Title: Interview with Russell Pancoast (May 15, 1967)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006422/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Russell Pancoast (May 15, 1967)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 15, 1967
Spatial Coverage: 12025
Miami-Dade County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006422
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Dade County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: DADE 23

Table of Contents
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page 1



TAPE # 23

MAY 15, 1967

R: Let me see. I want to say that I'm in Russell Pancoast's office

again, and this is the 15th of May 1967. One of my questions is, were

John Collins' eyes really a bright piercing blue?

P: They were blue all right, but I'm not sure how blue.

R: They were blue. The reason tht I asked is that because Jane

Fisher tells a story about seeing your grandfather, and talking with him,

and that he spoke to her and that she tells the story ina kind of a

set way, but that...

P: She said it many times probably.

R: Yea, in other words that no, thee. must not retrace thy steps
because thee has been lost, and she/described him as being a man that

was very neat, very erect and with very bright blue eyes.

P: Yes, well...

R: I know she ('d) look, uh...

P: ...I, I wouldn't know, I never noticed the blue particularly, they...

R: Well they were blue.
P: I were blue, blue-gray, as we...you know, someone/eyes

seem to be blue ...

R: Well they say it as you grow older. Well, at least they were blue.

Um, it's hard, you know, with Jane Fisher because so much of what she

says is not true, but yet you can't lie about everything.

P: No. (laugh)

R: And, uh, you know, it's easier to tell the truth sometimes (laugh),

than it is to make up a story, so I thought the story had kind of a ring of

page 2


truth although it may have been polished up a little bit, but it

seemed to stand or fall with the eyes. Before Indian Creek was so,

well what it is now, was it, was the water very clear, you

know before it was disturbed?

P: Yes, it was clear, uh huh.

R: Was it clear-clear, or was it clear-tea-stained?

P: No, it wasn't as bad as you'd normally would think of it as

Mangrove areas, for some reason or other. You know

it's all brown, but this was not brown that way, it was clear...

R: Some of the clear...

P: And I would say it wasn't) always clear because so many

worked the flats, that there was always a certain amount of sediment

in there.

R: Yea.

P: And uh, but there was enough mangrove stain to turn it


R: Uh, what were approximately or accurately the dates of your

father's birth and death? He was born in what year...I don't mean the,

to the day, but do you know what year he was born in?

P: Let's get it right while we're at it.

R: And Irving too.

P: That I can't, I'm not sure. He died in 1939.

R: Irving died in '39?

P on telephone:

Esther, have you got the birth and death dates of my father?

Call me right back then.

R: Irving Collins died in 1939?

P: Yea. And Dad died in of 1941, but I don't know the exact date.

page 3


in the fall...

R: And your father died in '41

Oh, extraordinary. Was Irving Collins the eldest of the, of the...

P: Yes, of the Collins, uh, sons.

R: And when did he move to Florida?

P: Oh, I see, I think he was the eldest, Arthur might have been;

mercy, I can't be sure of that now that you ask me that. might

have been the oldest.

R: Irving was the son who, who took over the business, you told me in, in

Morsetown merchantiville, he took over...

P: Yea, he took over merchantiville business

R: ...the Pancoast business. Yea.

Do you remember when Irving Collins, approximately when he moved to


P: Oh, he never did move to Florida, really. He built a house down


R: When was that about?

P: That was about uh, I'm guessing now, but I would say about 1922.

R: Nineteen...He was a winter resident for ...

P: ...winter races.

R: And then, but thenhe did take over the Miami Beach Bayshore Company.

P: Then it was destroyed in the hurricane of '26 and thenhe built in,

and then when he decided another one, he built it.

R: When did he take over the Miami Beach Bayshore Company?

P: Well...

R: Approximately...

P: I don't know that he took it over officially, I guess he did.

He didn't take it over personally. The Miami Beach Improvement Company

page 4


uh, got a majority of the stock...

R: Yea.

P: Well, thenhe was, my Dad was running the improvement company, but

Irving was the principal that Dad...

R: I see, anyway, Irving, people speak of Irving Collins and Carl Fisher

as working together quite closely towards the, toward the end there, and, and

P: Well, well they did, of course.

R: ...and um, I was just trying to, I mean actually, as I understand it,

correct me if I'm wrong, Fisher went into bankruptcy in 1932, actually.

P: All right. He took over a majority of the stock in Fisher's Company,

in the Bayshore Company before that.

R: Well that must have been '29 or so.

P: '30, somewhere around there.

R: And then, and at that time...

P: Probably a, you see, probably Montauk went under because of the


R: Uh hmm.

P: And uh, the idea was that all this property down there would be

sacrificed to sell it and be ruined really, because it would have had to

be sold for and new developments made and everything else,

this is the sort of thing that would ruin the people who had already

boughtdown here. We said we can't let that happen; it must, it must

maintain the integrity of the sales that were beginning here, and not

let this place go and be sacrificed to local... And Fisher had signed

all the notes, personally on Montauk so that they could come back

on him personally.

R: Yea, yea and then...

page 5


P: And then they, and one of the chief assets would have been the

stock in the, in the...

R: Of which he owned fifty-...

P: ...in the Bayshore...

R: ...fifty-one percent inthe beginning.

P: fifty percent, I think.

R: Fifty percent?

P: Yea.

