RIP mr ponce

one of my first stories…

Signs Of History Dot Streets

They Bear Names Of Pioneers, Even A Draft Dodger

August 30, 1996|By CHRISTINE DAVIS Special to the Sun-Sentinel

James Ponce is part of Palm Beach County’s past – literally.

poncehead
James Ponce in his garden

He’s the official historian for The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, and the island’s Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, the island has named him an official landmark – the only person to have been thus honored. Ponce also is a member of a pioneering family that helped settle the area.

The city of West Palm Beach originally named a downtown street “Ponce Court” to honor his aunt, Mary Jane Ponce.

It’s one of many streets in the county that bear the name of early pioneers and settlers.

Recently, the city of West Palm Beach approved a plan to develop the land where Ponce Court sits, so the city returned the old street sign to Ponce.

After the ceremony, Ponce recalled his aunt, and the story behind the street sign.

“Mary Jane Ponce moved here from St. Augustine at the turn of the century and opened up a millinery shop in the Palm Hotel” at Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach, Ponce said. “She lived on top of the hill, just south of what is now the Federal Building.”

Years ago, “I was walking by and noticed that a small cul-de-sac [nearby) had my name on it,” Ponce said. “An old woman was rocking [in a chair) on her porch, and I asked her if the street had been named after Mary Jane Ponce.”

“It sure was,” responded the woman. “That old gal ruled the roost.”

In part because he’s a member of a pioneering family, and in part because he is a professional historian, Ponce knows a lot about the history of other area street signs.

For example:

Lang Drive, just south of Southern Boulevard and west of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach, was named for Augustus Lang, a famous German immigrant.

“Some consider [him a coward because) he moved here from Fort Pierce to avoid being drafted by the Confederate Army,” Ponce said. “But others consider him a hero. “In 1861, while he was the assistant keeper of the Jupiter Lighthouse, he took part of the lighting mechanism and buried it, to help Confederate blockade runners,” Ponce said. “Then he hid out the rest of the war on the shores of Lake Worth – the first white man to live there.”

— Hammon Avenue, which cuts through the heart of Palm Beach, honors H.F. Hammon, the first pioneer to file a homestead claim on what is now Worth Avenue in 1873.

“He had 169 acres from Hammon Avenue north to Royal Palm Way,” Ponce said. “His mule pen was located by what is now the Colony Hotel. Mules were the [beasts) of burden in those days, and so he rented the mules to those who needed to do heavy hauling.”

— Gale Place, within the triangle of what is now Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, Okeechobee Boulevard and Interstate 95, was named for the Rev. Elbridge Gale.

“He was a professor of horticulture at Kansas State Agricultural College; when he retired, he moved to this area,” Ponce said. “He built the first log cabin on the west side of Lake Worth around 1888. Part of it is said to have been [added to) the present house at 401 28th St.”Meanwhile, “Old Northwood, earlier known as Mangonia, has been built on what was originally Gale’s 160-acre plantation.”

Trees from Gale’s groves still are growing in Old Northwood.

— Lanehart Court, Lyman Place, Porter Place, Rowley Drive and Spencer Drive are clustered around Gale Place. And for good reason.

“These men were all early Palm Beach County pioneers,” Ponce said. “Porter’s homestead made up a good part of what is now downtown West Palm Beach.

“Ben Lanehart arrived in this area in 1885. He was second cousin to Will and George, of Lanehart and Potter Lumber, founded in 1885. This company is still in operation today,” Ponce said. “Spencer was an early postmaster. Lyman ran the general store. Rowley drove the `school boat’ – he went around the lake and picked up the kids and took them to school.”

Sometimes, it wasn’t just pioneers who got streets named after them.

For example, “Barton Avenue was named after C.V. Barton, an early tourist,” Ponce said. “Pendleton Street, Root Trail and Clarke Avenue in Palm Beach were also named after early tourists.”

Several old street names puzzle even Ponce. Take a street like Yellow Legs Landing in West Palm Beach. How did it get its name?

Ponce laughed. “Someone must have landed with yellow stockings on,” he said.

Ann Norton Festival of Trees

Only one night for this, so wanted to put this up in a hurry, in case you live in the area. If you want a dose of Christmas Spirit, do go for a visit. Will write more later, but am off to Miami.

In the meantime, just a word — I also put in a couple photos of the Lake Worth parade, and the turtledoves are in my backyard.

