Honeymoon cottages still fresh after all these years by Pratt Farmer
If you are wandering around Seaside you might just happen upon a group of people rolling steel balls. No, it’s not bocce. It’s petanque (pay-tonk). One of Europe’s most popular outdoor games, it is a cousin of both horseshoes and of the Italian bowling game, bocce.
The game originated in the South of France in the early 1900s. It made its way to Seaside in the late 1900s. For more than 20 years Joey Lamonte has been an avid player, even driving from his condo in Sandestin just to play in Seaside.
“It was a game that I could never get enough of. And apparently neither could my friends. So much so, that we would park a friend’s ’66 Corvette on the grass at Seaside and play by the headlights late into the night,” he says.
While petanque can be credited for introducing Joey and his wife, Susie, to Seaside, it was the idyllic beach lifestyle that beckoned them. Since the early 1960s, Lamonte and his parents would spend a week or two every summer in Destin; always with beachfront lodging.
“Destin was an incredible place for a young kid to spend time chasing fun,” he says. After they married, Lamonte and his wife settled in to an all-too-familiar summer routine of trips to Destin, then Fort Walton Beach, and finally they purchased a condominium at Sandestin. That was followed by a second purchase a few years later.
It was about that time Lamonte began to play petanque. And he learned of a group in Seaside who would always welcome an additional player or two. “I got to know the guys in the group and our wives would often hang out while we mixed it up with petanque. Our first overnight stay in Seaside was in one of the honeymoon cottages,” Lamonte reflects. “We were awe-struck at just how much we felt at home there.”
As the game grew more popular and the fellowships deeper, the Lamontes decided it was time for them to consider selling their Sandestin properties and purchase in Seaside. “While at Sandestin, we went to Seaside every day anyway. So, in 2002 we purchased a home in Ruskin Place because I liked the steady rental income from the ground floor retail tenant, and we both thought Ruskin was just so unique,” Lamonte says.
Donna Spiers, a broker with Seaside Community Realty, has been selling in Seaside since the beginning. She showed the Lamontes several homes available at the time in Seaside. “They really wanted a Honeymoon Cottage, but none were available at the time,” says Spiers. “But once they spent a little time in Ruskin I knew it was calling to them. And it still seems it is, 16 years later.”
Even though they were a short five hours away, the Lamontes decided to rent their home when they weren’t in town. “We loved the off season. The cooler climate, less traffic and quiet days offered an ambience that we grew to cherish,” says Susie Lamonte. With some rental experience under their belts, the Lamontes decided in 2005 to purchase a honeymoon cottage to go along with their Ruskin Place residence. “Because we had stayed in them prior to owning a home in Seaside, we knew just how warm and cozy the tiny little one-bedroom homes were,” says Ms. Lamonte.
The cottages, all with gulf views, are located on the south side of 30A. Built on high dunes facing the gulf, they were designed to have minimal visual and environmental impact. Noted architect Scott Merrill designed them for Robert and Daryl Davis, Seaside’s founders. Merrill attributes the inspiration of the cottages to Thomas Jefferson’s cottage in Virginia, where he lived while designing and constructing Monticello. For his design, the American Institute of Architects awarded Merrill the Award of Excellence. With the award, the jury of peers noted that the honeymoon cottages “evoke the coastal architecture of the area without indulging in clichés. Demonstrating a masterful use of wood construction, the architect has created cottages that are at once familiar yet fresh.” According to Seaside Community Realty broker Jacky Barker, what makes them so interesting is that they appear from the beach to be one level but are actually two.
In 2014, the Lamontes purchased their second cottage. “These cottages are more than buildings to us. In fact, while we appreciate the investment aspect, Susie and I both have a strong attraction to them. We recognize that so many people, like us, have stayed in them year after year because they are not only close to the beach, but are so unique both inside and out. Like much of Seaside, these tiny buildings make more memories (and sometimes dollars) per square foot than anything else I can think of,” Lamonte proclaims. Now the Lamontes, and their German shepherd, Heidi, have three homes to choose from when planning a stay in Seaside. Whether it’s ocean view or park view, two things remain constant — their love of Seaside and its still-idyllic feel all these years later.