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Modern-style apartment building up for landmark status in Palm Beach

Posted On: 01-19-2018

Recognized as an excellent example of the Moderne style of architecture in Palm Beach, the Lake Drive Apartments building at 455 Australian Ave. is up for historic landmark designation.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously recommended on Wednesday that the Town Council confer landmark protection on the four-story building designed by Howard Chilton; it was completed in 1949.

Chilton fashioned it with a “Nautical Moderne” theme, incorporating nautical elements in the decorative balcony railings, porthole windows and sundeck design. That is appropriate, considering that its west facade directly overlooks Lake Worth Lagoon and the Town Docks, landmarks consultant Janet Murphy said.

The Modernism movement consisted of several architectural styles including Art Moderne, which flourished in the 1930s and 1940s, and was highlighted at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Influenced by the technology that arose after World War I, the movement followed a “less is more” standard with simple geometric forms and simplicity in decorative details, according to the designation report by Murphy and landmarks consultant Emily Stillings.

“This is the best building Howard Chilton ever did,” Commissioner Patrick Segraves said. “There have been very little changes to it.”

“It just has a sort of rightness of place and time that I think is very appealing,” Commissioner Page Lee Hufty said. “It does have a great deal of architectural integrity.”

“To me, it’s perfection,” said Commissioner Jacqueline Albarran.

The white rectangular building at the corner of Lake Drive and Australian Avenue was constructed of concrete block surfaced with smooth stucco, according to the designation report. It was built as 24 apartments on three upper floors with a lobby, storage space and parking on the ground floor.

The Lake Drive Apartments were part of the state’s post-World War II building boom and became the first co-operative apartment building offered to the general public in Florida, according to Murphy and Stillings.

In Palm Beach, a controversial 1947 zoning law allowed hotels and apartments to be built in the Royal Park and Floral Park subdivisions, where only single-family homes had been allowed. The zoning change paved the way for the Lake Drive Apartments to be built.

The building’s residents support the designation, two of them told the panel.



Source: William Kelly, January 19, 2018, Palm Beach Daily News

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