By "ultramodern piece of art," the listing for this five-bedroom contemporary in Golden Beach, Fla. probably refers to the curves and angles that jut out in Picasso-like fashion on all sides. Built in 1994 and designed by Carlos Zapata—the architect behind NYC's The Standard, East Village as well as the city's proposed "pope hat" condo building—the home might best be referred to as boxy but italicized. With a window-covered back end looking out over an infinity pool, a two-story guest house, and beyond those, the Atlantic, plus a few other glassy sections breaking up all that whiteness, it's essentially a relic from when futuristic still meant zig-zagged and partially transparent. And if the listing is to be believed, it comes with another historical pedigree, sitting on the former site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Winter White House," a name given to many presidential beach getaways. And as with most "facts" found in real estate listings, this one should probably come with a bit of a disclaimer.
The thing is, Winter White Houses are a dime a dozen. If the official site for the Obama family's occasional Kailua Bay vacation rental and its "Vacation like a president" tagline are any indication, these titles come from realtors and property owners rather than historians. Even the spot of Nixon's former Key Biscayne Winter White House isn't shy about its connection. FDR's primary vacation home was called the Little White House. It's where he died, in 1945, and has been operating as a museum since 1948. As keen readers of the Wikipedia page will note, it's located in Warm Springs, Ga., which is a long way from Golden Beach.
Which isn't to say that a president can't have two Winter White Houses, one of which is surprisingly absent of evidence or documentation outside of real estate listings. The FDR Presidential Library was able to confirm that Eleanor Roosevelt rented a home in Golden Beach during winter vacations in 1940 and 1941, which belonged to friends of her friend, Earl Miller. According to a Miami News article from 1941, the First Lady stayed at 365 Ocean Boulevard during her Golden Beach vacation that summer, which is just down the street from 219 Ocean Boulevard, where our Zapata-designed offering is located.
Attempts to get in touch with the owners were unsuccessful. Jill Hertzberg, who represented the property as of last month, credited them as the source of the home's Winter White House claim. Even if it does sit on the same piece of land as a now-demolished home that Eleanor Roosevelt rented twice—which would hardly a Winter White House make—what we're left with is a 7,795-square-foot contemporary, last sold in 2002 for $4,675,000, currently asking $12.9M. (With, it must be said, a pretty cool second-floor bridge running through the living room connecting the two larger wings, and a suspended copper roof and two koi ponds that must look nice up close.) If you know anything about FDR's second "Winter White House," feel free to get in touch.