PHOTOS: HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

COOL COMEAU-VER

Handsome Comeau-ver

The jammed-to-the-rafters Wine Dive popped its last cork in its huge, 7,000-sq. ft. space on the ground floor of the historic Comeau Building more than a year ago.  The high-profile space is now getting a major makeover, courtesy of building owner, David Associates. Expect to see new tenants by November in smaller spaces within the footprint, with retailers facing Clematis and office space inside.

Heralded as a “skyscraper” by the Palm Beach Post-Times in 1926, the 10-story, $1.5 million Comeau Building won a heated, head-to-head race to completion with the Harvey Building, just around the corner on Olive, by a few days.  Known for its massive, ornamental columns and dramatic, wrought iron lanterns that still hang from the ceiling in the two-story arcade, its developer was the distinguished, 1920s financier and business figure, Alfred J. Comeau.

Designed by architect Henry Stephen Harvey, West Palm’s mayor from 1924 – 1925 (he also designed Palm Beach’s very pretty Town Hall, the Guaranty Building, the Holy Trinity Church on Flagler… and the Harvey Building), the 100,000-sq.ft. Comeau boasted the latest in construction techniques – reinforced concrete – and was called “fireproof.” But, ahem, a fire broke out in a law office in 1986 and three floors suffered damage… because there were no sprinklers. Modern features back then included an attractive glass mail chute connecting every floor, ice water pumped to drinking fountains on each floor, and high- speed elevators for the time.

The grande dame of Clematis St. stood strong through the infamous hurricane of 1928 that reduced much of downtown’s construction to matchsticks. DISTRICT publisher Carey O’Donnell handled PR for the building (where she launched her agency) in 1996, helping to get it added to the National Register of Historic Places. Early retail tenants included swanky shops from NY’s Fifth Avenue, but the tumultuous economy of the time led it to being sold under bankruptcy on the courthouse steps in 1932 for just $130,000.

“The Comeau is an extraordinary building that presents the area’s rich history to the community every day, while serving as a vital, 21st century office environment,” said David Associates Marketing Manager, Brooke Murphy. “We have also owned the Harvey Building for several years, and fully understand the hard work it takes to maintain these historic gems. It all pays off with very happy tenants and a great relationship with both the city and its residents.”

The Historical Society of Palm Beach County provided our research. Check them out: www.hspbc.org

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