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Annual Walking Tour

Sponsored by:


Thank you The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach wishes to thank David Ober for his generosity in sponsoring the 2019 Walking Tour. A note of appreciation is extended to the rector and the staff at Bethesda-by-the-Sea who have graciously opened their doors for the tour.

141 South County Road, Palm Beach, FL 33480 561.655.4554 | info@bbts.org | www.bbts.org

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1. Cluett Memorial Garden. Walter Thomas. 1931 2. The Rectory. Marion Sims Wyeth. 1924 3. The Nave. Hiss and Weekes. 1925 4. The Parish Hall. Hiss and Weekes. 1925. Revisions in 1955 by Wyeth. Restrooms



Bethesda-by-the-Sea, or “House of Healing by the Sea,” has a long and storied history, its first incarnation dating back to 1886, when the congregation met in a frame vernacular building now known as the “Little Red Schoolhouse.” Three years later, the congregation moved to its own building, also a simple wooden structure.


By 1895, the church needed to expand to accommodate its growing congregation, and built a Moorish influenced church on the Lake Trail. After three decades, the congregation of Bethesda once again outgrew its facility, and sought to build a Gothic cathedral in paradise. The cornerstone of Bethesda’s third and current iteration, including a tower nearly two hundred feet tall, was laid in 1925 by renowned New York architectural firm Hiss & Weekes.

The Cluett Memorial Garden In 1931, Nellie Cluett hired Walter Thomas of Philadelphia to design a garden in the memory of her parents who were founding of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. The small garden reflects an Italian influence orchestrated on two highly-detailed tiers. The upper Color Garden is surrounded by a dense stand of palms and has twin gazebos in the rear for seating. The two gardens are united by a series of water features that originate with a raised, stone fountain at the far end of the Color Garden. Constructed from coquina imported specifically for Bethesda by Miss Cluett, the pool is edged by lawn and parterres of cruciform-shaped, clipped boxwood. Water from the pool flows through an opening into a raised rectangular basin in the Tea Garden below.

The Rectory In 1924 Marion Sims Wyeth designed 165 Barton Avenue for Edward E. Jenkins. By 1926, the fifth rector of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Reverend George Matthew Thompson had moved into the house. Following the Spanish tradition, the rectory is built around a courtyard which as a fountain of Spanish tile. The textured stucco surface of the exterior walls emphasizes the stuccoed arch and columned entrance. The entry in elaborated by the iron lantern, the rope moulding, the heraldic motifs, and the large, fanciful pediment. The magnificent dining room has retained its significant historic details including the hand-stenciled pecky cypress coffered ceiling and stone fireplace.

The Parish Hall The original plans published in “The American Architect” in 1928 by Hiss and Weekes labeled this area as seven separate rooms: the kitchen; the pantry; the lobby; the dining room; the hall; the living room; and the porch. Today this large room seems to have just as many uses. The most famous being the current resting place of the famed Tiffany window. Marion Sims Wyeth’s firm, Wyeth, King & Johnson, were tasked with updating and expanding the Parish Hall in 1955. Staying true to the Gothic style of the church the expansions were seamlessly integrated into the church grounds. The archivist of Bethesda will have historic documents and photographs about the church’s history available for view in the Parish Hall.

The Nave Bethesda’s exquisite architectural detail welcomes parishioners at the main entrance with stone sculptures of the four apostles surrounding the door. A tympanum, or decorative area over the entrance bounded by a lintel and arches, shows the figure of Jesus Christ, represented holding a model of the church, his right hand raised in a blessing to all who enter. Walking down the nave, or the center aisle, showcases the transcendent beauty of Bethesda. Above the high altar is a sapphire-colored Te Deum window, made in England in 1940 and sent to the United States in three separate ships for protection against attacks during the Second World War. Bethesda won the Preservation Foundation’s Ballinger Award in 1996 for its magnificent renovation reminding us that the spirit of restoration and preservation is not to remove the appearance of age, but rather only the damage.

About the Architects Marion Sims Wyeth 1889 - 1982 Marion Sims Wyeth was born in New York City, the son of a prominent surgeon and political activist. He graduated from Princeton in 1910, spent four years in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and one year in Rome as secretary to the American Ambassador. When he arrived in Palm Beach in 1919, his first large commission was Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach, the first hospital in the country. The residences he designed in Palm Beach show a strong blend of Italian influences, especially in their courtyards and gardens. Later in his career, he designed homes in a Southern Colonial Style. Wyeth’s houses can be found on almost every street in Palm Beach. Hiss and Weekes 1899 - 1933 Hiss and Weekes was a notable architectural firm led by Philip Hiss and H. Hobart Weekes. The firm is responsible for many of New York’s Beaux-Arts style buildings, primarily apartments and hotels, a fine example of which was Neoclassical style luxury Gotham Hotel, now the Peninsula New York, on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Bibliography “Bethesda-by-the-Sea.” The American Architect, September 5, 1928. “Cluett Memorial Garden.” Paul Philippe Cret | The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Accessed January 19, 2019. https://tclf.org/landscapes/cluett-memorial-garden. Hoffstot, Barbara D. Landmark Architecture of Palm Beach. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2019. Labell, Shellie, Amanda Skier, and Katherine Jacob. Palm Beach: An Architectural Heritage: Stories in Preservation and Architecture. New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications, 2018.

The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach is dedicated to preserving the architectural and cultural heritage and the unique scenic quality of the Town of Palm Beach. Through advocacy initiatives, educational programs, architectural resources, and cultural events, the Foundation’s goal is to encourage the community to learn about and save the historic sites that truly make Palm Beach special. Since its founding in 1980, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach has raised millions of dollars to preserve and restore historic resources; advocated for the designation of over 300 landmarks; recognized dedicated owners and leading architects with awards; educated countless children about Palm Beach’s architectural, cultural, and environmental legacy; and provided valuable resources to the community through its archives and publications.

561.832.0731 | www.palmbeachpreservation.org

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Bethesda-by-the-Sea Walking Tour