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SUBJECT: RUSSELL PANCOAST (P) jc
INTERVIEWER: POLLY REDFORD (R)
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
REDFORD # 23
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
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.
REDFORD # 23
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: 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
RECORD # 23
uh, got a majority of the stock...
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...
REDFORD # 23
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?
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
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.
REDFORD # 23
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
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
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.
REDFORD # 23
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
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
R: Oh boy.
P: And then in '39 they revised the interest; all they had was most of
REDFORD # 23
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.
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
REDFORD # 23
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.
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.
REDFORD # 23
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...
P: ...but at the same...I don't know what time of year it stopped,
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
REDFORD # 23
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.
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.
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)
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 ...
REDFORD I 23
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
REDFORD # 29
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
REDFORD # 23
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
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...
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
REDFORD # 23
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...
REDFORD # 23
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.
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
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...
R: Well when,what happened to these workmen? /Didthey...
P: Well little by little...
R: did they go into other ?
REDFORD # 23
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
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
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
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
REDFORD # 23
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.
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
REDFORD # 23
built for two and a half million dollars, so if you divide even by those
construction costs, they must have been rather modest.
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.
END OF SIDE ONE
REDFORD # 23
R: Okay, I asked you if it seemed very different between the '20's and
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
REDFORD # 23
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
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.
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?
REDFORD # 23
P: Yes, oh sure.
R: And, and these people were still occupied as single-family residences,
or were they...?
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
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,
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
REDFORD # 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.
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.
REDFORD # 23
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...
REDFORD # 23
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...
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
REDFORD # 23
R: And the uh, so then by, say '39, '40 and of course when the war
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
REDFORD # 23
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...
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
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
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 ...
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
P: And we were still so we got more and more work. The
others had to quit.
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...
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
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
REDFORD # 23
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...
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...
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.
END OF TAPE.