Addison Mizner in Palm Beach

For Joanne de Guardiola, a South End house on Lagomar Road — designed by noted society architect Addison Mizner in 1924 — presented an opportunity to own a piece of architectural history.

It also demanded a creative and extensive renovation that ended up winning the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s 2012 Ballinger Award, which is given annually to honor historically sensitive construction projects at large estates.

See photos here

De Guardiola, a self-described “serial renovator,” was intricately involved in what turned out to be an intricate project at the house, which she shares with her husband.

“Roberto and I bought it more than 10 years ago as a third vacation house. We’ve always loved Palm Beach and Mizner, and we renovated it with our children and our parents in mind. But now, it’s just the two of us, and we want to do a bit of downsizing,” she says.

As such, their five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home — with two half-baths and 9,714 square feet of living space, inside and out – has been offered for sale through broker Christian J. Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate for $16.95 million.

The house will be sold with a deeded oceanfront parcel, which isn’t contiguous with the main property. In all, the land measures nearly an acre.

“It’s a wonderful home for a young family,” Joanne de Guardiola says. “It has a 60-foot pool — we could sit in the cabana and watch our children play — and it’s on almost an acre, so our son could play football and soccer. It’s a great location. We have the most gorgeous stretch of beach and fabulous views.”

About a mile south of the Southern Boulevard traffic circle, the property is one house west of the Lake Worth Lagoon on a quiet cul-de-sac. The three-story home’s interiors and exteriors blend seamlessly together, a testament to the thoughtful collaboration between de Guardiola, architects Raphael Saladrigas and Leah Cohen, and the landscape team — landscape architect Mario Nievera and designer Keith Williams of Nievera Williams Design.

De Guardiola, an interior decorator, worked at the Parish-Hadley studio before opening her own firm in New York City. She recently completed refurbishing her family’s yacht, Highlander, the iconic 150-foot yacht previously owned by Malcolm Forbes.

Architect essential

The renovation project, she said, is a testament to how an architect can pinpoint problems and create solutions. But how it came together is somewhat challenging to explain.

“When we bought it,” she explains, “the inside was OK, but outside, the way the land had been chopped up was dreadful.”

She’s referring to the home’s history. Here’s the background: Mizner’s Mediterranean-style house, originally constructed for John Magee, presided over a 6-acre, ocean-to-lake lot. Magee sold it to Edith Rea, who commissioned several additions, and two years after her death in 1951, the property was subdivided into several homes.

The de Guardiolas’ home, one of the cut-up buildings, ended up occupying a sort-of a zigzag-shaped parcel. The home’s focal-point living room was tucked into a corner just a few feet from the property line, a problem that the de Guardiolas remedied by purchasing the adjoining lot.

That way, they could work in arcades, a courtyard, loggias and terraces around the home to achieve cohesiveness as well as a beautiful sense of entry.

“Raphael made the house its own entity with terraces and a covered loggia,” she notes. “It looks like it was always meant to be.”

To give a general idea of the floor plan: The foyer, gallery, media room, kitchen and dining room with an adjoining terrace courtyard are on the first floor. One approaches the home either through the gardens by the pool, or from the cul-de-sac on the home’s west side, where stairs lead to an arcade between the cabana and courtyard that culminates at the front door.

Inside, an elliptical stairway ascends to the second-floor living room, library and guest bedroom suite, with doors in the living room opening to a partially covered balcony.

Continuing up the stairway to the third floor brings one to two guest bedroom suites, and then, up a few more steps, to the master suite.

Mizner touches

Mizneresque features include French doors, Cuban-tile floors, hand-painted tiles, beamed and coffered ceilings and graceful columned archway. But the pièce de résistance is Mizner’s original – and stunning — Roaring ’20s dining room, which was repurposed at the time of the subdivision to serve as the living room.

“Its proportions are perfection,”de Guardiola says, “as well as its original folded-linen paneling, which we took down and restored; the Cuban tile floor; the oversized Mizner fireplace; its 14-foot ceilings, and its views over Lake Worth are wonderful. It’s a beautiful room.”

The home’s captures attractive views from most rooms, but from the third-floor master bedroom, the vistas are spectacular. “You can see all the way down the coast.”

