- Historic Sites
The Tropical Twenties
The shady courtyards, tiled roofs, and white stucco walls of 1920s Palm Beach owed something to the style of the Spanish Renaissance and everything to the vision of Addison Mizner
May/june 1990 | Volume 41, Issue 4
Before the year was out, however, the Boca Raton project was deeply in trouble. Contractors went unpaid and major investors became wary. Smaller investors who had made the first low down payments failed to make the second installments. Some attributed the collapse of the Florida real estate market to the failure of Mizner’s Boca Ra ton. It had seemed to be one of the most secure investments in the state: if that could go down, nothing was safe. Before the end of 1926 a series of events contributed to the definitive end of the Florida land bubble. Railroads hard pressed to supply food to Florida’s expanding population placed an embargo on the transportation of building supplies. In January the sea route into Biscayne Bay was blocked when the Prins Valdemar , an old Danish warship that was intended to be transformed into a hotel, capsized in the channel. Nature added the final touch when hurricanes lashed the coast later in the year. Nobody suspected then that Florida’s problems were only a dress rehearsal for the Wall Street crash of 1929.
Mizner, now bankrupt, his development firmand industries broken up, continued to work, and in fact he did some of his best commissions for clients in Colorado, Georgia, California, and Pennsylvania; but both his health and his spirit suffered, and he died in 1933.
Daniel Carstairs sold his splendid house at the first sign of trouble in 1926. In 1935 the house and its contents were sold at auction when a later owner was convicted and sentenced to fourteen years in prison for embezzlement. In 1960, after several years of deterioration, the building was renovated by a misguided preservationist who painted the exterior stucco green and the interior woodwork white. Only recently has it been faithfully restored by its current owner to its nearly original form. The dramas continue in Florida, but Mizner’s buildings now are a part of a picturesque past that was newly old when he helped to invent it some seventy years ago.