Saving an historic house on Park Avenue
The home, built around 1916-17, originally had the address of 4134 Douglas Road, it was built for Frederick Henshaw Pollars, Sr. and his wife Anne Durling Pollard from Boston, MA. Their children attended school at Ransom Everglades, originally called the Adirondack Florida School.
The demolition permit has been approved. The 15-day appeal period has passed. But no one was notified of the plans. The neighbors should be legally notified so they may appeal if they wish. This is almost a daily occurrence in Coconut Grove. Older, historic homes are being destroyed so that larger, newer homes can take their place, sometimes more than one house on one plat of land. It's all about money, nothing more. These same homes in New England, for instance, will be sold and resold for generations and remain the same year after year, in Miami and Coconut Grove, greedy developers are in and out and have no regard for the neighborhood or its history.
According to Ann Pollard, Frederick and Anne's granddaughter, "The home is frame construction - the exterior being stucco and coral rock and the inside wood lathe and plaster walls. When I lived in the home it was 4 bedrooms and 3 baths upstairs along with an office (my nursery when I was born). Downstairs was the kitchen, butler's pantry, dining room, living room with fireplace and a foyer/family room. The columns were taken from a hotel to create the large patio with the indoor planters."
The hotel that Mrs. Pollard refers to was Henry Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel which opened January 16, 1897. 13 to 15 of the original Royal Palm columns are part of the house at Park and Douglas. Since Mrs. Pollard's house was built in 1916, it is assumed that the porch with the hotel columns were added after 1930 since that is the time the Royal Palm was demolished. You can see similar columns here at the Royal Palm Hotel.
This was the first large hotel in Miami, which stood at the mouth of the Miami River - it is where the Epic condo is now, formerly the Dupont Plaza Hotel, along with the InterContinental Hotel and so much more of that area where parking lots once stood. Bayfront Park downtown was part of the grounds of the Royal Palm Hotel, too. It's the whole area of land to the right as you go from Brickell over the river to downtown. It's on the north side.
|The kitchen today at|
3701 Park Avenue.
Miami Wrecking and Salvage was in charge of demolishing the hotel and selling off what was left and the columns ended up at the Park Avenue house.
Megan Cross Schmitt, City of Miami Planning & Zoning Department Preservation Officer, claims that "The NCD-3 overlay language states that all demolition waivers are to be referred to the Planning Department for review under the Tree Preservation Ordinance, not the Historic Preservation Ordinance. This is why there is no report prepared by the Preservation Office for the buildings that are applying for demolition waivers. Is this why not one of the neighbors was notified about the demolition?
NCD-3 is the Coconut Grove Neighborhood Conservation District. But even looking at the city's Miami21 appendix of conservation districts, they call Douglas Road (Douglas Avenue); the plans aren't even written correctly. (See page 15 for NCD-3 info).
Miami 21 states, "The intent of the Coconut Grove Neighborhood Conservation District NCD-3 is to establish a protective series of legislative elements to preserve the historic, heavily landscaped character of Coconut Grove's residential areas; enhance and protect Coconut Grove's natural features such as the tree canopy and green space; and protect the architectural variety within the unique single family neighborhood that comprises Coconut Grove. The community of Coconut Grove predates the City of Miami, and is known for its character, derived from lush landscaping, and naturally occurring vegetation and trees, and its unique property sizes and shapes; bay views; geologic features; proximity to Biscayne Bay; public open space; recreational opportunities; commercial services; and a special character imparted by its tropical vegetation and historic structures. Properties shall not be platted, re-platted or configured in any way that destroys a median, green space, landscape easement or road configuration that contributes to the character of the subdivision within the NCD-3 area."
Does the city even read and implement their own laws or are the lobbyists and developers in charge?
Megan went on to say, "I know that you and some of your neighbors are frustrated by the demolitions that are occurring throughout Coconut Grove. Unfortunately, the NCD-3 language as it currently stands does not offer the kinds of protections against demolition that you have mentioned you would like to see."
As usual, the City doesn't have a clue and really doesn't care about preserving anything. As long as they can make money from permits, taxes and the like, they will approve any job, any demolition and feign ignorance. Neighbors were never notified of the demolition plans and never had time to appeal. The largest tree on the property is not even part of the plans drawn up, most likely because it is going to be chopped down. And if found out, a nominal fine will be paid, as part of doing business.
"The greed, lust and zeal for bigger concrete sprawl and fat property tax revenue has all the City of Miami Commissioners, Mayor, and all related department heads are looking the other way as the charming character of our neighborhood just gets bulldozed and replaced with zero lot line McMansions," says a next door neighbor.
The idea is to mitigate the removal and/or destruction of the columns. How do you mitigate 100 year old columns that are part of Miami's history? And what about the house itself? Other than greed, what is the purpose of destroying the house?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it's time that Coconut Grove secede from the City of Miami.
Recent photos by John Nordt / historical photos courtesy of State Archives Florida
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