Christmas Closer//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden is at 253 Barcelona Road, West Palm Beach. This is the last day, so hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, and tonight (go at night!) 5-8:30 p.m. Adult entrance fee is $15 and for children, the fee is $5. The light show is really fun!

 

Christmas in Ann Norton Sculpture Garden

The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden’s 5th Annual Festival of Trees, “Magic of the Movies,” is coming right up.

Its Gala Reception is Friday, Dec. 2. (tickets are $225 for non-members) and its seven Community Days are December 3 and 4 and December 7-11, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. ($15 for adults and $5 for children).

More than 30 trees have been artfully decorated, so for good ideas, take a look, and some fun, following are a few of the works in progress. This year, decorators used a movie theme. So, here are the movies – You make the matches…

101 Dalmations, Annie, Balto, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Casablanca, Charlotte’s Web, Finding Nemo, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Gigi, Gladiator, It’s a Wonderful Life, Indiana Jones, King Kong, Looney Tunes, Marie Antionette, Miracle on 34th Street, Music of the Movies, Nightmare Before Christmas, Out of Africa, Pink Panther, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, Sandlot, Some Like It Hot, Star Wars, The Lion King, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Toy Story, Up, Wall-E, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Yellow Submarine…

breakfast
Decorated by Stephen Mooney (and there are no surprises in the boxes).

Decorated by Ted Matz. Don’t you love the mops and feather dusters?

Decorated by Jennifer Garrigues. Airplane makes smooth landing. Other “ornaments” include passports and Indian lanterns.
My Grand Kids’ favorite movie! Decorated by Michael Powers. And to think this whole thing is made from what? silvered plastic cartons?
Decorated by Tom Mathieu, Tracey Large, John Mandeville and Scott Bolden. Every lady who is going places should wear an ornamental ship in her hair.
dogs
The decorator is Katherine Shenaman. The dogs are from Melissa and Doug.
yellow submarine
The Decorator is Veronica Volani-Inza. I like the musical note ornaments, and the sub is a nice touch…
sword
The Decorators are Deborah Malle and Angela Wood. A sword coming out of the top looks sharp, don’t you think?
The Decorator is Chad Renfro. Seafans, shells, silvered netting…
Decorated by Melody Smith. When the kids are finished playing with their toys, put them in the tree.
Decorated by Rosarian Academy Fourth Graders. Don’t you love the cut-out monkeys?
Decorated by Cynthia Thomas. Large glass red balls and squiggly sparkly thingamajigs are hard to miss.
Decorated by Joanne Colt. A non-tree, tree.
Decorated y Scott Robertson. And yet another “wooden” tree.
This pink gem will go on top. The tree will be decorated by Patrick Killian.
The Decorator is Maisie Grace. The river runs through it, and another plane lands in the treetop.
Decorated by Rodger G. Chew II and Caroline Forrest. Great way to decorate so that your tree can stay up two months!
Decorated by Isolde Koester. Need some architectural training to build this tree.
Decorator Joseph Publillones is just getting started, but he’s got his topped off (and finished) with a chandelier.
Charlotte's Web
Joseph Pubillones is doing this tree, too. Aren’t his “found objects” terrific?
Scotty Rawley is just getting started, too, but, so far, the gold spray painting is finished.
Decorated by Gil Walsh. Red works nicely for fire hydrants and garbage pails.

The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden is located at 253 Barcelona Road, West Palm Beach. For tickets to the Gala, call Donna at 561-832-5328. Tickets on the Community Days can be purchased at the door.

Photos by Carol Korpi-McKinley

James Ponce: street signs give inkling of area history

poncehead
James Ponce

Just had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Ponce again, so am reviewing old stories I’ve had the pleasure writing about him.

Following is an all-time favorite old story of mine, from August 30, 1996, written for the Sun-Sentinel…

and click here for one on his gardens that I did for Residences about four years ago…

Signs Of History Dot Streets They Bear Names Of Pioneers, Even A Draft Dodger

James Ponce is part of Palm Beach County’s past – literally. He’s the official historian for The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, and the island’s Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the island has named him an official landmark – the only person to have been thus honored.

Ponce also is a member of a pioneering family that helped settle the area. The city of West Palm Beach originally named a downtown street “Ponce Court” to honor his aunt, Mary Jane Ponce. It’s one of many streets in the county that bear the name of early pioneers and settlers.

