Descendants of one of Palm Beach’s oldest families completed a real estate hand-off this week that included a $7 million deed transfer from one generation to the next. The transaction involved one of the oldest structures on the island, the deconsecrated church known as the Old Bethesda-by-the-Sea, which faces the lake at 306 Maddock Way. It’s part of what was once a large estate owned by the pioneer Maddock family.
Today, the former church is the longtime home of investment manager Leigh McMakin and his interior-designer wife, Mimi Maddock McMakin. She is descended from Henry Maddock, who built the lakefront Duck’s Nest in 1891; today, it’s the second-oldest home on the island.
The second incarnation of TheEpiscopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea was constructed next door and served the community until it was deconsecrated in the mid-1920s, replaced by the present-day church on Barton Avenue.
After that, the building became a private home, passed down through the Maddock family. Another historic lakefront home on the property, known as Tree Tops, was demolished.
More recently, Old Bethesda and Duck’s Nest became part of the 5-acre Landmark Estates, which was carved in 2008 from the remaining part of the Maddock estate. The subdivision’s first new home is under construction, about a mile north of Royal Palm Way.;
Mimi McMakin, a principal at Kemble Interiors in Palm Beach, has lavished attention – and lots of maintenance – on the five-bedroom house, her home for more than 30 years.
“I know as much about termites as anyone,” McMakin quipped this week.
The new owners of the landmarked property are her daughter and son-in-law, decorator Celerie Kemble and husband Ravenel Boykin Curry IV. Mother and daughter are business colleagues at Kemble Interiors, although Celerie Kemble’s work is based in New York City. Another daughter, Phoebe Kemble, works in the company’s London office.
Mimi McMakin’s daughters and grandchildren represent the fifth and sixth generations with ties to the old church building and Duck’s Nest, as well as another landmarked building at 294 Hibiscus Ave., the home of Kemble Interiors.
“That’s pretty special in this town, right?” McMakin said. “It’s a tribute to the town and to family.”
The McMakins will continue to occupy Old Bethesda, said Celerie, who grew up there. With three children of her own, she and her husband have divided their time among homes on Central Park South, in Bellport on Long Island, and in the Dominican Republic’s Playa Grande.
Celerie Kemble credits the family homestead with giving her a “sense of purpose, professionally and sentimentally. We only pretend the house is inanimate — we think of it as a house of spirits. It was born of the community and was a labor of love for those who created it.”
By Darrell Hofheinz