Clarence H. Geist

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Clarence Henry Geist
Clarence Henry Geist.png
Born(1866-01-10)January 10, 1866
DiedJune 12, 1938(1938-06-12) (aged 72)
OccupationUtilities executive, financier
Known forPurchasing Mizner Development Corporation's assets in Boca Raton, Florida
Spouse(s)Florence Hewitt Geist

Clarence Henry Geist (1866 – June 12, 1938) was a financier who played an important role in the early history of Boca Raton, Florida.

Biography[edit]

Clarence Geist was born and raised on a farm in LaPorte County, Indiana. When he was 18 he left Indiana and spent five years in the far West working in cattle ranching, but returned East when he realized he "could not make money where there wasn't any". He settled in Blue Island, Illinois[1] and worked for a year on the Rock Island Railroad as a conductor, and subsequent to that entered the real estate business [2] and served as president of the Cottage Building and Loan in Blue Island.[3] Geist then set himself up as a natural gas distributor, where he supplied gas to Blue Island, Morgan Park, then a suburb of Chicago, and Illinois suburbs south of Blue Island that included Harvey and Chicago Heights.[4]

His wife was Florence Hewitt Geist.[5] He walked with a cane and was an avid golfer, participating in tournaments.[5] From 1912 to 1938 he was the principal owner of the Indianapolis Water Company.[6] Geist Reservoir (1943) is named for him. He also founded in 1910 the company today known as South Jersey Industries, when the Atlantic City Gas and Water Company merged with Atlantic City Gas Company. He eventually owned over 100 utilities.[5]

Geist was a friend of Charles G. Dawes, who in 1925 became Calvin Coolidge's Vice-President. Geist left Indiana first to work for the Dawes family in Chicago.

In 1924 he had built in Palm Beach La Claridad, a mansion designed by Palm Beach architect Marion Sims Wyeth, who also designed Mar-a-Lago.[5] He was a member of the Everglades Club, and the mansion was built on the club grounds (which covered several blocks).

When Addison Mizner's Mizner Development Corporation went bankrupt in 1926 after trying to build the new resort of Boca Raton, Geist bought its assets in 1927 via an anonymous bid of $76,350. Included were the Cloister Inn, fifty houses, and 15,000 acres of land.[7][8]: 173  He commissioned the New York architectural firm Schultze and Weaver to create an addition to the 100-room Cloister Inn, resulting in the 450-room Boca Raton Club, which accepted its first guests in December, 1929, ahead of its 1930 formal opening.[9]: 117 

Geist made a low-interest loan to Boca Raton to finance its first municipal water plant (which he convinced Boca Raton it needed) and provide water for the guests at his new hotel.[10] He built it in Mizner's style, for visual harmony. At the time, the handsome, Mediterranean-style plant was the most modern in the state.[9]: 108  (It was replaced by a much larger plant in 1956, parts having become unavailable for the original equipment.[10] The building was demolished and the site currently houses Boca's City Hall.) He also paid for an elegant, Mediterranean-style depot on the Florida East Coast Railway (in 2017 operated by the Boca Raton Historical Society as a museum). Geist allegedly bought stock in the railroad in order to influence its choice of Boca Raton depot.[9]: 114 

He died at his home in Villanova, Pennsylvania on June 12, 1938.[11] At the time of his death it was reported at one time that Geist was reputed to be worth $100,000,000 ($1.93 billion in 2021) [12]

Legacy[edit]

The bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway on Mizner's Camino Real is officially the Clarence H. Geist Memorial Bridge (1939), replacing a temporary swing bridge built by Geist.[13][14]

A Clarence H. Geist Memorial Organ (1940) is located at the Overbrook Memorial Church in Overbrook, New Jersey.[15] Geist was the founder and owner of the New Jersey Seaview Country Club (1914).[16][17] He was on the Board of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company at the time of his death.[18] He owned a Philadelphia Main Line mansion.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Annual Lakeside Directory of the City of Chicago – 1900 – EMBRACING A COMPLETE GENERAL AND BUSINESS DIRECTORY, MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION, AND STREET GUIDE. Chicago: The Chicago Directory Company. 1900. p. 712.
  2. ^ "C. H. Geist and Edward Hopkinson, Jr., Elected members of U.G.I. [United Gas Improvement] Board" (PDF). Spanish River Papers. 16. 1987–1988. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2018. First published in U.G.I. Circle (internal organ), August, 1930
  3. ^ "(Untitled)". Westville Indicator News. V (48): 2. January 27, 1902.
  4. ^ "Items of Interest from Various Localities". The American Gas Light Journal. LXXVI (4): 124. January 27, 1902. Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Mayhew, Augustus (July 13, 2010). "Clarence Geist: Palm Beach & Boca Raton". New York Social Diary. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  6. ^ Britt, Tom (2015). "Germantown: The Lost City Under Geist Reservoir". Town Poste Network. Archived from the original on November 17, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Historical Society of Palm Beach County (2009). "Clarence Henry Geist". Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  8. ^ Vickers, Raymond B. (1994), Panic in Paradise. Florida's Banking Crash of 1926, University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0817307230
  9. ^ a b c Gillis, Susan; Boca Raton Historical Society (2007). Boomtime Boca. Boca Raton in the 1920s. Arcadia. ISBN 9780738544434.
  10. ^ a b "Minutes from the City Commission meeting, June 16, 1928" (PDF). Spanish River Papers. 16. 1987–1988. p. (unpaged). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  11. ^ "Clarence H. Geist Dies at Age of 72". The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 13, 1938. p. 1. Archived from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "C.H. Geist, Founder of Northern Illinois Gas and Electric Company, Dies". The Hammond Times. XXXII (305): 1.
  13. ^ Chokey, Aric (July 20, 2017). "Boca's Camino Real bridge, one of 14 'deficient' in South Florida, up for repair". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Streeter, Angel (December 3, 2011). "Historic status saves Camino Real Bridge in Boca Raton". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  15. ^ "The Clarence H. Geist Memorial Organ". Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  16. ^ "Mrs. Clarence Geist Entertains" (PDF). Spanish River Papers. 1987–1988. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2018. Reprinted from Palm Beach Post, 4 April 1925
  17. ^ Heritage Time Capsules (November 13, 2014). "Time Capsule Buried at Historic Site in New Jersey". Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  18. ^ White, Robert V. (1939). "One Hundred and Eighteenth Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to the Stockholders Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 1938" (PDF). p. 8. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 11, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  19. ^ "Godfrey Residence". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 2, 2018.