Duck’s Nest, Palm Beach’s second-oldest home earns Robert I. Ballinger Award

Duck’s Nest Palm Beach. Courtesy: Brantley Photography – Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach

As with many things this year, the annual Robert I. Ballinger Award ceremony hosted by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit foundation was slated to host its 32nd annual awards presentation luncheon at The Breakers this month but was rescheduled for a March 2021, by-invitation-only event at the winning home.

Built in 1891, Duck’s Nest located at 303 Maddock Way, is Palm Beach’s second-oldest home and is the recipient of the 2020 Robert I. Ballinger Award.

The award is the nonprofit’s most esteemed honor and commemorates excellence in the restoration of a landmarked estate or public space that best embodies the county’s architectural heritage.

This year, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach celebrated its 40th anniversary. The goal of the organization is to “encourage the community to learn about and save the historic sites that make Palm Beach special,” according to the mission statement on their website.

Duck’s Nest was recently restored by its owners, Julie and Brian Simmons, who also happen to own a custom home next door.

The renovation project of the estate took inspiration from their primary residence next door and establishes an aesthetic connection between the homes. Duck’s Nest currently acts as a guesthouse and extension of the Simmonses primary neighboring home.

Purchased in the summer of 2018 from the family the street was named after, the Simmonses acquired the home from the Maddock’s, which owned the property since its construction over 125 years ago. The estate coincidentally holds the Palm Beach record as the oldest residential living space to have been continuously owned by the same family.

The property’s name derives from the ducks that roosted on a once vast freshwater marsh on the east side of the property. The home’s architecture resembles that of the first homes in the area featuring a large front porch and gabled roofs. 

Before Julie and Brian purchased the home in 2018, Paul “Jay” Maddock promoted a plan to demolish the deteriorating walls of the home and replace them with concrete blocks as well as other changes, but the acquisition of the home by the Simmonses ended those plans.

The [Simmonses] “have done an extraordinary service for the community by ensuring this irreplaceable piece of our past can be shared with future generations. We are incredibly fortunate that they stepped forward to save Duck’s Nest,” said executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, Amanda Skier. 

Duck’s Nest project was described as “rehabilitation” by Skier. The process included the reinforcement of the home’s structure from the inside out, to maintain the integrity of the exterior’s material and replicating “deteriorated” architectural frames.

“The interior floor plan was slightly modified to accommodate modern living without sacrificing the intimate spaces reflective of the time period,” added Skier.

A 42-foot pool was also built on the old property line between the Simmonses’ two homes to aid the estate unification, according to architect Roger Janssen of Daily Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2018.

The design team included SMI Landscape Architecture, Seabreeze Building, and interior designer Phoebe Howard.

While the home has seen multiple expansions over the years, the original structure of the house on the property consisted of two cabins assembled to form one home was brought to Palm Beach via barge and train from New York in 1891. 

“Duck’s Nest is a great lesson in the importance of patience when it comes to historic preservation. For a building to be saved from demolition, it often takes waiting for the right owner, a person who recognizes its value, to come along,” said Skier.

The Ballinger Award was named in honor of the late Robert. I Ballinger, former Chairman of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is an annual award presented each year in December at the Foundation’s membership luncheon, according to the nonprofit’s website. Per Skier, the award will be presented at an invite-only event at Duck’s Nest on March 25, 2021. It will be the first time the award is presented at the award-winning site.

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