R: ...of the Bayshore Company, well then what did the Collins people

came up actually with the cash to buy Fisher out on it ?

P: Don't say say the Collins people because my father was a


R: Well, the Collins-Pancoast...

P: All right, let's keep this straight. (laugh)

R: The Collins-Pancoast interest then came up with cash to pay off

Fisher's, to buy out Fisher's...

P: Well, they didn't buy it all out, they just took a majority of it;

they got ten more shares ...

R: I see, I see.

P: I don't know what, what they did, I mean I don't know the exact number

of shares.

R: Well, that's all right, I mean.


Well, now back to the um...anyway they were able to purchase the

controlling interest, even if they didn't use the whole, even though they

didn't buy out, uh, and then they were able to retain control over Miami

Beach um Bayshore.

P: That's right.

page 6


R: And uh, which then protected the investment against the, well

and Lindsay Hopkins would have taken the whole thing...it was Lindsay

Hopkins was it not who owned the...

P: Well, now Lindsay Hopkins didn't own any part of the Bayshore Company...

R: No, but he...

P: Except as the Fisher interest might have owned stock in the Bayshore

Company, see?

R: Yea.

P: But the Carl D. Fisher company, this, this would bring in...

R: It was his holding company.

P: Yea, that's right.

R: But I mean apparently Fisher, the mortgages were signed by

Fisher, or the Carl D. Fisher Company had borrowed themoney from Lindsay

Hopkins, and that was what Lindsay Hopkins apparently foreclosed.

P: Yea. I don't know that detail.

R: Well, that's, let's say, this, some of this may be out of your

particular range. Well, now, I think that was all the, the general

question, now what I wanted to do was to...we went over the original

um business pretty much, and I was wondering if we could now discuss

the '30's. I know you and Kay were living there in the '20's in the


P: Yes.

R: And, I've just been talking to Arthur Barton, and he says that

the Beach could be divided into a number of eras as far as....he speaks

of roughly the '20's as being the era of what he calls the great houses,

when the uh, I mean I'm telling you this because a lot of people

elaborate on it.

P: Yes... some people...Yes.

page 7


R: And then he said that after the crash of '29 that the interests

turned more to, towards hotels, like, uh, in other words, if the

and the Pancoasts would have assumed greater importance.

Nobody was building great houses anyway in the '30's.

P: No, well not in te early '30's anyway.

R: and uh...

P: But they began to pick up in the late '30's, very late '30's.

At first it's uh, a lot of people had no business in the north in

'34 and '35, (they were sold?), but they began to say well we're

not doing anything anyway, we might as well spend some time at the


R: (laugh)

P: And so they built, started to build little houses, and our office

began to be busy on little houses at the Beach.

R: And where did, were these little houses?

P: And they were up along the N!rth Bay Road and mostly northof

41st Street, around that area.

R: Uh huh.

P: And they built a lot of medium-sizes, small houses

in there, and as years wenton they got a little bigger and a little


R: Well when...

P: then, from uh, in 1938 we had a lot of good-size

houses, and then there was the stock market scare, and they cancelled everyone

of them.

R: Oh boy.

P: And then in '39 they revised the interest; all they had was most of


page 8


So there were quite a lot of fair-sized houses went up from '39 to '41.

R: Well, '39 to '41, when you speak of fair-sized houses, do

you mean in terms of money what would be the price range.

P: See by this time, now, the construction price was so low...

R: Uh humm.

P: ...that to talk about the price now would sound ridiculous in

today's market. We built one, about '37 I think it was, that had uh,

I think it had 5 master bedrooms and uh, a large living room and

and a study and 3 car garage and service quarters for four,

second bedrooms and so on.

R: Yea.

P: ...and that was built for about, and that was built for about uh,

less than 50,000.

R: uh huh.

P: And today that would cost 150,000, or more.

R: Well, of course.

P: So it is very difficult...

R: No, we can't compare them, but we can...

P: ...this was not only the Depression, uh, brought, brought building

costs down, not only the purchasing power of the dollar was affected, but

actual building costs.

R: Yea. Well what about the '30's in the Beach, I mean, uh, well maybe

you could begin by contrasting the '20's and the '30's. What happened

after the crash? What happened to the Beach? How did it's life change?

P: Well, the golf club and the surf club was finished in the, about

the first of, the first of 1930, and perhaps a month, another month or

so before they were finally and uh, a lot of money

page 9


had gone into that, and a lot of people, the didn't really know I

don't think tht the Crash was going to last as long or be as serious,

and it was a pretty uh, a pretty good social season down here and

everybody came to the surf club and the bath, I said Bath Club, I didn't

mean it, Indian Creek Club.

R: Uh huh. So the Bath Club...

P: Indian Creek Club and the Surf Club were built the same time.

R: In, in what...19-...

P: The Bath Club had already been established some years.

R: Yea. And the Indian Creek and the Surf Club which you designed...

I had a question, a few questions about that...

P: We did the Surf Club; we didn't do the Indian Creek Club.

R: Ummm.

P: Bob Taylor and uh, I think and combined

to do the Indian Creek Club.

R: Well, tell me about the Surf Club, what were you, as the architect,

what were you striving for, or doing, or...?

P: Well, uh, I don't know how much to go into this. We were striving

for a club that would be a, a non profit club to its organizers.

R: uh huh.