As a point of inspiration, she refers to Mizner’s charming vias off of Worth Avenue. Her house, she says, captures a similar feeling, with its brick walkways, covered areas, courtyard and terraces.

“I love Mizner’s structures, the way he beautifully blended interiors and exteriors. We used his original designs as our guiding light,” she says. “He got his architecture right, and his rooms are well proportioned with graciousness and warmth.”

– Written for Palm Beach Daily News. Read the article here

RIP mr ponce

one of my first stories…

Signs Of History Dot Streets

They Bear Names Of Pioneers, Even A Draft Dodger

August 30, 1996|By CHRISTINE DAVIS Special to the Sun-Sentinel

James Ponce is part of Palm Beach County’s past – literally.

James Ponce in his garden

James Ponce in his garden

He’s the official historian for The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, and the island’s Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, the island has named him an official landmark – the only person to have been thus honored. Ponce also is a member of a pioneering family that helped settle the area.

The city of West Palm Beach originally named a downtown street “Ponce Court” to honor his aunt, Mary Jane Ponce.

It’s one of many streets in the county that bear the name of early pioneers and settlers.

Recently, the city of West Palm Beach approved a plan to develop the land where Ponce Court sits, so the city returned the old street sign to Ponce.

After the ceremony, Ponce recalled his aunt, and the story behind the street sign.

“Mary Jane Ponce moved here from St. Augustine at the turn of the century and opened up a millinery shop in the Palm Hotel” at Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach, Ponce said. “She lived on top of the hill, just south of what is now the Federal Building.”

Years ago, “I was walking by and noticed that a small cul-de-sac [nearby) had my name on it,” Ponce said. “An old woman was rocking [in a chair) on her porch, and I asked her if the street had been named after Mary Jane Ponce.”

“It sure was,” responded the woman. “That old gal ruled the roost.”

In part because he’s a member of a pioneering family, and in part because he is a professional historian, Ponce knows a lot about the history of other area street signs.

For example:

Lang Drive, just south of Southern Boulevard and west of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach, was named for Augustus Lang, a famous German immigrant.

“Some consider [him a coward because) he moved here from Fort Pierce to avoid being drafted by the Confederate Army,” Ponce said. “But others consider him a hero. “In 1861, while he was the assistant keeper of the Jupiter Lighthouse, he took part of the lighting mechanism and buried it, to help Confederate blockade runners,” Ponce said. “Then he hid out the rest of the war on the shores of Lake Worth – the first white man to live there.”

— Hammon Avenue, which cuts through the heart of Palm Beach, honors H.F. Hammon, the first pioneer to file a homestead claim on what is now Worth Avenue in 1873.

“He had 169 acres from Hammon Avenue north to Royal Palm Way,” Ponce said. “His mule pen was located by what is now the Colony Hotel. Mules were the [beasts) of burden in those days, and so he rented the mules to those who needed to do heavy hauling.”

— Gale Place, within the triangle of what is now Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, Okeechobee Boulevard and Interstate 95, was named for the Rev. Elbridge Gale.

“He was a professor of horticulture at Kansas State Agricultural College; when he retired, he moved to this area,” Ponce said. “He built the first log cabin on the west side of Lake Worth around 1888. Part of it is said to have been [added to) the present house at 401 28th St.”Meanwhile, “Old Northwood, earlier known as Mangonia, has been built on what was originally Gale’s 160-acre plantation.”

Trees from Gale’s groves still are growing in Old Northwood.

— Lanehart Court, Lyman Place, Porter Place, Rowley Drive and Spencer Drive are clustered around Gale Place. And for good reason.

“These men were all early Palm Beach County pioneers,” Ponce said. “Porter’s homestead made up a good part of what is now downtown West Palm Beach.

“Ben Lanehart arrived in this area in 1885. He was second cousin to Will and George, of Lanehart and Potter Lumber, founded in 1885. This company is still in operation today,” Ponce said. “Spencer was an early postmaster. Lyman ran the general store. Rowley drove the `school boat’ – he went around the lake and picked up the kids and took them to school.”

Sometimes, it wasn’t just pioneers who got streets named after them.

For example, “Barton Avenue was named after C.V. Barton, an early tourist,” Ponce said. “Pendleton Street, Root Trail and Clarke Avenue in Palm Beach were also named after early tourists.”

