Hibiscus Garden Apartments, West Palm Beach Florida
Constructed in 1926, the Hibiscus Garden Apartments, was probably the first apartment building built in Spanish Colonial style in West Palm Beach. It continued to function as an apartment building until it burned to the ground on May 1st, 1989. In 1939, State Senator John R. Beacham purchased the property and resided there until his death in 1950. While there, Senator Beacham entertained many political and social celebrities, probably the most famous being President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On August 10, 1915, the City of West Palm Beach released Block #70 of the Highland Park Addition to the Highland Park Land Company, a land brokerage firm. The Highland Park Land Company subsequently subdivided all the lots and placed them on the open market for the City of West Palm Beach. As the lots sold, turnover became more rapid, and eventually ended up in the middle of the "Florida Land Boom (1920-1926)". Amazingly, during that time of fast and furious land selling, Lots 14, 15, and the east 15.2 feet of Lot 13 were never developed. Then, on May 1, 1925, the Hibiscus Holding Company purchased the property. Subsequently, on June 26, 1925, a building permit was issued by the City of West Palm Beach to the construction company of Chalker, Lund & Crittenden. Construction was immediately begun on a Spanish Colonial Revival, three-story, 57-unit apartment building known at that time as the Hibiscus Apartments. Chalker, Lund & Crittenden was one of the best and most prestigious builders in the West Palm Beach area. It had the capabilities of providing many services to its clients from engineering to building design and derived most of its success from the fact that its buildings conformed to, and indeed expressed, the needs of the region and climate.
As the Hibiscus Apartments were built, the Florida Land Boom was coming to an end. Originally the Hibiscus Apartments was designed for seven stories and was probably planned so as to help relieve the housing shortage and to provide accommodations for visitors who were in Florida investing in land. Since Florida depended almost totally on the railroad for the import of construction materials and daily goods, by 1925 the railroad lines were in major disrepair causing such congestion that an embargo was declared that limited them to bringing in only fuel, livestock, and perishable goods. This embargo caused a major shortage of building supplies that left thousands of building uncompleted. To avoid losing money, building supplies were shipped into the Miami harbor until January 10, 1926, when all shipping came to a standstill because an old Danish warship capsized, blocking the channel. These events affected the Hibiscus Apartment's construction schedule: only 3 stories of the building were completed before construction was stopped due to a shortage of building materials. The Hibiscus Apartments embody many features of the Spanish Colonial style of architecture. These include a low-pitched red tile roof and a main roof surrounded by a stucco and red tile parapet. As is evident in the south elevation (Hibiscus Street), the windows typically vary in size and operation and are asymmetrically placed. As can be seen, there are four different window styles on the south elevation: arched, circular, double-hung, and casement. Some have original wrought iron window grilles that are common features of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The entrances, especially the main entrance, are post and lintel type which embody enriched cast ornamentation of considerable elaboration including pilasters supporting molded capital and cornice. The walls are a very textured stucco over a hollow masonry building tile that was common in the 1920s.
On December 15, 1939, state Senator John R. Beacham purchased Hibiscus Garden Apartments and resided there with his wife and mother until his death in the 1950s. Senator Beacham had a very distinguished local and national reputation. He was the youngest state Senator at that time and eventually became the President of the Florida Senate. While residing in the larger lower-level apartment, Senator Beacham entertained many political and social celebrities. Probably the most famous of these was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Governor Holland and Senator Claude Pepper. Senator Beacham also required that his guest sign their names on the building register, but unlike most registers, the Hibiscus Apartment's register was located on the wall in the southeast corner of his lower-level apartment.
