaced the original wrought-iron work with facsimiles, according to available records.

Landmarks Discovered focuses on how utilizing special collections and archival research result in successful rehabilitation projects. Each episode takes viewers behind the scenes to learn how the architect’s original plans and historic photographs inform a project’s planning and design. By reviewing these primary sources, the series facilitates greater access to the Preservation Foundation’s archives.

Treanor & Fatio office, Phipps Plaza. Maurice Fatio, 7th from right. Also pictured, aviatrix Grace Morrison, T&F secretary, Byron Simonson, Edgar Wortman, and Frederick G. Seelmann. Courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

Here are snaps I took during the Preservation Foundation’s filming of a recent episode and a look around-and-about historic architecture under reconstruction. Because it was the first sunny morning in what seemed like 40 days, I arrived a few minutes early to catch the sunlight

Friday – October 9, 2020
930 South Ocean Boulevard
Treanor & Fatio / Maurice Fatio-architect

The living room was the selected location for filming.
East elevation, looking north toward Casa Eleda, the Mortimer and Adele Schiff house across the street, also designed with a Northern Italian touch by Treanor & Fatio (1929).
Casa Eleda, 1929. Treanor & Fatio architect.
East elevation, detail. The bright morning sun on the shadowy coquina stone.
The west elevation opens onto an entertainment area, patio, pool, guest house, and to the south, an upper terrace and fountain.
From the south upper terrace looking northeast toward the pool and loggia.
A thoughtful painted mural greets guests in the multi-leveled entry alcove.
Entrance hall, details. The elevator is to the left of the entry.
An artifact from the 17th-century Atocha shipwreck adds a touch of Florida lore.
First the lights; the morning sun was especially bright streaming through the windows.
A work of art.
Amanda Skier, seated.
Double check.
Debi Murray finds her microphone.
More than 20 years ago I began a finding guide for the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s architectural drawings. Pictured above, page one of the eight pages cataloguing as many as 300 Treanor & Fatio commissions. Born in Geneva, Maurice Fatio was educated at Zurich Polytechnic (now ETH Zurich) where he studied with the renowned Karl Moser. Before coming to Palm Beach in 1923 as one of the designers of the Olympia Beach development, Fatio was first associated with favored country house architect Harrie T. Lindeberg (1920-1921) then formed a partnership with William A. Treanor.
Front light in place.
Amanda ready for a close-up.

In 1932 Maurice and Eleanor Fatio sold their house and furnishings at 930 South Ocean to New York “merchant prince” Franklin Simon whose Palm Beach store was at the northwest corner of Worth Avenue and Hibiscus. For the time being, the Fatios moved back as tenants to the Via del Mar house, the house Fatio sold before moving into 930 South Ocean.

Eventually, the Fatio family lived three blocks south of their Via Bellaria house on Algoma Road, named for the Wisconsin town, or perhaps, Algoma Boulevard in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Mrs. Fatio’s family home, the Edgar P. Sawyer mansion is today the Oshkosh Public Museum. Within a few years, Simon died, and the family placed the house on the market amid the Great Depression.

930 South Ocean Boulevard. The Webb brothers, Blaine and Lamar, had opened an office a decade earlier as Ladd & Nichols of Florida, a branch of the prominent Greenwich real estate firm, located at the Everglades Arcade. Newspaper ad, Palm Beach Post archive.
Oheka I, Sunset Avenue, Palm Beach. Otto Kahn’s first oceanfront Palm Beach house was designed in a classical Italian style by August Gieger in 1917. Seated far right, Maurice Fatio, with tobacco heiress and Kahn house guest Nancy Yuille, who later would marry Viscount Richard Adare at a Louwana wedding. Standing left with Otto Kahn, his neighbor Jane Sanford, who wed Italian diplomat Mario Pansa in 1937. Pansa was Benito Mussolini’s protocol arbiter elegantiarum. Mrs. John Barry “Nin” Ryan Jr., Kahn’s daughter Margaret, seated center, with Betty Bonstetton, standing. Courtesy Ellen Glendinning Ordway Collection.
Cocoanuts Ball, 1924. Whitehall. Man-about-town Maurice Fatio, far right, with left to right, Jack Stearns, Jane Sanford and Gertrude Sanford. Courtesy Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, 1836-2000, College of Charleston.
Eleanor Sawyer Chase Fatio (1903-1944). Regarded as part of the “Palm Beach intelligentsia,” Eleanor Chase and Maurice Fatio were quietly married in the summer of 1929, leaving immediately for two months in Switzerland “to meet the in-laws.” Image courtesy Oshkosh Public Museum.
Alex Fatio Taylor, Maurice and Eleanor Fatio’s daughter, who left her perch in Geneva every season for many years to come to Palm Beach and research her father and mother’s works. Eleanor was an accomplished novelist, friends with many of the Algonquin Round Table. Alex was 11 when her father died; her mother died the following year at the Hotel Astor in Milwaukee where she had gone to attend an event. Alex and her older brother Maurice Pierre “Petey” were brought up by relatives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Photo Augustus Mayhew.

The Preservation Foundation’s recent videos include features on Hogarcito and the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea, where I stopped Friday for a few snaps. The website also has produced episodes on Town Hall, 174 Via del Lago, two houses attributed to Belford Shoumate, and a house at 9 Golfview Road.

17 Golfview Road
Marion Sims Wyeth, architect

Hogarcito, façade tile detail.
The recent restoration of Hogarcito appears completed, the faded salmon color now gone.
Hogacito’s palms are striking.

Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea
Hiss & Weeks, architect.

View of the north-south arcade bordering the central courtyard to the east. Apparently, there was a tiara photo shoot of some kind.
Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea, South County Road. Sculpture relief by Leo Lentelli. The Leo Lentelli Papers are at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.


Restoration/reconstruction underway at the E. F. Hutton Building, as first named, at Phipps Plaza, designed by Addison Mizner, making room for the Carriage House social club, “Opening 2021, By Invitation Only,” according to the website.

Sewell C. Biggs House, 1955
Seabreeze Avenue, Delray Beach
Paul Rudolph, architect

Having somehow survived on Seabreeze Avenue the past 65 years with only unnerving additions, the work of one of the 20th-century’s most renowned Modernist architects is being “reimagined.” I happened by it on the way to my dentist in Delray. For more, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Biggs House, north elevation. Paul Rudolph, architect.
Original drawing. 1955.03 @ Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.
Biggs house, east and north elevations.

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