P: Whereas the Bath Club had been owned by a few of the stock holders

and the others maintained control, and many of the people who wanted to

join it and did join it resented this set-up, well we said we're

going to start another club where ...pay so much for membership and every-

body has a boat and so forth. And uh, they wanted a bigger place than they
had before, and uh, Alfred Barton was in/the second group, not the organizers

but on the second group that really went through with this thing.

page 10


R: Uh huh.

P: And uh, man named Abernathy and uh, McNeed were on the

summertime committee, everybody else left, they were the only

representatives down here. And we struggled through that summer

with the plans with a, we had a great many(compatants/companions/cabanas ?)

And we couldn't get them all in even though we had a tremendous

oceanfront we decided to double deck them, and

I guess that was the first time that was ever done. Then we had...

R: This was 1930, then you were doing the-plans?

P: Well, 1929 we were doing the plans, and the building was being

built then in the Fall of 1929, and was finished shortly after the

first of the year in 1930.
R: So you were just in the middleof the/thing when the stock


P: That's right...

R: ...stopped.

P: ...but at the same...I don't know what time of year it stopped,

do you?

R: Yes, in November of that year.

P: All right, well let me see we were well under construction at the


R: Well of course nobody at that time realized how, how bad

it was going to be...

P: No, that's right, that's right.

R: And, then cabanas in 1929, was that a new thing? Oh no...

P: No, no, not a new thing, we just had to add so many more of them.

R: Well was the, at that time was the uh, still concentrated

page 11


around the pool then rather than the ocean?

P: No, it was around the social activities of the group, see? And

this was to be the big thing; they were supposed to have patio

that would be protected from the ocean and they could have

a lot of performances out there if they wanted to and be able to

if they wanted to, and then they wanted a great social hall

and a great dining room, and uh, we decided that at certain, at certain

times that they wanted to feed a lot more people than they said they would.
So we connected they lawns with the dining room and with the patio, so

you could serve in all three places from the kitchen on the same level.

And uh, they told us they would have possibly up to 300 people at one time,

and thenight they opened they had 800 people.

R: (laugh.)

P: And they were able to serve them. They served them in the patio

and the lounge and the dining room, and this went on for years; they

would serve 800 people quite often, see?

R: (laugh.) What, what were the people like as a group. I mean, were

you, did you join a club?

P: Oh, no. A year after theclub had been opened, the gave me a membership.

They said in appreciation.

R: Oh.

P: It was a year late, as far as an architect, a young architect was

concerned, because the first year would have been the best. (laugh)

R: (laugh)

P: And so I gave the membership back to them. I said I couldn't afford

to play they played...

R: Well, how did they play? I'm not, I'm trying to ...

page 12


P: Well they gave many parties and many dances.

R: Uh huh.

P: They gathered in the afternoon...all kinds of social affairs and

in the evening was of course was the big play The daytime would be

cabana use and pool use...

R: Uh huh.
P: And the pool was not the concentration that it might/be ; it was

off to one side; it wasn't right on the oceanfront. And uh, the cabanas

all faced the ocean and not the pool. The pool became a separate

patio and had place for their children to play and a separate pool for

them and that sort of thing. And it was used by them who liked to swim,

but most of them, joined it for the social use of a house so they

didn't have to entertain at home lavishly, they could do it at the club.

And they spent many hours and many businessmen who had made their fortune

and who had all of a sudden retired who had formed no hobbies, had nothing

to do with their time, uh, their wives then would say well we'll join

the Surf Club and they went along.

R: Uh huh.

P: And I think my...my personal opinion that those men didn't last

very long there, because I think those, they didn't, they really didn't

know what to do with themselves. They didn't have any hobbies;

their whole life had been concentrated on, on the tremendous drive that

Americans had at that time in developing business and that's the only

thing in their lives. And all of sudden they were forced into

and playing cards and uh parties, and

going to big celebrations and Barton was particularly good at this sort

of thing.

page 13


R: And you know Barton said exactly what you did, that, I mean, he
said the reason that they joined the Club and the reason/they belonged

was that they didn't know what to do with themselves.

P: They didn't know what to do with themselves. That's right. And

Barton gave them something that really was extraordinary in some of these

entertainments. The decorations were out of this world.

imagination was presented I think they were going to make them come off

right. And so it got a great reputation.

R: So, what did, what was Barton's role then, did he just...go to the,

I know he was

P: He was the you see of all these things, and also

he had to be the social core of the whole situation.

R: Well he was kind of the cruise director, and stage manager, right?

P: Exactly. That's what he was, and he was a good one too, and

anybody could have done it as well as he did.

R: Well he didn't have...

P: That isn't my type of life 'cause I had, I was struggling as

architects do to make both ends meet; I didn't have any money to play

around in a club.

R: Uh huh.

P: But I knew enough about they type of luxury these people wanted,

so I was able to design it for them.

R: Did you, did Barton do the decorating and the interior decorating

page 14


P: No, certainly, we did that ; we did all the decorating

inside except the furniture and the rugs; he did that. We didn't do that.

We didn't put the furniture, move the furniture in, but we did all the rest

of it.

R: I see.

P: We had a, in those days we had wonderful arts in the theater, and

we painted the ceilings fashion and so forth...

R: Yes ...

P: ...all under my direction.

R: I want to ask you about the artisans because Barton was

telling me himself at the house that he and hismother built in 1924...

