By Ron Hayes
They began arriving in the 1920s, humble and unpretentious, and by the end of World War II about 1,000 called Lake Worth home.
Cottages. Small, wood-frame, single-family dwellings. From the Middle English cot, and the Old Norse kut, as in “hut.”
Then came the gentrification, the renovation and the corporation.
In 2013, the cottages of Lake Worth begat The Cottages of Lake Worth Inc., a nonprofit community organization that sponsors bike and walking tours to celebrate its colorful namesakes.
And now, the book.
Living Large in Small Spaces: The Cottages of Lake Worth is a beautifully photographed, lovingly researched history, a coffee table tome highlighting 60 of the city’s 200 renovated cottages.
Naturally, the book was born in a cottage.
“We were having a committee meeting and somebody said, ‘Who would like to do a coffee table book?’” Janice Snearer recalls. “And I looked and my hand was up.”
Snearer, an artist and former gallery owner, became the coordinator, hosting meetings in her 1931 home on Lakeside Drive.
Now the eight-member book committee had to select the 60 homes to be included in the book.
“Joan Appel drove the getaway car,” Snearer recalls with a laugh. “I’d go to the door and have to talk very fast to explain what we were doing. One woman had that what-are-you-selling pose, arms crossed, but slowly she relaxed.”
In the end, only one man politely declined to have his cottage included.
In November 2014, Taylor Jones, an award-winning Palm Beach County photographer, joined the project.
“I shot for one year and then spent another year editing pictures,” she explained. “Every cottage was different, and the creativity of the individual owners was amazing.”
In March, the project was darkened by tragedy when Dean Sherwin, who wrote the book’s extensive text, succumbed to pancreatic cancer as the book was being prepared for the printer.
“He worked all throughout his treatments to finish the writing and was able to see a mock-up of the finished book,” Snearer said.
A GoFundMe campaign and donations from local businesses raised the $19,000 needed to produce the books, and on Nov. 3 they arrived, a print run of 1,000 copies, of which about 250 were already presold.
The book is as beautiful as the cottages it honors — 240 pages, 200 color photographs, with Sherwin’s detailed histories and descriptive odes to the front porches and vaulted ceilings, the Chicago brick patios and tropical gardens that have made large dreams come true on small lots.
“If it makes money, fine,” Snearer says, “but our purpose was to tell people what a great seaside town this is. Hurricanes didn’t take these cottages away. Construction didn’t take them. Decay didn’t take them.
“Every cottage was an adventure, and the people who live in them are an asset to this town.”
Living Large in Small Spaces: The Cottages of Lake Worth is available for $32.95 at the Lake Worth Farmers Market, Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. A book signing will be held from 3 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, 601 Lake Ave., in Lake Worth.