Demolished Hotel in Palm Beach FL

Dixie Court Hotel, West Palm Beach Florida
Date added: August 09, 2023 Categories: Florida Hotel

Ground was broken for the construction of the Dixie Court Hotel on April 22, 1925. Originally occupied by three frame dwellings, the hotel's site (the northwest corner of Althea Street (now Second Street) and Poinsettia Avenue (now Dixie Highway)) was destined for commercial development because of its location directly west of Palm Beach County Courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach. The hotel was to be designed in a commercial adaptation of the Mediterranean Revival style by the noted West Palm Beach architectural firm of Harvey and Clarke and constructed by Wilcox Brothers, Inc., also of West Palm Beach. The developers, Court Properties, Inc., were organized by D. F. Dunkle, Attorney, former Mayor of West Palm Beach and President of the Palm Beach Guaranty Company.

A railroad embargo on construction materials delayed construction of the hotel which had been scheduled to open in December, 1925. The hotel was finally completed and opened on April 24, 1926. The local press touted the seven-story building as a "skyscraper" as it joined the El Varno and the Pennsylvania as the newest of West Palm Beach's hotels. Designed as proposed in the Mediterranean Revival style, the hotel included 132 guest rooms, each with bath, a dining room, drug store and barber shop. The hotel's manager, John Jay Benson, advertised the operation as follows:

"The Dixie Court Hotel will operate the year round and will cater to both tourist and commercial trade. Located within a short walking distance of the central business section and strategically situated on the Dixie Highway, the owners of the hostelry believe they have selected an excellent site for a tourist and commercial business."

Henry Stephen Harvey and Louis Philips Clarke, architects of the hotel, were partners in the largest architectural firm in Palm Beach County in the 1920s. Clarke was from an old Palm Beach family (Clarke Avenue) and had been Harvey's student during architectural training at the University of Pennsylvania. Clarke brought Harvey to West Palm Beach and formed the partnership in April 1921. Among their major buildings in West Palm Beach were the Seaboard Air Line Railway Station, the Guaranty Building, the Comeau Building, the Wagg Building, the Pennsylvania Hotel and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Harvey & Clarke also designed the Town Hall in Palm Beach.

The Dixie Court Hotel operated until the national depression of 1929 when the mortgagee, Adair Realty & Trust Company, a West Palm Beach company owned by D. F. Dunkle, obtained a final decree in the U. S. Southern District Court against Court Properties, Inc. In 1930 a masters deed was awarded to Florida-Collier Coast Hotels, Inc., with the Florida National Bank of Jacksonville as trustee. In 1936 the corporation reorganized and granted a deed of trust to the First National Bank of Jacksonville. In 1943 the hotel was deeded to Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company, who in turn deeded it to E. M. Schuman and wife, et al. The hotel operated briefly during W.W.II and accommodated U. S. Army Air Corp trainees stationed at Morrison Field.

In 1950 E. M. Schuman, et al, deeded the hotel to Dixie Court, Inc. After a final judgment to quiet title in 1975 the hotel was sold to Ajit Asrani in January, 1976. Asrani operated the building as a commercial hotel until April 1984 and currently leases part of the first floor for a bank and legal offices.

The Hotel was demolished in 1990 for a new county courthouse.

Building Description

The Dixie Court Hotel is a seven-story, reinforced concrete and hollow clay tile and stucco building designed in a commercial adaptation of the Mediterranean Revival style. The principal (south and east) elevations of the building are distinguished by a three-part composition consisting of a one-story base, a five-story middle section and a one-story top or cornice section. A flat, built-up roof with a secondary barrel tile shed roof covers the building. A pyramidal-roofed tower located at the southeast corner of the building also crowns the building. The first story of the building is devoted to commercial retail space; the upper six stories include approximately 130 guest rooms and baths. The building occupies the southeast corner of a city block in downtown West Palm Beach.

The first story of the building is embellished by two elaborate classically derived entrances and large window openings with elaborate cast stone surrounds. The cast stone entrances consist of a pair of engaged columns in the Tuscan order which support a full entablature which is in turn crowned by a pair of urns. A cartouche is located directly above each doorway. Contemporary windows and doors have replaced their original counterparts although the original openings have been retained. The middle or five-story section of the building is eighteen bays wide on its south elevation and five bays wide on its east elevation. Fenestration is original double-hung sash, eight over eight and six over six, with cast stone sills. A prominent cartouche containing a fleur-de-lis motif is located at the southeast corner of the building between its fifth and, sixth floors. The. seventh or top story of the hotel includes three balconettes, quoin-like ornamentation and three jack-arched windows. The west elevation includes an exterior concrete stair; the north elevation a metal fire escape. A neon letter sign spelling out the name of the hotel (originally erected along the north roof line) has been dismantled and lies on the roof.

The first-story lobby retains its original tile floor, pecky cypress ceiling, brass and wrought iron chandeliers, switchboard, two wall crests and two Otis elevators. The east half of the lobby and dining room were recently remodeled to accommodate a bank tenant. A basement covers the west half of the building, with a boiler room on the first floor and a laundry room on the second floor. The remaining six floors include approximately 130 guest rooms and baths, although most of their original furnishings have been removed. An interior stair is located to the north of the elevator shafts.

Dixie Court Hotel, West Palm Beach Florida

Dixie Court Hotel, West Palm Beach Florida

Dixie Court Hotel, West Palm Beach Florida

Dixie Court Hotel, West Palm Beach Florida