The Hibiscus Garden Apartments is a Spanish Colonial Revival-style apartment building constructed in 1926. The 3-story, 57-unit, U-shaped building is constructed of a rough stucco over masonry building tile with a wood joist floor and roof system. The main south facade that fronts Hibiscus Street exemplifies many characteristics typical to the style, such as classical door and window surroundings, wrought iron window grilles (rejas), arched portals, simple lintel-type windows, molded stucco cornice, parapet, open interior courtyard and a red tile roof. The windows typically vary in size and operation and are asymmetrically disposed. Due to lack of proper repair and maintenance over the years, the stucco walls, molded ornamental surrounds, and cornice details have chipped, and in several location are broken off. The double-hung, casement and arched wood windows are original and in most instances have major infiltration problems. The main roof is flat with a stucco and red tile parapet. The only alterations to any of the facades has been the replacement of all the exterior entrance doors (4), the addition of several modern wrought iron window grilles, and awnings, innumerable coats of paint, replacement of the water conductors at the rear, of the building and the addition of a 4-ft. high stucco wall and chain link fence that surrounds the property along the existing property line.
The main or south facade which fronts Hibiscus Street is approximately 36 feet high by 114 feet wide in which there are two - three-story, 44 feet wide wings connected by a one-story red tile roof structure. This link closes the main U-shaped building, thus creating a private exterior courtyard. The facade displays four different window types: two pairs of casement windows on the west wing and third floor; two fixed circular windows on each wing; five arched double-hung windows on the first floor of the west wing and along the one-story structure; and simple double-hung windows present in both wings. The first-floor windows have ornate wrought iron grilles (rejas) and two of the arched windows have decorative keystone accents. The entrances are centered on each wing and include enriched molded stucco ornamentation, especially the main entrance which has a molded cornice supported by two molded pilasters which are flanked on each side by the original light fixtures. Finally, the parapet has considerable molded stucco ornamentation with red tile accents and red tile circular air vents in groups of three.
The east facade is approximately 40 feet high by 113 feet wide. Even though it is not as flamboyant as the south facade, it embodies many characteristics typical of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The sixteen basement or lower level double-hung windows have ornate wrought iron grilles. The parapet runs the length of the facade and has red tile circular air vents in groups of three centered above the vertical window arrangements. The 4 rows of 16 windows are double-hung lintel type that align vertically and horizontally.
The north facade is approximately 40 feet high by 141 feet wide and is nearly identical to the east facade. The eastern four lower-level windows include ornate wrought iron grilles. The remaining windows are double-hung. Except for the stair towers which have exits at the ground level, the only difference between the east facade is the appearance of four roof water conductors that approximately occur every 35 feet on center.
The west facade is "L" shaped and is approximately 36 feet high with a total width, including the "L", of 158 feet. Except for one arched window, there are 3 rows of 18 double-hung windows. There also is one arched entrance that leads from the lobby to a landscaped side yard. As is evident on the other facades, the stucco parapet again has the red tile circular vents in groups of three centered above each vertical window arrangement. Except for the one original wrought iron grille over the arched window the other grilles along this facade have all been added in recent years.
The most significant interior features are noted upon first entering the main lobby. These include a 10'-6" high plaster ceiling of large post and beam construction, a tile floor and repetitive arched windows that give a distinct hotel-like quality. Except for several cosmetic changes including electrical lighting modernization, the addition of a thin marble facing over some columns and painting, the lobby has architecturally remained unchanged. Directly adjacent to the lobby is an enclosed courtyard which can only be accessed from the lobby and one first floor apartment. The courtyard is surrounded on three sides by the three story apartment and on the fourth by the one story red tile roof lobby extension. The apartments that surround the courtyard all have windows overlooking it.
The composition of the courtyard facades are identical in design to the east, north and west elevations except the windows off the lobby are arched.
The site surrounding the apartment building has also remained largely unchanged, except for the addition of a low-height stucco privacy wall wrapping the property. Within its interior is a shuffleboard court, a paved seating area and landscaping. At the rear of the property is a small cement block outbuilding that was built to house mechanical equipment. The roof and doors have been neglected for so long that they must completely be replaced, since it will continue to house mechanical equipment.