Annual Christmas celebration at Naples' Palm Cottage a merry fundraiser

Arlene Garrity and Bruce Conley were among the supporters of Naples Historical Society who admired the artwork and enjoyed the seasonal elegance at the annual Palm Cottage gala.

Photo by Bob Raymond

Arlene Garrity and Bruce Conley were among the supporters of Naples Historical Society who admired the artwork and enjoyed the seasonal elegance at the annual Palm Cottage gala.

A record mix of 184 Neapolitans and newcomers mingled upstairs, downstairs and outside Palm Cottage, the house museum built in 1895 and long home to the Naples Historical Society for its annual fundraiser Dec. 7.

Tucked away, yet holding forth in a cozy corner of the home's study, were Laverne Norris Gaynor — the adjacent Norris Garden recognizes her family's contributions — with Olga Hirschhorn and Stella Thomas. Co-chairwomen Mary S. Smith — who is also board president — and Diane Koestner circulated all evening, measuring success for the black-tie gala.

Bob Raymond (3)
One of the largest crowds ever flowed around the living room, into the halls and out into the garden of Palm Cottage.

Photo by Bob Raymond

Bob Raymond (3) One of the largest crowds ever flowed around the living room, into the halls and out into the garden of Palm Cottage.

Of special note in the dining room was a cabinet display of pieces from Barbara Meek's personal collection of turn-of-the-century American cut glass. Her husband, art dealer Bill Meek, was, as he said, "thrilled to have successfully facilitated" the donation of paintings by area artist William Henry that were originally commissioned in the early 1970s by banker Mamie Tooke.

On display over the 2012-13 season, one hangs over the dining room sideboard, the other over the fireplace. Henry murals are also featured at the Port Royal Club and, at one time, a painting on one's wall signaled entry into the society of Port Royal, according to Meek.

Following the indoor reception, energized by an open bar and passed hors d'oeuvres including lemon and dill marinated grilled shrimp, the hungry throng dined in the white-canopied Norris Garden at tables dominated dramatic centerpieces created by floral designer Mia McKee. Design throughout the treasured Old Naples residence was installed by Brimmer's Custom Decor.

Broadway hits and Christmas tunes were provided over the dinner period by the Peter Duchin Duo of the Amodeas: Jean on synthesizer and Ron on guitar.

Diners enjoyed Caprese salads and Parmesan cheese straws; beef tenderloin served with twice-baked Duchess potatoes topped with shaved Gruyere; and chocolate Kahlua torte, designed, created and served by You've Got It Coming.

Jeanne Hautmann, left, stands in the spot where she was married in Palm Cottage 23 years ago. She is with Sharon Zuccaro.

Photo by Bob Raymond

Jeanne Hautmann, left, stands in the spot where she was married in Palm Cottage 23 years ago. She is with Sharon Zuccaro.

Five "Angel Tables" of eight were purchased in toto by generous donors. Among familiar attendees were Mary Watkins and daughter-in-law Ellin Goetz, landscape architect who designed the Norris Garden and wife of Michael Watkins. The Watkins family owns and operates the longtime Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.

Executive Director Elaine Reed, who wrote in her welcoming statement, "It takes a community to preserve one," provided an early estimate of $88,600 in net income from ticket sales beginning at $300 per person. All proceeds benefit operations and programs of the Naples Historical Society.

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