SoSo In West Palm Beach
The wondrous “South of Southern” area of West Palm is ripe with many yet undiscovered treasures. This area has become quite popular over the last ten years as people have come to appreciate its ideal location which borders the Intracoastal waterway and is a wonderful mix of home styles and interesting architecture. This is the area where my new project is located. I thought I would take a minute to focus on what makes this neighborhood so special. We see many buyers coming into the West Palm Beach area immediately gravitating to the El Cid area. And rightly so. This was the first outpost of Palm Beach and was settled in the 1920’s, originally by wealthy employers needing housing for their staff. For almost twenty years El Cid has been recognized for what it is, an absolute mecca for the charming Mediterranean home. These authentic Mediterranean-style residences are in abundance in the El Cid area, and it has attracted a wonderful mix of young families moving to the area from Palm Beach itself as well as many newcomers to Florida who are looking for a neighborhood that is both close to the island and near downtown West Palm Beach. However, many searching in El Cid are unaware of what we fondly refer to as “So So,” the neighborhood just a mile south of El Cid. It is located south of Southern Blvd., east of Olive Ave and bordered by the canal to its south and Intracoastal to the east. While the Mediterranean style of architecture dominates in the El Cid neighborhood, you will find a wide variety of architectural styles in So So including many fine examples of Mediterranean architecture. But wait, there is more! My feature photo is very near and dear to my heart. When I was in my first year in High School I discovered a magazine called Architectural Record. Within its pages I found this house in a feature about West Palm Beach. When I discovered the area myself 16 years ago I immediately recognized this house. There are very few home buyers in this area who would ever consider this modern-style residence as a possibility. However, this design has stood the test of time nicely. I can only estimate that it was built in the early seventies. The idea of building it up high on the otherwise flat lot was brilliant. There are some other homes that I have include in my slide show that exemplify the different architectural styles you will see in the So So neighborhood.
Here is a picture of Heidi Cole‘s house both before and after to give you a great hands on example of how a simple 50’s houses can have the potential to be as charming as any Mediterranean home. The addition of varied roof lines, a quaint front porch, mahogany windows and cottage-style details make this home work. Also note the small historic Spanish style home that was thought to be either a church or school house which was ultimately converted to a house. Built in the mid 1920s, this home has an architectural style that is different from anything you will find on the nearby streets. I took a six week respite in this house when Heidi owned it and I was waiting for my current home to close. I can attest to the fact that bell tower still works as it was her then-young daughter’s favorite activity to scamper down the street and summon me to the door by ringing the bell! It was in need of a renovation then and is only just now under way. We are excited to see the final result and are hoping it stays true to its historic roots.
Eight years ago Heidi and I worked together on a house that was built in 2008. She wanted an American Craftsmanstyle Bungalow as she had never seen that architectural style in the So So neighborhood. She had seen a few lovely examples in Palm Beach and thought the Craftsman Bungalow style was very well suited to the So So. Although the house was not finished to the interior standards we originally specified, the bones of our idea are there to be seen. The original home was demolished so this new home could be built. Our appreciation goes to well known West Palm Beach architect Kermit White for his help bringing our ideas to light. ( I would also like to take note that at the end of that same block and sitting directly across from the water is another newer modernist home. It will also stand the test of time as, in my opinion, great design is forever.)
Heidi and I had teamed up on another project early on in our relationship. She walked me through a spec house that she and her partner, local real estate attorney Stuart B. Klein, had under construction. The architect had not done the interior specifications, just the elevation and floor plan design. (Very much with Heidi’s input.) Basically it was a great big empty Mediterranean box all dressed up and nowhere to go. Heidi asked that I join the team and bring my expertise into making the interior match what the exterior promised. I completed the home for her in 12 months time. It’s 5K square feet under air with an outdoor kitchen & Loggia. We called it “Big Seville.” I have a photo in the line for you to see. We went a bit beyond the “spec builder” level of finishing and truly brought Palm Beach level design and detail to this home. (The exterior fountain and the authentic pecky cypress front door were resourced through a highly regarded architectural salvage store, so there was no lack of effort or imagination on this project!) Heidi and Stuart ultimately sold the home to a lovely family who still happily live there. You will also see what is arguably the largest home in SoSo featured in the slide show as well. It is currently for sale at $1.8 Million. While it presents as a bit of a “project” to many buyers the potential in this home, combined with location and lot size, is all but unmatched.
There are also many nearby things to do worth noting. Because So So is located right at the Southern Bridge, Palm Beach itself is just a short drive over the bridge. In Palm Beach is the Society Of The Four Arts. They have many cultural events going on such as book readings in the King Library, concerts, and art exhibits. It’s also a great place to simply walk through. Their garden is spectacular. Lake Worth is just to the South and is also home to many downtown restaurants, bars and a theater group. You will never be at a loss for something to do. Clematis street in downtown West Palm Beach directly to the north hosts many cultural events too including the Boat Show, Sun Fest, and a wonderful Saturday morning farmer’s market to name just a few. We also are home to The Norton Gallery Of Art and The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden. The best of all for me is the best kept secret in The Palm Beaches, The Palm Beach Zoo. I have done a blog post about that over a year ago just click on the key word on the right margin of my blog to read more about this hidden jewel.
You will also never starve here. If you are not inclined to cook for yourself while you are here there is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. From the Palm Beach Grill and Table 26 to Dixie Grill & Bar, Howley’s and City Diner. Check out all and many more on Menu Pages Bon Appetit!
In all of this is a culturally rich, active community with something to offer everyone. You will see a wonderful mix of families, empty nesters, dog walkers, cyclists and joggers all enjoying the winding waterfront along Flagler Drive that extends a mile and one half from Southern to Seville Road. This is all set in a backdrop of boats rocking gently at their docks and the winding coastline of Palm Beach just to the east. Oh how those homes light up at night! It is “So So” at its best. I hope you enjoy your exploration of my very beautiful home and will be tempted to a bit of exploration on your own. Welcome to the neighborhood!