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  • Palm Beach Social Diary: Mizner makeovers

    Palm Beach Social Diary: Mizner makeovers

    With few Addison Mizner-designed houses remaining in Palm Beach in some semblance of their original condition, this week I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Villa dei Fiori (Addison Mizner, 1921) where its possible restoration/renovation was the subject of an imaginative presentation by interior designer Campion Platt and landscape designer Keith Williams, under the aegis of the Coudert Institute. Since its completion last month, I have taken several strolls to appreciate the rejuvenation of Memorial Fountain and Park at Town Square, a showcase for architect Addison Mizner’s eclectic design talents. Despite the most unseasonable Florida weather, on one recent day I trekked to the wetlands to make note of this season’s bird life, minutes before the crowds converged.

    The Future of Design & Architecture: Mizner-Fatio Magic”
    Coudert Institute at Villa dei Fiori

    “We are not a one-philosophy institute,” said Dale Coudert, founder and chairman of the Coudert Institute, a non-partisan and non-ideological cultural organization. The institute welcomes open dialogue and diverse opinions rather than maintain any pre-conceived agenda as is the policy with many policy groups and think-tanks. This season the Coudert has presented a range of programs, including The Art of Meditation and Staying Calm with Lama Migmar and Making Sense of the Senseless Middle East with Ralph Nurnberger, PhD. On March 9, the Coudert Institute presents sculptor Edwina Sandys who will speak on her grandfather, Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting, at The Colony Hotel.

    Whatever happened to Mizner Plaza?

    In January, after years of meetings, arguments, disputes, and discussions, Palm Beach celebrated the completion of a $7.9 million restoration of Memorial Fountain and a makeover of the adjacent Memorial Park at Town Hall Square. Following the recent ballyhoo at the rededication ceremony, officials announced Town Hall Square would be renamed Town Square. But this was not the first time Midtown’s most unique attraction was renamed. In February 1933 on the day of Addison Mizner’s memorial service at his Worth Avenue apartment, the newly elected Palm Beach Town Council made as its first official act a unanimous vote to change the name of Town Hall Plaza to Mizner Plaza, “ … in memorial to the artistic debt Palm Beach owes Addison Mizner.”

    The Palm Beach Post reported in a page three story, “Name of Town Plaza is changed to Mizner by action of Council.” The article stated that the council instructed the town’s attorney to incorporate the name change as a part of all the town’s resolutions. In Donald Curl’s authoritative book Mizner’s Florida, he refers to it as Memorial Fountain Plaza, not as a square or a park, keeping with Palm Beach’s penchant for Spanish-Italian references.

    Nevertheless, what began as a European-styled plaza has been transformed with hedge rows, large potted plants, fencing, gravel, pastel tables and chairs, and, of all things, a sodded lawn. Fueled by their success, the Town Square Celebration Committee has apparently decided to continue fundraising and make another attempt to open the south side of the fountain’s base to accommodate a staircase leading into what is now a park hedged with oak trees. While the endeavor has met with overwhelming public approval, as in most matters Palm Beach, there have been some caveats. Last week, a resident suggested more tables and chairs. Perhaps, less Tuileries and maybe more Florentine, was the response. Whether Parisian or Florentine, perhaps Phase Two might consider reconfiguring it back into a plaza as it was originally intended.