Recently, the city of West Palm Beach approved a plan to develop the land where Ponce Court sits, so the city returned the old street sign to Ponce. After the ceremony, Ponce recalled his aunt, and the story behind the street sign. “Mary Jane Ponce moved here from St. Augustine at the turn of the century and opened up a millinery shop in the Palm Hotel” at Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach, Ponce said.

“She lived on top of the hill, just south of what is now the Federal Building.

Years ago, “I was walking by and noticed that a small cul-de-sac [nearby) had my name on it,” Ponce said. “An old woman was rocking [in a chair) on her porch, and I asked her if the street had been named after Mary Jane Ponce.”

“‘It sure was,’ responded the woman. ‘That old gal ruled the roost.'”

In part because he’s a member of a pioneering family, and in part because he is a professional historian, Ponce knows a lot about the history of other area street signs.

For example: Lang Drive, just south of Southern Boulevard and west of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach, was named for Augustus Lang, a famous German immigrant. “Some consider [him a coward because) he moved here from Fort Pierce to avoid being drafted by the Confederate Army,” Ponce said. “But others consider him a hero. “In 1861, while he was the assistant keeper of the Jupiter Lighthouse, he took part of the lighting mechanism and buried it, to help Confederate blockade runners,” Ponce said. “Then he hid out the rest of the war on the shores of Lake Worth – the first white man to live there.”

Hammon Avenue, which cuts through the heart of Palm Beach, honors H.F. Hammon, the first pioneer to file a homestead claim on what is now Worth Avenue in 1873.

“He had 169 acres from Hammon Avenue north to Royal Palm Way,” Ponce said. “His mule pen was located by what is now the Colony Hotel. Mules were the [beasts) of burden in those days, and so he rented the mules to those who needed to do heavy hauling.”

Gale Place, within the triangle of what is now Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, Okeechobee Boulevard and Interstate 95, was named for the Rev. Elbridge Gale.

“He was a professor of horticulture at Kansas State Agricultural College; when he retired, he moved to this area,” Ponce said. “He built the first log cabin on the west side of Lake Worth around 1888. Part of it is said to have been [added to) the present house at 401 28th St.”Meanwhile, “Old Northwood, earlier known as Mangonia, has been built on what was originally Gale’s 160-acre plantation.” Trees from Gale’s groves still are growing in Old Northwood.

Lanehart Court, Lyman Place, Porter Place, Rowley Drive and Spencer Drive are clustered around Gale Place. And for good reason. “These men were all early Palm Beach County pioneers,” Ponce said. “Porter’s homestead made up a good part of what is now downtown West Palm Beach. “Ben Lanehart arrived in this area in 1885. He was second cousin to Will and George, of Lanehart and Potter Lumber, founded in 1885. This company is still in operation today,” Ponce said. “Spencer was an early postmaster. Lyman ran the general store. Rowley drove the `school boat’ – he went around the lake and picked up the kids and took them to school.”

Sometimes, it wasn’t just pioneers who got streets named after them. For example, “Barton Avenue was named after C.V. Barton, an early tourist,” Ponce said. “Pendleton Street, Root Trail and Clarke Avenue in Palm Beach were also named after early tourists.”

Several old street names puzzle even Ponce. Take a street like Yellow Legs Landing in West Palm Beach. How did it get its name? Ponce laughed. “Someone must have landed with yellow stockings on,” he said.

James Ponce: Fertile soil for learning

poncehead
James Ponce in his garden

Many of us know James A. Ponce, 90, proclaimed Palm Beach’s only “Two-Legged Historical Landmark” by the Town Council in 1996. He is the official historian at The Breakers and leads tours about Henry M. Flagler and the history of Palm Beach (click here for Ponce story on street names). But what is he doing when not enlightening visitors about the rich local history?

He’s in his garden, sprucing up his landscape and building hardscape. “I did this terrace for my 80th birthday,” he said, pointing to a lovely seating area by his front door. He also built the bridge that spans his lily pond next to the guest cottage. “I love working with rocks. And I like hooking things together with cement.”

Poncebridge
Mr. Ponce enjoys building bridges.

Ponce has owned this property for 40 years. It wasn’t much to look at four decades ago, he explained: “It was almost naked. The magnolia and one other tree, a Norfolk pine — that’s all that was here on the west side.” Now, though, there’s plenty to see. “All of it I grew, planted, or raised from a seed.”

poncefront
Mr. Ponce learned about gardening from his parents.

