Historic Vera and Clarence Hammerstein House
Built 1935, Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 2005
1520 Polk Street, Hollywood, Florida
Historic Vera and Clarence Hammerstein House, late 1940s
Image Courtesy of the Broward County Historical Commission, Pat Smith Collection
Historic Vera and Clarence Hammerstein House, 1980
Image Courtesy of the Broward County Historical Commission
Historic Vera and Clarence Hammerstein House, 2011
Image Courtesy of Broward County Libraries Division
The house was designed by prominent Hollywood architect Bayard Lukens in 1935 for Vera and Clarence Hammerstein. This is a fine example of the style Lukens called “Tropical Modern,” with variegated tile roof and a smooth curving wall at the front entrance. White stucco walls were set off by horizontal trim in another color. His interiors are beautifully detailed, with moldings, trim over and around doors, fireplaces with heatolators (vents with decorative metal screens along the sides of the fireplace), and use of decorative Cuban and Spanish tiles.
World War I pilot Hammerstein and his bride, Vera Rust, both from Indiana, moved to Florida in November 1925 to join friends Jane and Floyd Wray in the booming young city of Hollywood. Unable to find rooms in Hollywood they first settled in Miami near a citrus grove which Vera tended while Ham, as he was called, commuted to Hollywood to sell real estate for the Hollywood Land & Water Company. The Hammersteins moved to Hollywood in 1928 where they first lived in the Fountain Court Apartments at 813 Tyler Street with Vera’s parents, Jacob and Mary Rust.
As real estate was no longer lucrative in the wake of the 1926 hurricane, the Hammersteins sought a new business and made a lasting mark in the community. With the Wrays and Frank Stirling, a citrus grower from Davie, they founded Flamingo Groves in January 1927. Ham Hammerstein was vice president in charge of advertising and sales. The citrus groves still operate as Flamingo Gardens.
Ham and Vera next moved to 1536–38 Polk Street and, during the Depression when lots were auctioned off for tax certificates, the couple acquired eleven lots on Polk Street, including the three lots on which they built their house. In the 1940s both Ham and Vera were very active in the war effort in Hollywood – Vera was the head of a group of women volunteers who canned local produce. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Ham and Vera traveled throughout the world seeking exotic plants; Ham made a special study of the culture of mangos.
At his death in September 1987 at 92, Clarence Hammerstein left this house to the City of Hollywood in memory of his beloved wife, Vera, who had predeceased him. (They had no children.) He made the decision to donate the house after having seen the Taj Mahal.
The house is shown to the public by the Hollywood Historical Society and is open to the public one Sunday each month (except during the summer).
Call the Historical Society for specifics, 954-923-5590 or visit www.hollywoodhistoricalsociety.org.