Several old street names puzzle even Ponce. Take a street like Yellow Legs Landing in West Palm Beach. How did it get its name?

Ponce laughed. “Someone must have landed with yellow stockings on,” he said.

John Rivers Collection

Almost 30 years ago, John M. Rivers Jr. — a member of a Charleston, S.C., family that goes back to 1670 — began collecting significant examples of his city’s decorative and fine arts.

“I noticed that the earliest known signed piece of Charleston’s furniture was sold to an outfit in North Carolina, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s our history, not theirs, and it ought to be here in Charleston.’

“Some of the finest silver and furniture in the 18th and 19th century were made right here in Charleston — 100 cabinetmakers were active from early 1700-1820, and silver was made from 1700 to the 1920s. I thought it was important to keep them here or bring them back,” he said.

Rivers’ biggest find, however, was an embroidery that had been stored away in an attic of an apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is being shown at the Society of Four Arts as part of “An Eye for Opulence: Charleston through the Lens of the Rivers Collection,” which opened Sunday. The exhibit includes more than 200 art and artifacts from Charleston’s Colonial through Antebellum periods.

“My focus was on furniture and silver,” Rivers said. “Why did I want embroidery? And yet after I bought it and it was taken out of the frame, we found it was one of the most valuable things we could have purchased. Objects like this tell stories about people.”

Brandy Culp, curator of Historic Charleston Foundation, describes the embroidery as “extremely rare.”

“ Most embroidery is allegorical or religious, but this is a painted- and silk-embroidered portrait of a young Charleston lady, Emma Louisa Lanneau, before her marriage to Benjamin Gildersleve in 1828,” said Culp, guest curator for the Four Arts exhibition.

“She’s wearing a pelisse, a particular type of overcoat. It’s a cosmopolitan setting, a lovely neoclassical interior and she’s sitting at a table with a map and globe, and she’s holding a cartographer’s compass and it’s pointed to Charleston.”

Upon removing the frame, they found that Lanneau had signed the linen stripping she had used to stretch the fabric. “It was an amazing discovery, a moment I’ll never forget,” Culp said.

Accompanying furniture and silver from the Rivers Collection, significant art and artifacts from the Gibbes Museum, Historic Charleston Foundation, Drayton Hall and Charleston Museum also are on exhibit.

“This is the largest showing of Charleston’s fine and decorative art, and for some of the objects, it’s the first time they’ve been out of the city,” Culp said. “For this exhibition, I chose objects that would give viewers a sense of Charleston’s past and tell its story, which is one of opulence and diversity.”

‘Object of excess’

A Federal Period secretary with linen press, attributed to cabinetmaker Jacob Sass from the Rivers Collection exemplifies the high skill level of artisans from Charleston’s workshops.

Made of mahogany and mahogany veneer with cedrela, red cedar, white pine and cypress, the upper case has small storage drawers, pigeonholes for letters and secret drawers. The pullout drawers beneath were for textiles and clothing.

Twenty years ago, Rivers found its sibling — a linen press also made by Sass.

“I bought it out of a Ford dealership in Kingston, North Carolina, and now it’s with its companion piece. … To have them together as they were at Sass’s shop 230 years ago, that’s neat.”

Another piece of note from the Rivers Collection is a Rococo-style mahogany kettle stand with piecrust top, the only known example of that form made in Charleston.

“The kettle stand is an object of excess. Most objects had multifunctional uses, but the kettle stand, the mate to the tea table, had only one use,” Culp said. “It was meant to hold an expensive water kettle. This was part of Charleston’s tea ceremony, an important mode of entertaining here.”

Dark times to enlightenment

Charleston artisans produced many fine artifacts, but few survived. Some were lost due to fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. Some were lost through looting when the city was invaded by the British as well as federal occupation during the Civil War. And then poverty set in after the Civil War and heirlooms were sold.

“While Charleston was the wealthiest colony in the Colonial Period, the Antebellum Period was the end of opulence,” Culp said. “After the Civil War, the city was forever changed.”

After the 1876 Centennial, Charleston became a site for budding antique dealers and objects left private collections. Case in point, a neoclassical-style painting from the Historic Charleston Foundation, the portrait of Mary Rutledge Smith and her son, Edward, which was painted by George Romney in England.