Ponce acquired his love of gardening from his parents. His father grew roses and fruit trees. His mother raised sweet peas. By the time he was 9, he had his own garden of petunias. He hasn’t spent a lot of time planning this garden, he confessed: “When I found things I didn’t have, I got them and kept setting them in vacant spaces. I call it ‘collage gardening’ — I have such a mixture of plants.” They include a variegated Christmas palm. “These are very rare, but I have one.”

His Bismarkia palm has bromeliads under it. Something that he calls a Vesuvius palm has “stems that are so long that the leaves are split all the way down. I’m not sure what it is. I purchased it at a Mounts plant sale,” he noted.

Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach holds periodic plant sales and events. On Mother’s Day weekend, Ponce’s garden will be one of 10 on Mounts’ Connoisseur’s Garden Tour.

poncetree
Ponce had only a couple of trees in his yard 40 years ago.

He loves his gumbo limbos because the trunks are interesting. He has 34 varieties of palms, some that he raised from seed. His bromeliads are legion and “keep on multiplying,” Ponce quipped. His horticulture education comes from the school of life. “I just learned from mistakes and successes,” he admitted. “Sometimes I preach more than I listen.”

Despite the wide variety of plants, Ponce doesn’t spend all his time maintaining them. Take his bromeliads, for example: “You put them in the ground and forget them. Some of these beds around these trees have been here for five or 10 years. They are minimum care plants.”

About palms, he espoused: “When they are young, they like to be in the shade. I’ve planted many from seeds, and once they get a little size on them, then you can put them out in the sun.”

Here’s how he preached on orchids: “Most of mine are hand-me- downs from ladies who didn’t know what to do with them after they stopped blooming. The ones I’ve put on tree trunks seem to flower longer. Use peat moss, wet it and put it on the trunk. Then put the roots, add more peat moss, and strap it on with green wiring. Orchids like trees with crevices.”

Here’s one sermon he regrets not listening to: “I wish I hadn’t planted that star fruit. It bears so much, fruit is all over the ground.” Well, live and learn.

For Ponce’s history lesson on Street Names, go here.

Rock 4 A Cause

A local realtor, Maureen Barber, has created a foundation in memory of her ex-husband, Brad Barber, who died last year due to suicide. She donates 10 percent of her commission to her foundation and 10 percent to her client’s charity.

Brad Barber

In addition, she’s putting on her first event, Rock 4 A Cause! concert, Saturday, July 16.

Her story is very sad, obviously, but, as a result of his death and in his memory, she’s created something positive.

I’ve written about her on the North County Current site, so you can get more information there, or you can go directly to her site, www.jbbarber.org (That’s the JB Barber Memorial Foundation, where you can buy a ticket!) That day, I’ll be on the West Coast, so I’ll miss it. The concert features Scott Benge and Acoustic Remedy, and tickets are $50. The concert is at the Borland Center, 4885 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. Doors open at 7 p.m.

i love lilly

Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau is selling her home and tropical jungle!

lilly pulitzer 1
Lilly and one of her cats. I think she called him the old man.

And, yes, it’s everything you’d imagine when you think of Palm Beach’s “Lilly” label – flowers, color and whimsy everywhere, as well as unique architectural classical detail along with bits of bric-a-brac and gingerbread.

All together, in the main house, casita and pool house there are a total of nine bedrooms, eight bathrooms and three half baths and 8,233 square feet inside and out, sitting on one-and-a-third acres of meandering paths, patios and tropical gardens. Lilly’s estate at 710 S. County Road is listed with Brown Harris Stevens for $11.5 million.

Here is the story of Palm Beach’s one-and-only Lilly-designed estate.

“Enrique and I had just sold our house on the lake, and we were just looking,” Lilly says. “Enrique found this, and when I saw it, I said, ‘Oh my god. We are going to have to build,’ because we fell in love with the property.

“It was a tropical oasis, really beautiful – specimen trees, huge banyans, orange trees and a little stream. There were a Chinese garden and an orchard and a service road coming through to the ocean – unbelievable.”

She had remodeled many times, but had never built a home before, she said. “Building was quite a process.

“Kemp Caler from Hobe Sound was the architect. It was quite a project and, for a while, we didn’t get very far because I didn’t know what I wanted.

“So, I told him to put it on hold for a little bit, then, after a few months, I told him I was ready to start up.

“He’d give me the design of the day. I’d spread it out on my desk with pencils and rulers, and I’d remodel what he’d done, give it back to him, and then, he’d redo what I’d done.

