Noted architect, Addison Mizner came to the Palm Beach scene in 1918. He was ailing and thought he only had a few months to live so he came here to spend his last days in the Florida sunshine. He got bored with dying, he said later, and after meeting the sewing machine heir, Paris Singer, instead decided to design buildings.
Addison Mizner Homes
He scrapped traditional blueprints and building materials and set to devising homes and public buildings that incorporated turrets, fountains, red-tile roofs, iron grills, courtyards, painted beamed ceilings, decorative tile, and pecky cypress accents. His Mediterranean Revival-style architecture helped to establish the distinctive “look” of Palm Beach County. Much of Mizner’s success is due to his adaptation of Spanish architecture to Florida’s balmy climate. He softened the sun’s glare with pastel colors. He enlarged windows to capture sea breezes. He tiled floors in hues of blue and sometimes enhanced an area with a fountain – all designed to lend a cooling, soothing ambiance.
His clientele soon included the Vanderbilts, Stotesburys, and Biddles, building more than 40 homes in the Palm Beach area. As Florida moved into the big boom, Mizner looked for a new dream. He decided his dream now lay in Boca Raton. In retrospect, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the boom without Mizner. Or vice Versa. Either one seems to have invented the other.
The Mizner brothers in 1925 formed the Mizner Development Corporation to promote Boca. They had financial backing from such names as T. Coleman du Pont, W.K. Vanderbilt II, Elizabeth Arden, Irving Berlin and Paris Singer. They acquired 17,500 acres in Boca Raton to create a new city that would “combine Venice, Florence, Toledo – and Heaven.” More heavenly for Mizner was that in the first 6 weeks, real estate lot sales totaled $26 million. Of course, all emerging miracle-resorts in booming Florida had to have a hotel as a centerpiece. This was boomtime basic. Boca Raton’s centerpiece was The Cloister Inn, a small but lavish 100-room Inn that opened its doors on February 6, 1926 which would later become the Boca Hotel Resort & Club.
Mizner’s influence continued to prevail and his love for Spanish flair is seen throughout much of Boca Raton. The land boom went bust and Mizner and company went bankrupt even as the inn’s first guests were unpacking their bags. But, by the 30’s, Boca Raton had become one of Florida’s best-known cities, and it was considered a playground by many of the country’s rich and famous who flocked to The Cloisters for the 3-month winter season. By 1936, our population had grown to an overwhelming 250 people. The boom of the 1920’s burst with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Boca Raton became a strategic military position during World War II. It was that cataclysmic event that propelled Florida into growth and prosperity. Boca Raton was still an uncomplicated place in a very troubled world. Soldiers who trained in Florida, returned after the war, reared families, started businesses and created a housing and recreation boom.