VOLK

Palm Beach Daily News - - OPINION -

place for it,” John K. Volk said.

Jane Volk had the col­lec­tion ap­praised in the 1990s, when it was as­signed a value of nearly $1 mil­lion for in­sur­ance pur­poses, foun­da­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Amanda Skier said. A new ap­praisal is un­der­way, she added.

The foun­da­tion al­ready has be­gun the process of sort­ing through the col­lec­tion, which in­cludes more than 28,000 draw­ings, more than 4,000 pho­tos, about 300 books and boxes of cor­re­spon­dence, and other ma­te­ri­als, foun­da­tion Di­rec­tor of Ar­chives Shel­lie La­bell said. There also are dozens of items re­lated to what La­bell calls “so­cial his­tory” — pho­tos of peo­ple, news­pa­per clip­pings, and per­sonal let­ters and cards.

The col­lec­tion be­comes the largest of the foun­da­tion’s four ar­chives doc­u­ment­ing the work of prom­i­nent Palm Beach ar­chi­tects. The oth­ers fo­cus on Mar­ion Sims Wyeth, Belford Shou­mate and Henry K. Hard­ing.

“The ac­qui­si­tion of this col­lec­tion is the re­al­iza­tion of a goal the foun­da­tion has had for 20 years,” Skier said, not­ing that dis­cus­sions first took place in the 1990s be­tween Volk’s widow and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“I think the ac­qui­si­tion brings us to the level of be­ing a true re­search in­sti­tu­tion,” Skier said, adding that she ex­pects the col­lec­tion also will be used for ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and ex­hi­bi­tions

‘A trea­sure trove’

Once in­ven­to­ried and cat­a­loged, the Volk col­lec­tion will be avail­able to re­searchers, ar­chi­tects, his­to­ri­ans and home­own­ers, La­bell said. The ul­ti­mate goal is to have items dig­i­tally scanned for on­line ac­cess.

That will be a wel­come devel­op­ment, said ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian Jane Day, a for­mer preser­va­tion con­sul­tant to the town.

“This is a trea­sure trove for ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­ri­ans and stu­dents,” Day said.

The col­lec­tion also will be ap­pre­ci­ated by own­ers of Volk-de­signed homes, many of which have been al­tered over the years through ren­o­va­tions or ad­di­tions, Day added. “If some­body buys a John Volk house and wants to ren­o­vate it to bring it up to the 21st cen­tury, the first place to go is to look at what John Volk did him­self.”

Volk, who died in 1984 at 82, de­signed and ren­o­vated hun­dreds of pri­vate homes and com­mer­cial build­ings in Palm Beach. His projects in­clude the de­signs of the Royal Poin­ciana Plaza shop­ping cen­ter, the Royal Poin­ciana Play­house and The Beach Club along with a ma­jor 1940s ren­o­va­tion of the Bath & Ten­nis Club and a later ren­o­va­tion of Town Hall, to name a few.

His work also is rep­re­sented in cities across the state — he de­signed, for ex­am­ple, the Parker Play­house in Fort Laud­erdale, homes in Boca Ra­ton, and ren­o­va­tions and ad­di­tions at Good Sa­mar­i­tan Med­i­cal Cen­ter in West Palm Beach. He also worked ex­ten­sively in the Ba­hamas.

Aus­trian born but raised in New York City, Volk be­gan his Palm Beach ar­chi­tec­tural ca­reer in the 1920s and con­tin­ued prac­tic­ing well into his se­nior years. He out­lived many of his early pro­fes­sional con­tem­po­raries, in­clud­ing Wyeth, Ad­di­son Mizner and Mau­rice Fa­tio.

His work cov­ers a va­ri­ety of ar­chi­tec­tural styles, from Mediter­ranean to Ge­or­gian, West In­dies to con­tem­po­rary. One of his mod­ern de­signs, for La Ronda — a since-de­mol­ished Palm Beach house built in 1969 at 444 North Lake Way — was among his son’s fa­vorites.

