The Belair Historic District
West Palm Beach Southend History: Belair Historic District designated in 1993
The Belair Historic District lies between South Flagler Dr. to the east and South Dixie Hwy. to the west. The southern boundaries are the 200 and 300 blocks of Plymouth Rd. The northern boundary includes the 300 block and the south side of the 200 block of Pilgrim Rd. including the original homestead of William Ohlhaber at 205 Pilgrim Road.
The area of Belair was recorded in 1923. Entirely residential in nature, the district consists of Mediterranean Revival Mission Revival, Frame Vernacular and Masonry Vernacular style houses. While most of the historic homes were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, representing the Florida “land boom” era, there is one structure that predates 1900 and is the Richard Hone-Brombacher House, circa 1895. Other notable historic structures include the John Stephens home (1927), the Eric Shroeder home (1926), the B.V. Zeigler home (1926 – one of the few early frame vernaculars), and the Jonathan Sirich home (1927).
The area was part of a land grant from the 21st U.S. President, Chester Arthur, on February 25, 1885, to James Wood Davidson. Mr. Davidson sold the tract of land to John Huntington Jones in 1886. The tract became the property of Richard Hone, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England and Mary Jones Hone, his wife in February, 1895. This tract of land was thought to be the dowry of Mary Jones. Richard Hone developed a pineapple and citrus plantation on this tract of land. His house was known as one of the finest on Lake Worth and still stands at 211 Plymouth Rd.
Richard Hone met with an untimely death and his murder made headlines in the local newspaper, “The Tropical Sun.” The newspaper’s account of the murder said that during a severe thunderstorm, an assassin approached the house on horseback and shot and killed Richard Hone through the window of the dining room. At the time of his murder, Hone was sitting in his dining room writing a letter to his sister in England while his wife sat beside him reading.
The jury assembled found that “the deceased, Richard Hone, came to his death by a gunshot wound, at the hands of a party unknown”. Mary Hone became the sole heir to the estate. To provide herself with some income, Mary Hone obtained a mortgage of her property from J.F. Olmstead on December 30, 1904.
Olmstead, in turn sold the property to Mr. George Currie on January 26, 1906. Within 30 days of obtaining this property, Mr. Currie created the Currie Development Company. Currie created this company to acquire money that would give him the freedom and leisure to write and publish more books of poetry. Although he aspired to be a poet, Mr. Currie was best known as a lawyer, and an early real estate developer. In 1919 a journalist once wrote of Currie, “It can be said without contradiction that (Currie) has done more than any other one individual to develop Palm Beach County and its vast resources.”
Following a series of subsequent sales, the land tract became the property of William and Sophie Ohlhaber on June 6, 1923. Finally, Mr. William Ohlhaber platted the subdivision in June 1923 and constructed the home at 205 Pilgrim Rd., the first house built in the subdivision of Belair. Mr. Ohlhaber was an architect from Chicago who wintered in West Palm Beach for many years. According to Mr. Ohlhaber’s grandson, Mr. Ohlhaber acquired the tract to provide dockage for his 90-foot yacht. Unfortunately, Mr. Ohlhaber’s yacht never reached Lake Worth as it ran aground in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the mid-1920s, members of the Ohlhaber family created a lakefront plant nursery on the property. The nursery specialized in ferns and coconut palm trees. These specimens could be seen prominently until the 1977 coconut palm blight. A few of the palm trees and several of the ferns still exist on the original property.
Proposed Text for Belair Historic District History
The Belair Historic District lies between South Flagler Drive and South Dixie Highway. The southern boundaries are the 200 and 300 blocks of Plymouth Rd. The northern boundary includes the 300 block and the south side of the 200 block of Pilgrim Rd.
The area was part of a land grant from the 21 U.S. President, Chester Arthur, on February 25, 1885 to James Wood Davidson. Following a series of sales, and development as a pineapple and citrus plantation, the land tract eventually became the property of William and Sophie Ohlhaber in, 1923, and became entirely residential in nature. The Belair district consists of Mediterranean Revival, Mission Revival, Frame Vernacular and Masonry Vernacular style houses. While most of the historic homes were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s and represent the Florida “land boom” era, one structure predates 1900, the Richard Hone-Brombacher House, circa 1895. Belair was designated as an historic district by the City of West Palm Beach in 1993.