“That’s how it went. Little by little. It took a year, and then I told him, I have one more request. Flip the plans and make the pool on the north side of the house.

“I thought he’d kill me. But the next day, the plans were flipped. Nothing to it. And we went with it.”

Just north of the S. County entrance is the original gatekeeper’s stucco cottage – the property was part of the Love estate. Lilly calls that Lady Chatterley’s lover’s casita. Within it are a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and it’s surrounded by it’s own lush gardens and patios.

The main house is set back onto the property. And once through the front door and into the entry foyer with its Herpel-tile floors and barrel-vaulted ceiling, visitors are welcomed with all the colors from Lilly’s palette, and then some.

What color are the entry’s walls and ceiling, Lilly? “How about tomato bisque?” she answers.

lilly pulitzer hallway
yes, that’s tomato bisque

To the south is a powder room and to the north is her office. A little further along is her center-island kitchen with professional grade appliances, open shelving and breakfast room – Lilly loves to cook. And take note of those refrigerator doors – covered with two big framed florals.

lilly pulitzer kitchen
Lilly’s appliances are not integrated into the cabinetry!

At the end of the foyer is a sitting area, with a daybed heaped with pillows, and the pale-green dining room, with furniture she brought with her.

Lilly Pulitzer dining room
doesn’t matter how many come to dinner

“Sometimes I keep the two tables together. Sometimes, I split them apart and it turns into a group of 16,”she says. “It’s there to change for whatever group is here.”

A bit further east are the loggia, bar and living room.

Lilly loves sitting in the loggia when she’s not outside soaking up the sun. And the living room is unique, octagonal shaped, two huge windows with fans above, and a soaring ceiling.

“My ex-husband’s bedroom was octagonal, and I loved the shape of that room,” she explains about her sources of inspiration.

lilly pulitzer living room 2
yellow is not Lilly’s favorite color, but it goes with everything, she says.

“And I saw a picture of that window in some South Hampton brochure. I said we should have two. On the one, we faked it (the fan above the window) – it’s a mirror, and it looks just fabulous.

“I wanted to see jungle everywhere. Didn’t want curtains and wanted it open to whatever was out there.

“Then came the surprise. They pulled a fast one on me. The painters wanted the color for the living room by the next day and I hadn’t picked the fabric for that room, yet.

“Oh, my god. What color will I do the living room? Yellow. It’s my least favorite color but it goes with everything.”

Good choice, she found out. Since that time, she’s recovered and reupholstered tons of times in many different color schemes. “It’s a mish and a mash, but whatever I do, it looks like it’s always been there.”

Continuing east from the loggia is a guest bedroom and master suite. Lilly’s bedroom has a fireplace, bay window with a window seat, and high tray ceiling, papered below the deep crown molding and painted above.

lilly pulitzer bedroom
Lilly said if I got there before she did, make sure I didn’t let the cat out!

Also in the main house are two more guest bedroom suites on the second floor.

Behind the house is the pool house. Part of it was there when she bought the property, Lilly says. “It was a garage or tool shed with a little apartment over it. I added the living room right after finishing the house. For the bedroom, I grabbed the beautiful bed (English bamboo with an unusual tester) that came with the armoire that’s behind the grand piano in the living room.”

Now, the pool house is comprised of the living room, bedroom, bathroom, cabanas and sauna downstairs and a guest suite above.

And, of course, all of this is surrounded by the lushest tropical gardens imaginable. Paths are everywhere and little surprises are hidden all over.

lilly pulitzer garden 1
hammock on a hillock

lilly pulitzer garden 4
Lilly remembers a playhouse on her grandparents’ estate.

There’s a trampoline, which Lilly says, every kid around has been on, and a charming play house, a hammock on a hillock, a bridge, and, of course, Lilly’s favorite, the enormous slat house.

lilly pulitzer garden 3
Lots of paths, bridges, you name it
lilly pulitzer slat house
the slat house

“It was right in the middle of the gardens,” Lilly recalls. “It was the plant hospital for the main house. Really love it.”

This has served as her dining room for her houseful of family and friends for holiday meals, as well as the setting for wedding ceremonies.

Another patio for an outdoor kitchen and picnic seating is close by, as well as huge patios around the pool.

Lilly says she hasn’t a clue where she’s going.

“I’ve had many wonderful years in this house. It’s really a dream. It’s the coziest house. I’ve had a really good time, here, and I’m onto whatever.”