Cielito Lindo’s original owner, Jessie Woolworth Donahue, may have come from dime-store money, but she had lavish tastes. Her luxury home. completed in 1927, the 45,000-square-foot Cielito Lindo, was designed by Palm Beach architect Marion Sims Wyeth, and while not as large as Mar A Lago, it was palatial, with a four-story tower, 30-by-50-foot living room, six master bedrooms, 10 staff rooms above the garage, houses for the chauffeur and gardener and a tap room.
The Mediterranean-style estate was built on a parcel of land stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway, with orange groves, tennis courts, a tea pavilion, lily pond, boat hoses and extensive gardens.
Subdivided into five separate dwellings in 1947 when Jessie Woolworth Donahue downsized to another oceanfront estate also designed by Wyeth, her living room was demolished to make room for King’s Road and the two major wings of the main house became the largest residences on either side of the road.
The tower, on the south side, totally refurbished and on the market, is still a little bit of heaven priced at $8,750,000.
It’s a little smaller than its former self – 12,380 square feet, with five bedrooms – but it still has a jewel-like feel, an ivory façade with red tile bands, red barrel tile roof, and geometric interlaced wood details.
“Of all Wyeth’s work, this house was his largest and most impressive,” says historian Donald Curl. “It was also the most Moorish, especially the tower and the entrance way.
“Wyeth was rather proud of it. There’s no question.”
The entry to the house was originally on the south side of the tower, and on a lower floor. “As you can imagine, it was quite impressive.”
One came through gates that led to a courtyard, with a pond and fountain directly opposite the front door, Curl says.
“When you entered on the lower floor, there was a grand set of stairs that took you up to the foyer, which then led to the cloister,” he describes.
The cloister, delineated by a U-shaped series of columns, surrounded the main rooms of the house. “It started on both sides on the west end, and went across the living room, and partially, it provided a walkway around the house, but it also provided shelter from the western sun,” Curl says.
Now one enters the main foyer from the north side of the tower, through glass and iron doors. With stenciled ceilings, impressive columns and marble floors, it was at one time the landing of the main stairway and overlooked the living room, Curl says.
“The entire floor on that level was the stairway, a foyer, a taproom and a library, which has been used as a living room over the years.”
The present living room, to the south of the foyer, overlooks the pool and gardens. This room used to be the stairway, Curl says. The kitchen and dining room are to the south of the foyer and living room, along with a guest bedroom suite.
To the east of the foyer are the taproom, library, a powder room, elevator and stairwell to the tower rooms.
The hallway to the powder room features a tromp l’oeil tile mural in blue and white as well as a red tile floor with painted tile insets. The library has pecky cypress paneling and a fireplace. The taproom features a stenciled ceiling and paneled bar, tile floor, painted tile bar and patterned tile chair rail. All of these rooms open to a terrace that wraps around the rear of the house.
On next floor are two bedroom suites and on the top floor is a lookout room.
The master bedroom has French doors that offer gorgeous views. Architectural features in the bedroom include layers of molding and a fireplace. Other rooms in the suite include two bathrooms and closets, an office, a balcony terrace and a covered terrace. The second master suite opens to a terrace, as well. Also on the second floor, and accessed from another stairway are two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Crowning the tower is the lookout, which features a stenciled ceiling, tile floor with painted tile insets, a fireplace and multiple French doors that open to small balconies to the east and south and a large terrace on the west, all offering spectacular views.