Sunday, December 25, 2016

My talk given at the Lake Worth Rotary on December 21st about our “unique” Cottages of Lake Worth

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Hope you enjoy reading this talk I gave last Wednesday. About 40 people showed up at Brogues in the Downtown for this Rotary meeting. I was invited to give a talk about The Cottages of Lake Worth, how the group formed, why it did, the tours, and the newly-published book:

Happy Holidays everyone. I’ve spoken to the Rotary several times in the past but it has been a while. I am a long-time resident, very active in the City, for many years a member and Chair of the Historic Resource Preservation Board but am no longer on the board. Not being on the board frees up time for my planning and zoning consulting and helps me to advance historic preservation in a different way.
     That is why I am here to talk to you today. The main topic is to introduce The Cottages of Lake Worth book but would like to share with you the story how we got to this point.
     Back in 2013 the City celebrated its 100th anniversary, or our Centennial. That renewed the importance of City of Lake Worth history. Those of you that have lived in Lake Worth for a while are well aware of the 25′ and 50′ wide lots with cottages that make up much of the central area of the City, as well as north, south and west of the Downtown.
     However, it is easy to overlook the ways these cottages, built in the period between 1920 and the mid-1940’s, create a unique environment when compared to other communities. The grid street pattern lends itself easily to walking and biking, for example. These are community assets that nurture a higher quality of life for its residents.
     Fast-forward to 2011. The Parrot Cove neighborhood got a new resident from Nashville, Tennessee, and he was fascinated with our beach cottages from another era. His name is Roger Hendrix. After Roger settled in he talked to other people about how Lake Worth could find a way to honor and celebrate these structures. A group formed and met informally a while, eventually becoming a 501c3 to promote these Lake Worth cottages. To this day Roger continues to serve on The Cottages of Lake Worth board along with myself and many other interested residents.
     The Cottages of Lake Worth mission statement is:

“The mission of The Cottages of Lake Worth is to educate the citizens and visitors of Palm Beach County by celebrating and promoting the history of these unique structures and its people and to assure that this legacy is passed onto future generations. To accomplish this we will educate and engage the public through a variety of programs and activities.”

     The first task for this group of volunteers was to canvass the entire area where the cottages were located. The survey started west of Dixie Hwy. and then east, north and south of the Downtown area. It has always been the group’s direction to be as inclusive as possible geographically. This was to include all parts of the City.
     We made a list of cottage street addresses to become part of a walking or biking tour so the public, visitors, and tourists could share our appreciation. A cottage owner, it was thought, could have signs in their yards telling the basics about their individual cottage which would add interest to the tour. This entailed getting permission from private property owners so the cottage could be located and identified on a map. We were hesitant at first then overjoyed by the positive reception we received.
     Our first maps were laid out as biking and walking tours. They were meant to be guided tours but now they are self-guided. The maps are available at City Hall and the Visitor Information Center at the City Hall Annex. Our current map includes routes for self-guided driving tours.
     This material is also included in the City’s welcome packet for new businesses and residents when they sign up for their utilities. The Cottages group has received grants through Palm Beach County’s Resident Education to Action Program (REAP) to help with design, printing, and distribution of the brochures.
     Each year we cycle through different cottages so we have a variety. We estimate there are approximately 1,000 structures in Lake Worth that fit this definition. As people got familiar with the outside of the cottages through the self-guided tours, interest grew about interior and garden areas. This led to our guided Inside the Cottages of Lake Worth Tour. Our first tour was last year, wildly successful and sold out quickly, 300 tickets purchased a month in advance.
     Sixteen cottages were specially selected for the tour and offered food and walks through the interiors and gardens.
     The next tour will focus on the Bryant Park and South Palm Park areas of the City and will take place on Sunday, January 29th from 1:00–6:00. Tickets can be purchased online using a credit or debit card. Tickets are also available Downtown at the corner of Lake Ave. and ‘L’ Street: Paws on the Avenue and at Studio 205 with cash or a check.
     As you can probably imagine interest in the cottages has greatly increased. Many are wanting their cottage to be included in the next tour.
     Now for The Cottages of Lake Worth book: Back in 2013 resident Ted Brownstein authored and published a book titled the Pioneers of Jewell. The book’s primary focus was the City’s very early history, a well-researched record of this era. Ted spoke at some early meetings of the group and the idea of a book intrigued members, a way to celebrate Lake Worth’s cottages.
     It was decided the best format was a photographic or “coffee table” book that would highlight the beauty and uniqueness of these cottages. A group of about 15 people started work on the book that took 3 years to create and publish, arriving in finished form last November. There are books here you can look through today and purchase if you wish. The price including tax is $35 and are also available online.
     Much of the text was written by Dean Sherwin who lived in a cottage as well. His background was architecture, construction and “green building.” Sadly, Dean succumbed to cancer in the final stages of writing. The book has a dedication in honor of him.
     The coordinator of the entire group is Janice Snearer. She spent her life as an artist, teacher and gallery owner before moving to her Lake Worth cottage. The book owes most of its visual content to the photographic work of Taylor Jones, an award-winning professional with a 20 year career.
     This book highlights and honors the Lake Worth cottage and also the experience of owning or living in one. There are interesting “before’s and after’s” as well, a Sears & Roebuck house purchased from a brochure, for example. A few still exist here in the City. All of this ties into the unique historical factors we continue to experience and enjoy today.
     Many others contributed to making this book possible including the owners of the cottages, local architects, designers, artists, and others interested in Lake Worth history. I wrote Chapter Two which includes the historical context of Lake Worth during the span of the 20th Century. I don’t want to give too much away so will wrap it up here. The book sales have caught fire especially during this holiday gift-giving season.
     We encourage giving them as gifts to people outside of Lake Worth so we can spread the word outside of our borders about this special and unique place in which we live.
     Thank you everyone and a special thanks to the Rotary for giving me this opportunity today.