P: Yea.
R: ...which went up in six months and had all sorts of/fancy

plastic work, woodwork and everything...

P: ...Uh huh...

R: ...who, who uh, now you couldn't find people to do that work...

P: You can't find it now. For instance I think that in 1924 that

Miami had more fine wrought iron workers than any other place in the world.

They had come over from Italy, Germany, and

heaven knows where all they didn't come from. And you could get the finest

type of metal work here. Where you couldn't find a single man

now to do a nice, a nice railing of that type. They didn't, they don 't

understand iron unless they work with it all their life; they'd been

apprentices; they knew that when they a piece of iron in a

that the iron always had to be beaten out fine at the end

page 15


it got thinner as it went down the ; nowadays, nowadays they

roll it around the form and cut it off, and it, it never looks the same,

you don't know what's happened to it, but it doesn't...And they worked with

copper on ladders. We designed ladders, light fixtures, we designed them and

had them made here out of copper. These great firms that now make allkinds

of light fixtures weren't in existence then.

R: What about...?

P: Or if they were they didn't know what we were aiming at.

R: What about some of the other things. I noticed for instance, a lot

of those houses in the '20's they used tile, they used wood, they used

wood carving, they used fancy plaster...

P: That's right.

R: Now these things...

P: A great deal of that became imitation, but it still look license

to make it, for instance we made out of cement and wood fiber, we make

molds that were carved and then, we were very slow at this, you see, and

then cast these ceilings and put them up, so you have a whole carved


R: But even so, as you say, even imitation required craftsmanship.

P: That's right. Now the same way with the stone work. A great

deal of stone work was cast here.

R: Uh humm.

P: And very little of it carved direct, because it was practically

always repetiton, and if you carved a mold then you could then cast it, see?

R: ...then you could just...

No do these same workmen, uh, work on the places in Palm Beach? Or

did West Palm have its own...

page 16


P: They had their own group, but there was some interchange there.

R: Well, what happened to these people?

P: Well, for instance, M in Palm Beach had clients

who spent more money, I don't know whether they had more, I think in

some cases they did, but they would spend more; they were second generation,

as we talked about before.

R: Uhhuh.

P: And so M would go around and buy things out of houses

in Spain and Italy and bring the m over bodily, but he couldn't find enough.

And it didn't work all the time. So then he would start casting up there,

and sometimes he would use them, a model of something he brought over, and

have the man make another one, one that he could then repeat three or

four times, a fireplace, for example, or front door, or something. And uh,

we were doing the same thing down here, but we weren't buying as many originals.

So the architects had to know their stuff in Europe, that's the reason

that I thought that I couldn't start practice, practicing architecture, or

even get married until I'd gone to Europe, because this was part of

your background

R: Uh hmm.

P: And uh, so we knew our details, and we could sit down and design a

Italian or Spanish or Moorish fireplace or front door or anything else.

And of course a lot of those were wood doors with metal studs in them,...

R: Oh beautiful.

P: special handles and special hinges, and...
I mean
R: Well when,what happened to these workmen? /Didthey...

P: Well little by little...

R: did they go into other ?

page 17


P: Well when the Depression came...there were no customers for them.

So they went all over the place. I don't know whether they went

back to Europe, many of them or not. So of them wanted to go back,

some New York, some moved to California, I don't know where...

R: Well, in other words, they didn't stay...

P: They didn't stay. They didn't have anything for them to do, most

of them.

R: Well then after the crash, and when it became apparent after

a couple of years that it wasn't going to be just a six months affair, then

uh, you say that both the Surf and the Indian Creek Club opened in 1930, uh,

then what happened to life on the Beach as it was. What, how did the

'30's differ from the '20's, uh?

P: I don't know. The people who had joined those clubs kept coming

down here.

R: Uh hmm.

P: A lot of them had less money or less, but they still had enough

to live comfortably, and they had very little to do in the north. So it

makes sense where these businessmen could leave their businesses

stayed longer, they didn't have...

R: Did the season, did the season then become longer?

P: I don't know that it became any longer, I couldn't answer that.

I would say it became longer later, but this is just a guess, and not

based on fact; I don't really know.

R: Well I'm, I'm trying to sort of capture the flavor of the time,

and I'm trying to see what, what went on here in the '30's. I went
for instance
and talked to Pete Chase, I got a lot of sales figures/for some of the

Fisher corporations, which showed that the Beach was, continued growing

page 18


through the '30's, but on a very reduced basis.

P: Very reduced basis, but it picked up earlier than the rest of

the country because these people had, still had some money and they

were more modest in their demands, and they did want to spend more

time; they had more time in the winter.

R: And were they, was it...

P: So it picked up, I'd say it started in the summer around '34 to

revive a little and the rest of the country didn't.

R: Uh, I can tell you exactly if you're right. Well you are right

to the "T". Miami Beach building records were at a low of about a million

nine in 1931, a million four in 1933, but then by 1932, but by '33 it

picked to two million one and by '34 it had picked up five million

four seven eight, it's only five and a half million.

P: Yes.

R: But the people then who were building then in '34 and '35 and '36,

by '36 the building had gone up to 12 million, five hundred and twenty

P: Uh huh.

R: Umm. Were these then the same people, and they were building modest


P: No they wouldn't, new people who came down; there were new

people coming all the time.

