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Hazel Augustus (with family)
*Hazel Augustus was born on this date in 1854. He was a Black Architect.
Little is known about Augustus’ life. From Orlando, Florida, after marriage and starting a family, he moved to Palm Beach County early in the century, according to an account given to The Post by his goddaughter, Hazel Augustus Driskell, in 1990.
He designed three of the boom era’s most distinguished, most enduring buildings. They were the El Verano Hotel (now the Helen Wilkes Residence Hotel), and two churches in West Palm Beach: Payne Chapel A.M.E. and Tabernacle Baptist churches. After he served in World War I, Augustus went to the University of Pennsylvania, said Preston Tillman, a leader of the Palm Beach Black Historical Preservation Society. As the area’s first Black architect, he was a tall, lanky man who spoke softly, even when critiquing a construction worker, Tillman recalled.
He designed many of the grandest homes in the Black neighborhood of West Palm Beach. His El Verano Hotel, designed in 1922 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, has been drastically modernized and only glimpses of its original glamour can now be seen. Augustus’ career was cut short on February 13, 1929, when he died in a traffic accident. His home, on Division Street, was to have been restored as a centerpiece of Black heritage, along with the Augustus-designed Gwen Cherry house next door, but it was to run down.