Delray Beach landmarks showcase rich architectural history

Delray plans to adopt architectural guidelines for downtown buildings

Drive across downtown Delray Beach, and you'll see landmarks featuring all styles of architecture, a reflection of the city's history that dates back more than a century.

There's the Sundy House, built in the distinct Florida vernacular style in 1902 and now a popular Sunday brunch spot. The two-story building, and its defining wraparound porch, was once the home of Delray's first mayor.

There's Cannery Row, a residential townhome development, and the Seagate Hotel, each of which showcases shutters and second-story balconies in conformance with the Anglo-Caribbean style.

Now, under a new proposal, the architectural styles downtown may endure for generations to come. The city is considering enacting guidelines to ensure new buildings adhere to one of seven recommended styles.

The proposal would help preserve the city's selection of architecture, which dates to a land boom in the 1920s, said Winnie Edwards, the Delray Historical Society's executive director.

"The character and charm of Delray that resonates with us today is a result of historical and cultural influences, a reaction to the Great Depression and the prosperity of building a resort town," she said.

As the city looks to preserve its character, here's a look at some of downtown Delray Beach's most iconic buildings.

Sundy House

Address: 106 S. Swinton Ave.

Style and key features: Florida vernacular, with a high-pitched gable roof, decorative roof brackets and a wraparound porch.

Notable facts: Built in 1902. The Sundy House is one of the oldest houses in the city. The city's first mayor, John Sundy, built the home for his family.

Now: It serves as a popular place for locals to grab Sunday brunch or tourists to stay while on vacation. The home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Sandoway House

Address: 142 S. Ocean Blvd.

Style and key features: Florida vernacular, with clapboard siding, a screened porch and pinewood floors.

Notable facts: Built in 1936. The Sandoway House was designed by Delray's first registered architect Samuel Ogren Sr. He's regarded as the "Father of Delray Beach architecture" after designing more than 250 properties in the city between 1924 and 1950, according to the Delray Historical Society. The Sandoway House was built for retired produce broker J.B. Evans from Deerfield Beach. Evans was appointed as lieutenant-colonel and personal aide to Florida Gov. Fred Cone in 1937. The building has remained relatively unchanged from the time of its construction.

Now: The home is a nature center and is one of the last remaining historic buildings of this style near the ocean. Since 1998, the center has been a place where animal lovers can see some of Florida's native reptiles, feed sharks and learn about shells. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Crest Theatre

Address: 51 N. Swinton Ave.

Style and key features: Mediterranean Revival style, with a barrel-tile roof and arched entryways.

Notable facts: Built in 1925. The Crest Theatre is part of the Delray Center for the Arts at Old School Square campus. The theatre was housed in the 1925 Delray High School building and served as the school's auditorium. Delray High was the city's first high school.

Now: The theatre is a popular venue for performances, concerts and speakers. It also contains nine classrooms that have been restored and serve as meeting spaces. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Colony Hotel & Cabana Club

Address: 525 E. Atlantic Ave.

Style and key features: Mediterranean Revival style, with its twin domes, arched entry, cast concrete moldings, and barrel-tile visor roofs.

Notable facts: Built in 1926. It's the last remaining hotel of the eight resort hotels from the boom years of the 1920s. It publicly opened as Hotel Alterep in January 1926, and became the Colony Hotel in 1939.

Now: Remains a hotel. "It's a charming building," said Jestena Boughton, whose family bought the hotel in 1935 and still runs it today. She said the hotel piqued her father's interest decades ago as he drove past it from New Jersey to Key West to hop on a ferry to honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. Boughton said her father called his father, and they decided to buy the property. "The building was quite lovely to begin with. It's not just a box on the street."

Fresh Produce and Haystacks shops

Address: 401 E. Atlantic Ave.

Style and key features: Art Deco, with its geometric shapes and the name of the stores in modern font.

Notable facts: Used to be Mercel Wenzel Department Store for nearly 70 years until it closed in 2012.

Now: Home to several retail stores.

Ginjer and Love Shack shops

Address: 133 E. Atlantic Ave.

Style and key features: Main Street vernacular, which features a smooth transition between the first and second stories, with the first story largely comprised of storefront. The buildings are typically in a smooth stucco finish.

Notable facts: Delray's Atlantic Avenue used to be known as the "Main Street" by early Delray settlers.

Now: Home to several retail stores.

Seagate Hotel

Address: 100 E. Atlantic Ave.

Style and key features: Anglo-Caribbean, which showcases shutters and second-story balconies that are influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, French and Spanish colonization to buildings.

Notable facts: The hotel gives guests the ability to play golf at one of Florida's first private clubs, the Hamlet at Seagate Country Club. The Hamlet was designed by golf architect Joe Lee in 1973.

Now: The hotel also features a restaurant called Atlantic Grille.

Sofa Lofts (Planned project)

Address: To be situated a block south of Atlantic Avenue between First and Fourth avenues.

Style and key features: Masonry Modern style, featuring flat roofs that are used for terraces. It is characterized by its simple geometric design and limited ornaments.

Notable facts: The Sofa project got its named "Sofa" because of its location, South of Atlantic Avenue.

Now: The project is currently under construction.

Not yet in Delray: Classical Tradition

Style and key features: Classical Tradition is defined as the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.

Example building: The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. The hotel was built in 1942 by L. Murray Dixon, the architect responsible for many famous Miami Beach Art Deco hotels.

Now: Delray doesn't have have any buildings designed in this style. Design officials have included the style as an option because they feel it fits in with other building designs.

mgottesman@sunsentinel.com, 561-243-6544 or Twitter @marisagottesman

New guidelines proposed

Delray Beach city officials are planning to create and implement architectural design guidelines. The goal: to encourage developers to pay homage to the various building types that have historically made up the fabric of Delray Beach from Interstate 95 to the beach.

Because design can be subjective, the guidelines would be a vital tool for any developer who plans to build downtown. The guidelines would ensure an eclectic mix of new buildings while each building conforms to a preferred style.

So far, the guidelines call for seven styles that developers would choose from. Six already are featured in buildings downtown: Florida vernacular, Anglo-Caribbean, Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, Masonry Modern and Main Street vernacular.

A seventh style, Classical Tradition, isn't in use downtown yet, but it would fit in, officials say. If developers were to propose a style other than those recommended, the city would give them a chance to explain why it'd complement downtown.

The proposed guidelines have been twice presented to residents and will next go before city boards. It'll be up to commissioners to approve them later this year.

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