R: Were these the same type of people who had come in the '20's?

P: Well base, I think you'd get a mixture of more


R: Uh hum. Um, let's see 1934, 1936...

P: For instance...

R: ...320 businesses built in 1936, 38 hotels. The 38 hotels were

page 19


built for two and a half million dollars, so if you divide even by those

construction costs, they must have been rather modest.

P: Yes.

R: Where were those going up? More in the south areas.

P: Yes, some more; yes. I think there was north there

were quite a few, right in that area, and uh, I don't remember any

spectacular ones above that. It might have one in

somewhere out there.

R: Well how about...?

P: I think there was some up there.


page 20



R: Okay, I asked you if it seemed very different between the '20's and

the '30's.

P: It seemed, it seemed very different because, well for instance in

1929, I had 25 men working for me. And when 1930 came, I didn't realize

either exactly what had happened, nobody...I kept about 10 men, and that

cost me a great deal of money. because 10 men I would recover on

it, see? So by 1931 I had wakened up fully as everybody else had I guess,

and I only had one engineer and he, he worked then on, as a desk

sergeant on the police force in Miami Beach, I'd got him taken care of.

Uh, whose was with me at the time, went to Jacksonville

and taught drafting as a public school teacher, and uh worked

half time for a manufacturing for the furniture manufacturers in town,

and half time for me, we could each give him half a day. And uh, so it went,

we worked with just a skeleton crew, and uh, it was really a wonderful life

in a way. We would go down to the bakery which was next door to us

and buy some bread and get some chesse and go up and sit on the Beach and

have lunch, and then we'd go out and play uh, all of the golf courses we'd

putt around on the golf course or rode one of these crazy golf things, you know.

R: Miniature golf, yea.

P: Spend maybe an hour that way, and then come back to the office. It

There was quite a little fishing done at that time.,

There was no pressure, you see.

R: Uh huh.

P: You were caught up all the time...there was not much use spending

a great deal of time looking for new work, because there wasn't any new

work, so, but there was always somebody that had to repair something or

page 21


do something or have a little something, and did keep a little/flowing.

jump from 25 men pushing as hard as they could to get the

work out down to nothing; it- changed everybody's life of course;

changed their home life the same way. And entertained in a very modest

way, and everybody was in the same position, so there was no...everybody


R: Yea.

P: You'd have a party and everybody'd bring something, and so forth.

I think it was a pretty good time to live, in some ways; we've often

regretted since then we don't have time hardly to go out for lunch anymore.

R: Yea.

P: We need some to buy some things from the bakery and go

out and sit on the ocean front and eat it...palm, palm tree.

R: (laugh)SPeaking of that, when did the appearance of the Beach begin

to change very radically or was it uh...Alfred Barton told me he built a

house in 1924 on the oceanfront about 18th street, I believe it was. And

17 years later...this was in 1941 when he sold the house...his was the

last private home between his uh home and the firestone estate, now the
Fountainebleau up at 46th. All the rest he says had been/apartments or

rooming houses or...

P: Well, of course the Collins residence and in there long before

he built, and it was still there at that time.

R: Well, I'm not ...

P: And above that there was Pancoast built a house, and

like that, and that was there, and there were two houses next to that.

He's forgetting what's there, what was there.

R: In 1941, those houses were still there?

page 22


P: Yes, oh sure.

R: And, and these people were still occupied as single-family residences,

or were they...?

P: Yes.

R: Well, he's just wrong; you know, it's hard to remember, you know.

P: Yea, there's some others in there. But there was a long strethc from

18th up to 22nd Street I guess it would-be; saw, one of

the Pancoasts

R: Uh huh. What did the life of the '30's, what tourist life there was,

more or less centered around the hotels, like the R the Pancoast,

the N ?

P: Let's see. We built the Austin House, wish I knew what the year

that was, but that was...

R: Oh, I don't care, I can find that out...

P: No, but there are more houses, that's what I'm trying to say, uh,

above Firestone's.

R: Well he said between himself and Firestone's.

P: Well, there were two or three other Firestone's, I did the _House,,

I did the uh, motion picture there, and then I did the Austin House which was

next to that, and I did that in 1925, I think it was. So there was some

development north, you see, of Firestone, but not very far, and several more

came later in there, but...all of a sudden as the hotels began to blossom

along the oceanfront, then all of a sudden people began to stop building on

the ocean front.

R: When did that happen? Approximately.

P: I don't...oh, I'd say as the hotels began to climb during the late

page 23



R: Late '30's.

P: Yea. Then people built on the bay front and on, on the Island,

on the Indian Creek, but not so much on the oceanfront anymore. And there

were problems about building on the oceanfront; many people who tried it

decided they'd rather build somewhere else; it was the cost of

would keep you from, from getting the planning you really wanted.

R: Uh hmm.

P: There was salt on your windows every morning, and so forth and so forth.

And it was tough. I lived on the oceanfront a couple summers in my grand-

father's house, and uh, he'd open windows just a little bit and then pin

the sheets down so they wouldn't blow off. It's a lot of difference..

we'd go over on the bay front, and we did this one summer; it was nothing

like that over there; you couldn't get it there. But you could

have the most wonderful shrubbery in the world over there.

R: Yea.

P: And it still looks lovely today, along in that area.

