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Publisher's Letter

Home, Sweet Home

We like to say that journalism is like going to school every day, without even thinking about it.

It was the fall of 1970. We needed a house in Fort Lauderdale (Boca Raton had not yet been invented) and we needed it fast. We were moving into a new state, and a new town where we knew almost no one. We were taking over a magazine that we did not understand, and there was little time to screw around finding a place to live.

At the time most young families were moving west, to new communities such as Coral Springs and Plantation, so that’s where we looked. The problem was that both of us had 16 years of Catholic school education, and we wanted a Catholic school for our three kids. In that time, if you did not send a kid to a Catholic school you would go to Hell. But in that time, everything you did would send you to Hell.

When the wife checked out the Catholic school in Plantation, she was told there was a three-year waiting list. She asked where she could find a school without such a wait. Somebody suggested she try the old school downtown, St. Anthony. So she did, and after finding out there were open slots for geniuses, we searched homeward east. With the help of Martha Brown of L.C. Judd and Company, we lucked into a house in the old neighborhood of Colee Hammock, within walking distance of St. Anthony. By today’s standards, it was 
almost free.

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The neighborhood, with a few glowing exceptions, was vernacular architecture, meaning the small houses looked much the same as when they were built, 30 to 50 years before. Ours was built in 1939. The houses were not fancy, but all were different. They were almost all one story, with just a few bedrooms, no swimming pools and few helicopter pads. And tons of old oaks, some of which may have seen the Seminole era.

Today, much is changed, and we strive to protect the remaining old homes. Tough job, when on our own street two spectacular homes have appeared, houses based on the old antebellum homes in Charleston and Savannah, built for the same reasons. Elegant residences within walking distance of a city center. It is hard to knock a neighbor who increases your home’s value by $25,000, minimum.

This relates to Eric Barton’s piece on page 58. He examines three neighborhoods in South Florida where history confronts reality. Historic preservationists are in constant tension with folks who, understandably, want the best value from land in old neighborhoods.

Where do we stand? Obviously on the side of history, against those whose greed will rob of us a lovely view of our past. Unless, of course, we can sell our modest joint for $2 million to some fine fellow who wants to put up a 100-story building. Providing that he doesn’t mess with the oak trees.

Associate Editor Heather Carney had an interesting month (page 68) profiling a woman with quite a profile – in more ways than one. Lola Astanova can not only tickle the ivories, she looks quite well doing it, as the accompanying fashion spread proves. We like to say that journalism is like going to school every day, without even thinking about it. Every story is a learning experience. Heather’s experience was learning how to spell Rachmaninoff.