Mary Rutledge Smith (1747-1837) sat 15 times for Romney between January and May of 1786. She was the wife of Colonel Roger Smith (1745-1805), and their son, Edward, was born in England in 1785. The portrait was painted during their stay in England while traveling abroad. When they returned to Charleston, they brought the painting back with them and it was passed down through their family.

This portrait was exhibited throughout the 19th century in Charleston and was well known in the city.

“Because of the family’s financial difficulties in 1888, to paraphrase from a letter a family member wrote to a New York antique dealer: ‘my family is sick; we have no money and we are starving,’ and she had to sell the portrait,” Culp said. “It was shipped to New York, then to England and was sold. For the next 87 years, it remained in the Swinton Collection at Masham, England. A hundred years later, it was purchased for Historic Charleston Foundation.”

A silver water pitcher, circa 1860, engraved with a gothic initial “B,” and marked by Hayden & Whilden pours out its tale, too.

The actual makers, Augustus Hayden and William Whilden, have a great story, Culp said.

“The two individuals operating Hayden & Whilden, both enlisted in the army in Civil War, and after the war, they established separate businesses across the street from each other and both businesses thrived from 18th century into the early 20th century.”

Today, Charleston thrives again, with a good economy and first-class cultural venues, Rivers said.

“So often people say that Charleston is like Paris, Prague, a city of light, but it’s a city of enlightenment,” he said.

Mary Rutledge   embroidery lo JMA_1071 JMA_1238 JMA_1966 JMA_1991 JMA_1996 JMA_1998 JMA_2007 JMA_2028 JMA_2043 JMA_2128

Written for the Palm Beach Daily News

Travel Indonesia

A popular tourist destination for years, Indonesia is about to become more accessible.

In August, Thai Ministry of Transport & Communication confirmed that foreign-flagged superyachts can undertake charter operations in Thailand, which will make the area inviting for more charter yachts, said Diana Brody, a charter broker with Camper & Nicholsons, Palm Beach.

The Indonesian archipelago, with 17,508 islands, offers a mix of exotic cultures and experiences, and what better way to cover all that ground, so to speak, then aboard the 213-foot wooden sailing ketch, Lamima?

An Indonesian two-masted phinisi, designed by Barcelona naval architect Marcelo Penna and constructed by traditional boat builders of the Ara village on Sulawesi island, Lamima is a dream-come-true for co-owner Dominique Gerardin.

Gerardin’s wife, Naomi, tracked the course of Lamima’s construction in her blog: lamima.com.

“Originally such prahus (a type of Indonesian sailing boat) were employed as cargo ships, carriers of sandalwood, spices and ceremonial textiles along the spice routes to the ancient kingdoms of China and India,” she wrote in March 2012. “Over the centuries, their rig evolved from rectangular to gaff sails, the Bugis people (Indonesian 16th-century sea traders and warriors) skillfully adapting what they saw on foreign vessels to what worked best for their local winds and waters. The result was the magnificent sailing phinisis unique to Indonesia.

“And now they’re building such a vessel for us.”

Two years later, the Konjo people of Ara conducted the launching ritual, “bersanji,” for Lamima’s strength and safety at sea, which was followed by the “panossi” (chiseling the navel) ritual, when master builder, Haji Saka, made a small hole in the keel and inserted a golden ring, an omen of good luck. Later that evening, using pulleys and sandbags, a crew of 50 began to drag Lamima into deep water, a process that took 45 days. Then, Lamima was towed to Italthai Marine in Samut Prakan, Bangkok for her final fit-out. On New Years 2015, Lamima completed its first sojourn, a 10-day cruise around Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.

Lamima can accommodate 14 guests in seven large ensuite staterooms; the master stateroom is aft on the main deck and six guest staterooms are below. Midship on the main deck is the salon with a bar, lounge and dining alcove. Forward of the salon is a large open deck for alfresco dining and lounging, and forward of the pilothouse, the deck is furnished with Indonesian sun mattresses. Cruising speed is 10 knots.

“It’s the largest wooden sailboat and hand built. It’s amazing,” Brody said. “The Lamima will give guests the feeling of being immersed in the Indonesian lifestyle and the water is pristine, like the water in the Caribbean 75 years ago. You’ll have beaches and rain forests to yourself. It’s quite unexplored and the people are open and gracious.”

