Published: January 6, 2016
In a sizzling match-up of Palm Beach society and the D.C. power elite, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is offering the contents of the Kennedy family Winter White House at the firm’s Palm Beach, Fla., galleries on January 23. Addison Mizner (1872–1933), the celebrated father of Florida’s signature Mediterranean Revival style, designed and furnished the 1923 oceanfront estate for department store heir Rodman Wanamaker II. Initially called La Guerida, the mansion belonged to the Kennedys from 1933 to 1995. The furnishings Mizner supplied for La Guerida can be spotted in a slew of Kennedy family photographs along with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and other regular guests. We recently spoke to Hindman decorative arts specialist Corbin Horn about why the Mizner mystique and Kennedy provenance are such a potent combination.
How did Hindman get this collection?
The current owner, Mr and Mrs John Castle, bought the house furnished from the Kennedy family. When the Castles sold the house last year, they asked Hindman to auction its contents. The Castles were aware of our Palm Beach salesroom from our handling of Lilly Pulitzer’s estate in 2014 and from numerous other auctions.
How many pieces in the upcoming sale did Mizner supply?
At least 22 of the 154 lots, but there may be more.
How were Mizner pieces designed, made and sold?
Mizner manufactured decorative objects, but also imported European antiques, so some of the furnishings are authentically old and some may be pastiches incorporating older elements. Los Manos Pottery, Mizner’s factory, produced decorative pottery, roof tiles and other ceramics. La Puerta was a decorating shop and dealer of pictures, silver and old furniture founded by Mizner. His Antigua Shops sold furniture and iron ornaments. Most production took place in West Palm Beach, but there were also offices and showrooms on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
What about the Mizner market?
Mizner works do not surface very often. Because they were not typically marked and the style is not widely known outside of Florida, they may be overlooked. Prices at auction have ranged from a few hundred dollars for smaller metal objects to $1,000 or more for large fixtures and furniture. In 2014, we sold a Mizner chandelier from a Florida collection for $1,187. In 2015 in Palm Beach, we sold a bench from the collection of interior designer Lars Bolander that was very much like lot 28 from the Winter White House. I suspect it was also a Mizner production. It brought around $3,500.
What do we know about the Wanamaker-Mizner collaboration?
Wanamaker had houses in New York, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Jenkintown, Penn. Mizner was Palm Beach society’s architect at the time, so it’s not surprising that Wanamaker engaged him to build a grand home.
Are there surviving records?
There are a number of historic photos of La Guerida and its residents at the Boca Raton and Palm Beach County historical societies, and at the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. I’m not aware of any surviving documents related to the La Guerida commission.
What’s the most important intact Mizner interior?
The Everglades Club in Palm Beach is probably Mizner’s best-known work. Thanks to the club’s great care in preserving the structure, the club probably also retains the largest share of its original contents.
What are some of the sale’s most interesting lots?
Called the “Honey Fitz” chair, lot 15, a walnut Savonarola armchair, was said to be the favorite of Rose Kennedy’s father, John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, a legendary mayor of Boston. Lot 43, a pair of Venetian-style beds, is certain to be one of the most desirable lots because of known photos of a young John F. Kennedy reclining in one of the beds. The future president is said to have written Profiles in Courage at La Guerida.
Do you have a favorite piece?
My favorite is lot 1, a late Nineteenth Century Coromandel screen. Rose Kennedy is rumored to have traded a fur coat for it during a visit to the home of Sir Winston Churchill’s daughter, Lady Mary Soames. Soames is said to have complained to Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr that the house, which lacked central heating, was too cold.
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