“La Ronda was quite in­ter­est­ing — very con­tem­po­rary,” said John K. Volk, a restora­tion paint­ing con­trac­tor who has worked on many of his fa­ther’s homes. “He did Span­ish, he did mod­ern; he was very di­ver­si­fied. He was al­ways busy.”

The col­lec­tion be­comes the largest of the foun­da­tion’s

four ar­chives doc­u­ment­ing the work of prom­i­nent Palm Beach ar­chi­tects.

‘A lot in these ar­chives’

Volk’s early ca­reer in­cluded a part­ner­ship at the firm of Craig-Stevens-Volk, and after that, he part­nered for sev­eral years with ar­chi­tect Gus­tav Maass, whose work also is rep­re­sented in the foun­da­tion’s col­lec­tion. In 1936, Volk built a Ber­muda-style house, White Gables, he de­signed for 598 S. County Road, where he lived with his first wife, Beatrice Tay­lor Volk.

He later opened his own firm in Palm Beach’s Phipps Plaza on the ground floor of a 1920s-era build­ing that he com­bined with the house next door and used as his res­i­dence. In 1947 he mar­ried Jane Volk, who was later a long­time chair­woman of the Land­marks Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion. After her death at 88 in 2010, John K. Volk moved with his wife into his par­ents’ house at 206 Phipps Plaza. Lory Volk died in April, and the house is now on the mar­ket.

Fol­low­ing her hus­band’s death, Jane Volk worked closely with her daugh­ter-in-law to or­ga­nize his pa­pers, which were stored in a se­cond-floor room at the house. The room was packed with items, be­cause John L. Volk rarely dis­carded any of his work­ing ma­te­ri­als.

“She called it the swamp,” her son said.

Day, who con­sid­ers Jane Volk a men­tor, cred­its her with help­ing safe­guard her hus­band’s legacy by or­ga­niz­ing the col­lec­tion and pub­lish­ing John L. Volk: Palm Beach Ar­chi­tect, a book about his work, which she put to­gether with her daugh­ter-in-law’s help.

“It took Jane Volk’s cat­a­loging of the (items) to make them us­able,” Day said. “There is a lot in these ar­chives. Only when the foun­da­tion goes through it will we know the ex­tent of it.”

Es­tab­lish­ing value

Fort Laud­erdale-based ap­praiser Robert A. Hit­tel has al­ready spent sev­eral days go­ing through the col­lec­tion at the Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion to es­tab­lish a value for in­sur­ance and tax-do­na­tion pur­poses.

“I think the amaz­ing thing is the breadth of the work — golf clubs, re­sorts, pri­vate homes, banks, apart­ments,” said Hit­tel, of Robert A. Hit­tel Ap­praisal Ser­vices.

At one point, John K. Volk said, ne­go­ti­a­tions were un­der way to do­nate the col­lec­tion to the Uni­ver­sity of Florida but an agree­ment never emerged. In any case, keep­ing the col­lec­tion in town rather than Gainesville was a bet­ter fit, he said.

The col­lec­tion, he said, “would never be ap­pre­ci­ated there like (it will be) in Palm Beach.”

Da­mon Hig­gins / Daily News

In the Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion of Palm Beach meet­ing room Wed­nes­day, art ap­prais­ers Robert Hit­tel and Brit­tany Hyde ex­am­ine a draw­ing done by the late so­ci­ety ar­chi­tectJohn L. Volk of a de­sign for a home for at­tor­ney Her­bert Pulitzer, and dated Dec. 11, 1940. The late Lory Volk and her hus­band, John K. Volk, son of the late ar­chi­tect John L. Volk, at­tend a Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion of Palm Beach lun­cheon in 2010.

Da­mon Hig­gins / Daily News

A draw­ing by John L. Volk of a res­i­dence for Mr. and Mrs. V.J. Klies­rath, com­mis­sion No. 379, is spread flat in the Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion meet­ing room Wed­nes­day to be pho­tographed by ap­prais­ers.

Daily News file photo

John L. and Jane Volk were pho­tographed in 1971 at Palm Beach Tow­ers.

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