On the beautiful and elegant sailing yacht, a naturalist will be on hand as well as Indonesian chefs, who will prepare a fusion of Asian and European cuisine. A yoga instructor and two Balinese masseuses also are on board.

When guests are tired of being pampered by the crew of 20, Lamima is equipped with adult toys that include Yamaha Jet Skis, diving and snorkeling gear, wakeboard, jet-propelled tender, water skis, paddleboards, sea kayaks and Jukungs (Indonesian canoes). Lamima also is certified as a PADI dive center with two dive instructors.

A suggested itinerary from November through March: a few days in Phuket, Thailand, and then moving toward Mergui Archipelago to Myanmar. Mergui, with crystal-clear water, white-sand beaches, and blanketed with untouched rainforests, is a top destination for viewing wildlife with barking deer, macaque monkeys, wild boar, hornbills and elephants. Visitors will see Moken Sea Gypsies living in their small floating communities on the Andaman Sea. They’ll also see stilted fishing villages, glimpse whale sharks and manta rays, and visit a pearl farm known for its golden pearls.

For charters from April to September, tourists will sail to Indonesia’s eastern islands, Nusa Tenggara, to visit Alor, Flores, Sumba and Komodo. In the seas between Komodo and Flores, dolphins are a common sight and the area is also on a whale migration route. The reefs offer good snorkeling and some of the best diving in Indonesia, especially for guests who want to swim with manta rays. On land are buffalo, deer, wild pigs, birdlife and endangered monitor lizards. The Komodo Island monitors, known also as Komodo dragons or “ora” are the largest living lizards on earth and found only on Komodo, Rinca and Western Flores islands.

This culturally rich eastern area of Indonesia offers many possibilities for exploration. The water around Alor has a sperm whale migration route and the local people on this island are known for their ikat-dyed woven textiles. Between Alor and Flores, charterers can visit traditional whaling villages and they’ll see lovely lakes set in mountains that are home to the Lio tribe in the north and Ngada in the south.

For September and October, charterers can explore the wild Asmat region in Flamingo Bay and cruise up the Atjs River. With year-round warm temperatures and pristine waters, the Raja Ampat archipelago is known for its marine biodiversity, with almost 550 species of coral and more than 1,300 species of fish. In Asmat, snorkeling and diving is great, as well as bird watching, and visits to the villages of Warsi and Numbrep will give charterers the opportunity to experience the culture of the region and ride in long boats. After an overnight crossover to the area of Triton Bay, visitors will enjoy the most secluded white-sand beaches of West Papua. The area, known for whale sharks, is fantastic for diving, as well as taking in the scenery with its distinctive cliff paintings.

People who charter in this area often make a cruise a portion of their vacation because it’s halfway around the world, and there’s so much to see, Brody said. “Some people wish to explore other cultures and visit areas such as Shanghai, Hong Kong or Macau, and we can make suggestions.”

Most charters aboard Lamima are a week long, and the price is $140,000. For information, call Brody at 655-2121.

1 lamima 11 1 lamima fore deck 1 lamima dining 1 lamima salon 1 lamima with toys 1 lamima stateroom 446A1478 lamima 11 lamima salon lamima dining lamima fore deck dining 2 lamima fore deck lamima stateroom lamima under sail lamima with toys lamima1 lamima2 lamima3 lamima4

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

Aurora Colony Oregon

In 1855, when Dr. William Keil, leader of a German Christian communal society, headed west from Missouri to find his Eden, his wagon train of 35 wagons and 150 followers had a hearse in the lead. Keil’s oldest son, Willie, died of malaria just as the group was setting out, and keeping his promise not to leave his son behind, Keil placed Willie in a lead-lined casket filled with high-quality whiskey.

Within the year, Keil found a new site for his colony in the Willamette Valley near Portland, Oregon. He named it, Aurora, after his youngest daughter. Aurora was the first utopian community to be established on the West Coast, and it’s Oregon’s first designated historic district.

What’s left of the Aurora Colony, which continued through 1883 and numbered around 600 members at its apex, is a small cluster of buildings in the Old Aurora Museum complex, encircled by four blocks of structures built by the colonists and their descendents.

