Recognizing Architectural Preservation in Palm Beach with the Robert I. Ballinger Award

Like few other towns or cities in the United States, Palm Beach is remarkable in its ability to conjure an image by the mere mention of its name. And what an image it is: a pristine idyll of soft-sanded shores, graceful Mediterranean Revival–style homes and public buildings, and gentle streets lined with palm trees and sculpted hedges. With such a storied past and communally minded aesthetic comes the responsibility to preserve such beauty, and residents here have the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach to thank for spearheading that charge. Since its founding in 1980, the Preservation Foundation has raised millions of dollars in order to preserve and restore the town’s historic resources. Still, residents also have one another to thank, and the annual Robert I. Ballinger Award is a reminder of this community’s commitment to its unique architectural legacy.

Last month, on December 8, the Preservation Foundation awarded the 2017 Robert I. Ballinger Award to two properties at its annual membership luncheon held at The Breakers. The 2017 award winners were Deborah and Charles Royce, owners of the Lido, and Pnina and Yoram Weisfisch, owners of a North Ocean Boulevard residence just south of Wells Road. Both homes were designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by architects considered to be the founders of South Florida’s signature style. August Geiger designed the Lido in 1919 and Addison Mizner designed the North Ocean house in 1923. The presentation of the award featured a narrated tour of the winning properties with both photography and detailed historical accounts of how the architects brought the Mediterranean Revival style to Palm Beach.

The Miami-based Geiger and locally renowned Mizner were the only architects with offices in Palm Beach at the end of World War I. As the narration at the Ballinger presentation made clear, the Mediterranean Revival style provided a vehicle that both architects used to transport clients to a different time and place. Their designs, which helped set the standard for the architectural fabric of Palm Beach, were a welcomed departure from the Northeastern-style dwellings that preceded them. Mizner is frequently credited for introducing the style to the island with his design for the Everglades Club in 1919. Geiger designed the Lido that same year and had been designing buildings in Miami in the Mediterranean Revival style as early as 1913.

“The Ballinger Award strives to recognize owners who go the extra mile to honor the legacy of the architects who designed their homes. The presentation provides an opportunity to highlight the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Palm Beach and to illustrate how historic homes can be sensitively adapted for modern living,” said Amanda Skier, the Preservation Foundation’s Executive Director.

After accepting the award, Deborah and Charles Royce thanked their design team, which included Jacqueline Albarran of SKA Architect & Planner; Jorge Sanchez and Brian Vertesch of SMI Landscape Architecture; Iliana Moore Interiors; and Tim Givens Building and Remodeling. Ryan Weisfisch accepted the second award on behalf of his family and thanked Jacqueline Albarran of SKA Architect & Planner; Jorge Sanchez and John Lubischer of SMI Landscape Architecture; Kirsten Fisk of Kemble Interiors; and Worth Builders.

The Ballinger Award, established in 1988, goes to one or more individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Palm Beach’s architectural heritage through the preservation of historic architecture. Established through the generosity of friends of the late Robert I. Ballinger, Jr., the award is a silver medal designed by the noted medalist Edward R. Grove, whose work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Carnegie Institute, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution. Grove is also the sculptor of the bicentennial eagle at the western end of Royal Poinciana Way in Palm Beach. Robert I. Ballinger, Jr., whose love of Palm Beach and its architecture is commemorated in the Ballinger Award, was a registered architect and a member of the Town of Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1979 to 1985 and 1986 to 1987. From 1980 to 1983, he served as chairman of the commission; in 1985 he served as co-chairman.

The award is administered by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, which is dedicated to preserving the architectural and cultural heritage and unique scenic quality of the Town of Palm Beach. Through advocacy initiatives, educational programs, architectural resources, and cultural events, the foundation’s goal is to encourage the community to learn about and save the historic sites that truly make Palm Beach special. In one of its most recent efforts, the Preservation Foundation transformed Bradley Park last summer through a $2.7 million project that was able to realize Colonel E.R. Bradley’s vision for a town-serving park along the shore of Lake Worth. Enhancements included a quarter-mile-long meandering stone dust path that leads through a series of exhibition gardens; improvements to the historic Tea House; a restored Artemis fountain; and increased accessibility to the park, via a new entrance at the northeast corner.

By improving public spaces like Bradley Park and encouraging private owners through honors like the Ballinger Award, the Preservation Foundation continues to keep Palm Beach architecturally vibrant. For the 2018 Ballinger Award luncheon next December, it will celebrate the award’s 30th anniversary by publishing a book with Rizzoli. In eager anticipation, we at Quest did a little archival work of our own, and hope you enjoy this architecturally minded stroll through Palm Beach, thanks to its Ballinger Award recipients and their homes.