Once home to the First United Methodist Church of West Palm Beach, the transformed 11,000 square-foot space is today named The Harriet Himmel Theater for Cultural and Performing Arts in honor of Ms. Himmel’s generous gift to complete its restoration. The Harriet is the centerpiece of CityPlace and architectural style served as a type for the basic design of the entire development.
The Church was originally built in 1926, at a cost of $225,000 by the Walker Brothers of Birmingham, Alabama and designed by Spencer and Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee. The three-story, 51,786-square foot building is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial revival architecture of its time. The interior of this three-story facility is architecturally significant due to details like the original open-truss, pecky cypress ceilings, a tiered mezzanine and large divided windows overlooking the main floor. The structure of the building is composed of steel columns and beams. Exterior walls are hollow clay, with a moderately textured stucco surface. Interior walls are plaster. Cast concrete ornamentation is present on all facades. Only minor alterations have been made to the building since 1926. Over the years, many of the windows on the ground floor were enclosed and covered with stucco. During the 1950s, the tower room was rebuilt and a memorial wall commemorating World War II was installed. In 1967, an elevator was added.
The church officially opened to the public on Christmas Eve, 1926, under the leadership of Reverend L.M. Broyles. In 1928, they housed victims of the hurricane for nearly eleven months, until all of the people who lost their homes were able to rebuild. When the Crash of 1929 hit, pledges for the church were not met, and it was deeded back to the bondholders in brand-new Orleans, Louisiana. Services had to be held in the high school auditorium. When the bondholders couldn’t sell the church, they offered the congregation the option of raising $25,000 to take it over. Church members sold everything-including wedding rings—to make the payment.
In 1987, the church was sold to Downtown/Uptown developers Henry J. Rolfs and David C. Paladino for $2.75 million. The deal included a clause stipulating use of the church by the congregation until a brand-new church was built. The final service services were held December 31, 1989. In 1990, the stained glass windows, organ, sanctuary floor and the original cornerstone were moved from the old church to the brand-new $8 million United Methodist of the Palm Beaches church at 900 Brandywine Road. Renovations did not begin until late 1998, when final plans were approved for the successor of the Uptown/Downtown project, Palladium at CityPlace.
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