“Keil felt that all Christians should share labor and property as did the first Christians, according to the Book of Acts,” said Patrick Harris, curator of the Old Aurora Colony Museum. “His followers generally put their earnings into the common treasury, which they drew upon as they needed, and they sold their excess goods at their store to people who came through.”

The Aurora Colony Historical Society offers a map of the historic neighborhood with 20 buildings, the “Walk With Emma” self-guided tour, and the museum complex also can be viewed.

Visitors come from everywhere, many drawn by author Jane Kirkpatrick’s “Change and Cherish” trilogy, an historical-fiction about Emma Wagner Giesy, a member of Keil’s Bethel Missouri colony. She was 20 years old and pregnant when she accompanied her husband, Christian, and eight other scouts, who, in 1853, preceded Keil’s group over the Oregon Trail.

Next to the museum complex’s exhibition building is the home where Emma and her children lived for a time.

“A couple from New Zealand made a special trip here just to see Emma’s house,” recounted tour guide Janus Childs. “I took them over, unlocked the door, and started talking about it. I was halfway across the kitchen when I turned around and noticed that the wife was still standing at the threshold. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I am about to walk on the same floor as Emma!’”

The majority of Aurora’s colonists traveled in four migrations from their community in Bethel, Missouri via wagon trains, a five-month, 2,000-plus-mile journey over the Oregon Trail. A small group came by steamship through the Isthmus of Panama and still another group travelled by ship around Cape Horn.

At Aurora, the number of structures the colonists built, as well as their productivity, amazes. They sold goods from their orchards, granary and saw mill; created handsome textiles, baskets and furniture; grew crops including hops; and were renowned for their cuisine and music venues. By the time the community disbanded, they had accumulated nearly 20,000 acres of land scattered over three counties.

It begins to make sense when one understands a little about Keil, a visionary autocrat, and his two factions of followers: some evangelists plus a group of skilled Utopians.

Keil, who was born in 1812 in central Germany, immigrated to New York City in 1837. “He joined the Methodist Church in Pittsburgh and was on his way to becoming a minister, but decided not to continue with that particular group,” Harris said. “However, he was persuasive and a number of church members liked him.

“Keil’s belief that ministers should not be paid lead to discussions on how to do that, and the communal-living model was brought up,” he explained.

Among these church members was the Giesy family, and here, Keil found his evangelists. Andrew and Barbara Giesy had 15 children and their four oldest sons became Keil’s itinerant preachers.

And it was only a matter of time before Keil encountered members of a splinter group of experienced and pragmatic Harmonists.

The Harmonist Society, founded in 1785 by George Rapp, was a religious communal society whose members were waiting for the Second Coming, and by the late 1930s, a number of other utopian communities had cropped up. “Because of the panic of 1837 with countrywide bank failures, a group of preachers and communal advocates said this was signalizing the Apocalypse and communal living was one of the solutions on how to handle society’s problems,” Harris said.

The Harmonists experienced a major schism in 1832 when about 250 broke away with Bernard Muller. They were living outside of Pittsburgh when Keil ran across them.

These former members of the Harmony Society were interested in communal living but didn’t go along with Rapp’s teachings on celibacy. They did, however, know what it took to be part of a communal group, and had already built four communities — three for Rapp, and another for Muller, Harris said.

“They were thrifty and industrious people, skilled, experienced carpenters and mechanics. They liked communal living and thought Keil wouldn’t be too difficult to deal with — Keil never was a prophetic character.

“Keil sent scouts from the Harmonists to look for a site, and they picked the Bethel, Missouri site because it had a mill and stream. They converted the mill to steam power and supplied the area. Keil was very innovative.”

Encouraged by Bethel’s success, Keil decided to go west. “He was a restless character; Missouri was a slave state and that was anathema to their Christian belief, and people were going through Bethel on their way west,” Harris said. “Maybe Keil visualized that he could really develop an Eden in all that open land.”

In 1850, the Donation Land Act passed, promising 643 acres in Oregon County to married couples and 320 to single people. Free land got Keil’s attention, and he sent out scouts again. This is the group that included Emma and Christian Giesy.

The scouts settled down in Wallapa Valley, but that didn’t suit Keil; he felt the area was too wet and heavily forested.