R: Oh yes,, it's a marvel, when you, most people that see the Beach,

they see Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue, and they don't realize

how much of the Beach is still so...

P: ...beautiful really...

R: Very, very...

P: and the public planning is so exceptional now for a city.

R: Oh yes, can you tell me a little bit about the Japanese, the fellow

who did the uh...what was his name...

P: Well there were two. There was and Suto

R: Suto was the famous one.

page 24


P: T was too, but I guess Suto had the limelight a little

more because he...now these are all memories, now I can't prove any of

these things, but I know enough about, for instance...

R: Well, I can check back on them...

P: for instance, Suto...they sent for their wives. I don't whether

you knew this or not, after they'd been over here for awhile, they sent

for their wivesin Japan. And Suto's wife was a little higher class

than T 's. So there was not too much communication between the

families when they came over. And Suto didn't have any children, and

she was a wonderful gardener, and she worked hard, and Suto worked hard;

they were hard working people. And they had a wonderful nursery there,

and theyhad no children to bother with. And so they developed their nursery

and they worked hard, and they did contract planning and contract maintenance.

R: How did Suto?

P: Now they weren't landscapers as such, but they had enough

sensitivity so they did a good job. Now T was doing the same

thing for another group of people. But he had children, and they went to

public schools, and they were well-liked and they were, had a great deal of

charm. Now then, finally, Suto and his wife decided they'd like to go, when

they got enough money, to retire, they'd like to go back to Japan. Well

they did go back to Japan and everybody said goodbye to them, they presented

them awards from the city and we all said goodbye to them in everyway we

could. They lived over there for 2 or 3 years and they just couldn't go home

again, and they decided to come back, well when they came back, their land

had gone, you see, and lifeon the Beach had changed, so they bought some
land/on the land side. And uh, T in the meantime I think

sold out about the same time, he sold out his land, and uh...

page 25


R: How did they first come? Who fist got them to come? Fisher?

P: They came...Fisher I think, but I don't know where they came from.

They were in America I think at the time. How they ever got in contact

with him I don't know. Now might know this; I don't know.

My bro-...older brother Art might know this too, I don't know.

R: One thing I forgot...

P: I've read it somewhere. I didn't know at the time; they were

just there, because I was concerned with the I don't know

how they got there.

R: 'Cause they were...remeber if they were...maybe Pete Chase will


P: Yes, he might remember, how he got in contact with them, but they

were, I think they were already in this country.

R: Well then, so, did things continue pretty much through 1930, 1940,

P: Well you see, yea, they/was tremendous activity from, well

it started gradually with '34, '35, by 1936 by 1937 by 1938 would have

been better except that little...

R: Recession

P: ...recession, which was a very short one, but it killed all the luxury

houses. It didn't kill everything but it killed the luxury houses; that

was the main backbone of my business, I didn't drop everything, but I

dropped most of them. And then those, by '39 they were confident again

and went ahead and then they, the whole Beach was bursting by that time,

hotels, apartments, houses, everything.

R: Did you do hotels yourself, or did you do ?

P: Not many no, they wouldn't pay my fee, and I wouldn't do it for


page 26


R: And the uh, so then by, say '39, '40 and of course when the war

came then...

P: When the war came then that stopped the whole thing and then most

aspects went out of business. Just closed their office, see? And

we had enough to keep us, Pearl Harbor came uh, December wasn't it?

R: Uh hmm, December '41.

P: And so, we said all right, we've got obligations, we'll have

to keep going until the first of July, and then we wound up all our

obligations, we had our buildings finished, and so planned then to close

our office on the first of July and we'll dwindle down with whatever

we need to, to do it. And there's no problem there about getting work;

there was...the Army, the Navy and everybody else needed architects, but they

wouldn't admit it; they called in engineers, but anyway

as an engineer you see?

R: Uh huh.

P: So, there was some government work still going in Key West; we were

finishing up a job for the government in housing and we had done a

fine job down there for them and they were offering us one more, and

we said well if you'll guarantee to giveit to us and let us work on it, we'll

keep our o-fice open.

R: Uh huh.

P: Well, he said we want you to keep it open, but we can't guarantee

that it'll comethrough in any particularimonth. We said we can't

we can't pay salaries for six months waiting for a job to go through, and so he

said we'll have to find somebody else to do it. Only one or two firms,

then, like Robertson Co., who did stay open and all the work that would

have normally gone to other people kinda concentrated in his office. And

so they had a big organization and they kept going

page 27


and the architectural work that had to be done for the Armed Services.

R: But generally speaking then the, the Services took over most of

hotels. Your brother told me that the Pancoast became some sort of a


P: Not until later, of course. The Pancoast was let alone for quite

awhile. This was an interesting phase; I don't know if you ever heard

this story or not, but, the Bayshore Company owned uh,

(interruption in sound)

...the Bayshore Company owned the King Cole, the Boulevard, uh, I don't
know enough about it,/the controlling stock in it and all this...and the

Fisher Company still owned the Flamingo...

R: Yea.

P: And uh, it was over on Lincoln Road there, the first one (?)

R: The Lincoln?

P: Lincoln, excuse me. So, the Boulevard had been built originally

to be able to accommodate those with modest income. And uh, it didn't have

many servants. Everybody took care of themselves fairly well and the prices

were low. And, it was on a golf course and everybody, a lot of people stayed

there and liked it; they liked this low incomeand they want too much

service. Well, when the Army, when the Air Corps decided that they were

going to establish themselves on Miami Beach, uh, they came to me, then Dad

had died, they came to me, I was head of the company. They came to me and

said, we had men have already gotten on the train in Washington and we want

them to move into the Boulevard Hotel, so you've got twenty-four hours

to get it ready for us. And uh, we'll pay you rent for it and so forth.

Well, it was war, we said all right. We didn't even agree on the rent.

So we went to the Boulevard in ; I remember what time

page 28

of year this was, but I think it was Fall, late Fall, and we told the

people they had to get out, and that we had just opened the Nautilus

and we would put them in much better rooms for the same price.

And about four of them refused to go, and and he

said he wouldn't move and that's all there was to it. So we got an

ambulance around there and picked him up on a stretcher and took him

up with the others (laugh). And the soldiers came in and we moved

them in.

R: Uh huh.

P: And uh, so that was the first hotel, and it was right in the

middle of that thing...they wanted the Nautilus and we got that ready

and the turned that into a hospital right away. Then they wanted the

King Cole and they turned that into a hospital. And the Pancoast they

didn't tough; now they took a lot of other hotels, but the officers

and a lot of the others needed a place to come, and they didn't want to

come to a barracks, so they let the Pancoast stay open and it stayed open

and ran for a year or two years as the only hotel on the stretch
that was still open for/business.

R: And the officers would come and stay ...

P: ...yes...

R: and their wives would come down ...

P: ...that's right; it was a meeting place...

R: I see.

P: But then they finally decided they needed another hospital, and so

they'd have to take it bver.

page 29


R: Now these hospital were to, to, for wounded men?

P: Yes, Rehabilitation a lot of them. The Nautilus was really

a rehabilitation center. The King Cole was more a hospital, and

Art's hotel was to be more of a hospital than a rehabilitation center.

And so, they did finally take it over then. He decided when they

took it over that was the end of the as far as he was

concerned. The thing to do was to sell it then, let somebody else

worry about it from then on. And so it was sold before the Army

too it over as I remember it. He could verify this.

R: Yes. He, he was a little vague as to the date. He told me it

had been turned into a hospital, that his wife had died, and a number

of things had happened, and he just wanted to quit.

P: Wanted to quit. Completely.

R: So, um...

P: I think part of it was the fact that he was running in a restricted

hotel, and uh, it was a old hotel by that time. It was, it constantly, he

was constantly working on it, all through the years, improving the rooms,

the bathrooms, the floors, the...everything about it. And uh, I think he

decided that it, it would probably be better to start over again then to

keep going with this thing, than to re-establish his clientele which might

have been spread out all over the world or never come back, and he had

to build it up again. And I think he decided that it wasn't worth it,

after all these personal things had happened to him.

R: Uh, well, everyone seems to have realized, if I'm correct, uh,
the Beach
everyone seems to have realized after the war that was not going to be

the same although I believe the Flamingo did stay open for a year, I think it

page 29

did re-open, didn't it?

P: Yes, and it stayed open quite a while.

R: And uh, of course the Pancoast was sold, but perhaps you can,

now I hadn't realized that you had become president of the company when

you father died.

P: Yes.

R: Umm, what happened then right after the war? Let's see, ,'45 was

the end, now it would have been too soon to do anything that year, but

people would have looked forward to some sort of a season, season of '46

wouldn't they?

P: Yes, to some extent. Many of the Army didn't move right out the

next day, y'know.

R: Uh hmm. When did it become obvious, as what I'm going to...want

to say...that, that the Beach was not, after the War, was not going to

be at all like the Beach had been before the war. When did that realization

begin to dawn on people in general, and yourself in particular?

P: I don't know. These things happen gradually, and you don't really

know that the thing is really changing underneath ,you sometimes unless

you are more conscious of it, I don't know.

R: Do you remember any particular consciousness of it yourself?

P: Well, I can, I suppose if I knew my years exactly, I think I'd be

able to unfold it a little bit better for you, but going back by my own

personal experience, I could tell then that the war was over, or just about

to be over, you know and Japan hadn't capitulated and Germany had, and um,

in the meantime I was running the Beach which was part of

the Bayshore holdings, and we had built that up to, from 3 men up to 125

men doing war work only, you see? And they came to me one night and said

page 30


that you've got to double your force. And I said well you know that we

haven't been very efficient' we've had to take all those men who might

have been drafted, they all desserted us, you see, and uh, all those

who thought they might have been drafted for war work, left us. And we

had three old men, two of them were crippled and the other was so old

he couldn't hardly move, and they were the only, and that's what I started

with. I didn't know whether to close it and, or what to do. We had all

kinds of luxury yachts in the shed over there in dry storage and wet storage,

and uh, and we began to hear from the Coast Guard that they would want to

take these boats and convert them for use, and we said, I said to myself
if that's so, we've got them/here, why don't we do that work? So

then I began to try to build up a force and it was...we had to take the


R: Yes. At that'time you did.

P: And I went to the Coast Guard Commandant here and told him, I said

now, this is what we're getting, and our bills will be too high, but

we can't help it, we'll do the best we can. And we did. We hired and fired

and finally got up a fairly good working force. And we finally got about

225 men who were busy all the time, Putting on the yachts

and putting 30 caliber and 50 Oaliber and mounting them on the decks and

so forth and so on. Well, then _quit and all of a sudden the

Coast Guard had built almost enough boats for itself.