While searching for a site more to his liking, Keil went to Portland and ran across John Walker Grim at the Portland Harbor, who was getting ready to ship a load of apples to San Francisco. Keil asked, “Where did you get those apples?” Grim answered, “Down in the valley.”

“Keil was interested because Grim and other Willamette Valley settlers were part of the 1847 wagon trains and had brought fruits starts with them over the Oregon Trail, and their orchards were blooming by the mid 1850s,” Harris said.

“The Gold Rush was in 1849 and these farmers were selling apples to the California market, making fistfuls of money.”

Also, some of these early settlers had beat the 49ers to the gold fields and had already found gold, Harris said. “They didn’t want to work all their land, and sold some to Keil, who chose parcels that included orchards, a saw mill and grist mill. Keil ended up supplying the area with those goods.”

Over time, younger colonists grew restless, and Keil had not groomed a successor. A few years after his death in 1877, the colonists amicably divided up the assets through the Federal Courts and the community disbanded. Now Aurora is a typical town with a population of about 1,000, including a handful of descendants.

Charles Snyder House1

The Charles Synder House: Charles Snyder was ten years old, when he came with his family to Aurora in Keil’s wagon train. In 1867, eighteen-year-old Christina Schuele drove a mule team from Bethel to Aurora, marrying Charles two years later. They had five children.

emma house1

The George Kraus house: Built about 1864, members of the Kraus family lived in it from 1879 to the mid 1960s. Prior to that, members of the Giesy family lived in this house during the 1860s and 1870s. George Kraus’ wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of John Giesy, an administrator of colony business relationships with non-members.  Emma Wagner Giesy also lived in the house for some time.

Wm Keil store

Above: Wm. Keil and Company Store was the business name of Aurora’s general country store that catered to neighboring pioneers. Across the street is the site of the Aurora Colony Store where colony members came to receive their goods. It was torn down in 1931.

Walter Fry house

The Walter Fry House: Walter Fry, son of William and Annie, married Aurora schoolteacher, Lottie Foster in 1922. The couple lived in this house with Lottie’s two children.

Leonard and Triphena Will house

The Leonard Will House: Leonard was the colony’s butcher. His wife, Triphena, made some of the colony’s finest quilts. Their original house was converted to he offices of the Aurora Observer newspaper in 1908, and this more modern house was then built for them.

architectural salvage

Ziegler’s Warehouse: George Ziegler came to Aurora in 1867. The warehouse was originally constructed in 1890 by Ziegler and was built on the original site of the Colony’s horse stables, the Blue Barn. This building currently houses the Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage business.

Emmas living room

The George Kraus House is furnished entirely with artifacts from the Aurora Colony, the vast majority having been donated by the Kraus family.

Aurora town view 1875

An overview of Aurora in 1875: Original pre-1883 buildings still standing include the general store, the ox barn, the George and Elizabeth Kraus house, railroad depot, the Miley log house, the William Fry house and the Octagon building. The communal home, the Unter; Keil’s house, “Das Grosse Haus;” the mills; hotel; pharmacy; and church are gone. Credit for this one photo:  Aurora Colony Historical Society

Old Colony Museum Ox Barn

The Aurora Colony ox barn was constructed about 1860 to provide an enclosed space for the colony’s oxen that had pulled the wagons across the Oregon Trail. Once in Aurora, the oxen hauled logs as the land was cleared for the village, and helped plow acres of land for the colonists’ crops.

Octagon building

Above: The Octagon Building is all that’s left of the original Pioneer Hotel complex.

william fry house

The William Fry House: William Fry was the colonist’s blacksmith. He built this house in 1874 when he married Annie Miller.

museum complex steinbach house

Above: Steinbach Cabin: George and his wife Catherine Miley Steinbach lived in this cabin with their five young children from 1876 to 1883 when, after the colony disbanded, they built a new frame home that also still stands.

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller’s house was built in 1890. Jacob served as the colony’s leader in Bethel and helped settle the community’s business before returning to Aurora in 1882.

museum complex

Above: In the yard and garden on the museum complex, directly facing is the washhouse. The back of Emma’s house is to the left.

Aurora depot

Southern Pacific Depot: Keil was a friend of Ben Holladay, the financier of the Oregon and California Railroad. The depot was moved in 1990 from its original location near the old mill.