R: Yea (laugh)

P: And they were better designed than these yachts were for the work

you had to do and with a few exceptions, and uh, they said stop work on that.

But before they did, they told us we'd have to double our force. Now part of

that was the fact that they didn't pay their bills. And the other two firms

page 31


over on the river that were doing Coast Guard work couldn't wait for their

money. But the Bayshore Company had a lot of money sticking in the bank

and so did the Miami Beach Company, so we for about eight

months and never collected a dime.

R: Humph.

P: And we were still so we got more and more work. The

others had to quit.

R: (laugh.)

P: I went *ith Alex up to Washington to see if we couldn't

break this thing. In the meantime I joined the Coast Guard Reserve down

here, and it was an and at nighttime I'd act as

a captain of the port, and then in the daytime I was supposed to go back

and do a good day's work, only sometimes I couldn't; I'd have to go to

bed for an hour or two, or maybe four hours and catch up. But uh, there

was no rest for the weary as far as I was concerned. Anyway, I finally

for a manager for this plant that I could trust and so

I...Andy in the meantime...Anthony...

R: Ferendino.

P: Ferendino had been working for us, or course, and then when he

stopped in July, the city wanted a hospital, a little hospital down on

North Road, and, now they were doing the plans themselves, I think, and he

went on it, and took a job from them for awhile. And then he got a job

with the, uh, Chase Federal as appraising for loans and so forth. So we

decided that there would be enough work if we started then, open the office

again, so when I was still trying to close up the Bayshore and the Improvement

Company properties, we had the directors down to see if they wanted to continue

because there was a good chance to continue; we could have brought/bought

page 32


Biscayne Key and done the same thing over again. So we put this up to them;

do you want to continue this thing now, it's gone on for years, or do you

want to stop everything and say They decided to sell out and

put all the remaining assets in...and uh, by this time the third generation

had come along and they'd gotten into their own businesses, you see, and

they're all active in it, and they'd rather have the money to put in their

own businesses than they would to keep worrying about what was going on down


R: And the directors...

P: And being...Yea...

R: ...were generally speaking the family members up in New Jersey.

P: That's right. And I didn't care one way or the other because I knew

it could go one, but I didn't want to give up my career as an architect, so

this was a problem for me, I...

R: Yes, you would have had to, because with Irving dead...

P: Yea, I couldn't do both...

R: and your father, and, and your brother obviously not wanting to take


P: That's right, so, it meant that I would have to go along as a

developer and I didn't really want to do that.

R: So then you all, the Collins and Pancoasts...

P: So, so they instructed me to sell out as we found the opportunity.

And uh, so we finally did and uh, we closed it up in about 3 years, but uh,

most of it in one year. Anyway...

R: Who, if it's not being...

P: I skipped my story there. They told me that increase the work gang

on the, on the, there,-by, and work at night, see, double shift, and I

page 33


don't know where we can find the men, but we'll try, as we did before.

And when we go there they said we don't want the double shift and we

don't want to halve the men you've got.

R: Yea, so they knew, I mean that was the end.

P: They knew it, and they'd had private information to slow down,you

see. So, I said I can't keep these men

That's all right, we're not going to, we're not going to take the

offf and recondition them, we'll just hammer them out

the best we can.


P: And that sort of thing, an do the temporary jobs and nothing

R: So that must have been around about '45 roughly.

P: Yea, that's right, and uh...

R: So then you knew that the end was...

P: So then we began to cut down, we cut down to eighty and while we

were doing this I wentup to the Nautilus Hotel, it was being run by

the Army and they had a fleet there of recreation boats, most of them

were like old shrumpers, and they'd tak e these men out and fish or

whatever they did and ride them around, and they had to have somebody to

take care of their work so I said, wellyou're right along side me, see you

might as well bring them in here, and now we have the capacity to do it, before

that we didn't. So they gave us their work, and uh, we were able to

keep about 80 men, then, for quite a long while. And then the boats

had to be reconditioned for the war. So that kept us going. And then, that

meant I had a good active thing that I could sell.

R: Yea, then you had a going concern. Well...

P: Yea.

page 34


R: Well, during the years then what were the years roughly speaking

that, during which the Miami Beach Bayshore did, did ? Was that

uh, you say it took a couple years to um...

P: lea, I think it mostly in '46 and '47.

R: So at least by '48 or by '49, then, then you were out as far

as that was concerned...

P: mmm.

R: ...but you, for a number of years you maintained your business, and

then we discussed it, how you brought your...

P: Meanwhile the architects' business began to climb, so I started

right in the same building, so I could stay in the same building; we built

up our in the same building.

R: Then that was, then the new era began after the...

P: Yes, that's right.

R: Now I want to shut this off, because I've come to the end of my

hour anyway, but before I do I must ask you again about this release. Have

you said anything that you, uh, regret? I mean as far as the release for

the library. I want to show you a copy of the release incidently.

P: Well, I guess not

R: NOw there again, these are not, these are not to the public, these

are open only to, to qualified scholars, but I must have your okay on that,


P: There are some things of course I could have gone into a lot further.

R: Well yes, but I, I don't want to take your whole afternoon.

P: Yea.


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