By Ron Hayes
HYPOLUXO ISLAND — Don and Alice Edge moved into their Hypoluxo Island home on April 9, 1959.
Two years earlier, the young architect had bought the 6,000-square-foot lot on Southeast Atlantic Drive for $6,000. He designed the house, paid a local contractor to put up the walls and supports, and then built the rest himself.
In the early hours of Aug. 24, Mr. Edge died in his sleep in that home. He was 95, and during 63 years on the island, he devoted himself to the area’s past and future with a spirit that made his time there local history, too.
“Don Edge and I became good friends over a shared passion for history,” said Michelle Donahue, publisher of the Brown Wrapper, the island’s history newsletter. “His first-person account of many Palm Beach County and Hypoluxo Island historical events brought stories to life in ways you just can’t get from a book.”
Donald Richard Edge was born in Detroit on Jan. 25, 1927. He joined the U.S. Navy at 18 and then attended the University of Michigan on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a degree in architecture.
Mr. Edge delighted in telling friends he decided to move to Florida after stepping off a Detroit sidewalk into a pile of cold winter slush.
Arriving in 1952, he found work with architect Byron Simonson in a one-room Palm Beach office. When the firm won a contract to build La Coquille, a small resort hotel in the Manalapan dunes (where the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa now stands), Simonson created a rendering and Mr. Edge drafted the detailed drawings from which the contractor worked.
Until its demise in 1986, La Coquille was a fashionable gathering spot for the Vanderbilts, Fords and Whitneys.
“I didn’t associate with the classy members,” Mr. Edge recalled for The Coastal Star in 2019. “They knew I was a flunky. But I did get the first drink from the bar. The bartender was setting up for the opening night gala, and he asked me if I wanted a drink.
“A Manhattan, I think.”
In the late 1950s, when William Benjamin was developing Point Manalapan and had applied for a permit with the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a small bridge connecting the island from Audubon Causeway to A1A, Mr. Edge joined his neighbors in opposing the proposal.
“Together with a group of Manalapan residents, Don took Benjamin to court to stop construction of the bridge and won,” Donahue said. “Today, Hypoluxo Islanders truly enjoy and are grateful for the open waters of the lagoon due to Don’s efforts and perseverance.”
In 1956, he married Alice Nan Divine, and four years later he opened his own office in the same Palm Beach building where he’d first found work eight years before.
As an architect, Mr. Edge designed the Lantana Town Hall, Recreation Center and Beach Pavilion. He built Seventh-day Adventist hospitals in several states, and drafted plans for the 1972 wraparound of the county’s 1916 courthouse, his firm’s most controversial project.
When the wraparound was removed in 2004 to reveal the original courthouse, now the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, Mr. Edge was not pleased.
“I still don’t think that old courthouse is a gem,” he would say. “I guess I’d consider myself a modernist.”
But he didn’t hold a grudge. In 2007, he donated 270 historic architectural drawings to the historical society, some from architects Addison Mizner and Marion Sims Wyeth.
Alice Edge died in 2009 after 53 years of marriage.
“She was fantastically good for me,” Mr. Edge said. “She was outgoing while I was kind of inward bound.”
The couple had three children, including Nancy Davis of Seattle.
“He was very gentle and kind,” Davis said. “He was a true inspiration to me. He made every day worth living. There was no sadness in his world. He was, ‘I’m just going to get up and go as long as I can.’ He was out in the workshop making things until the day before he died.”
The secret of a good life, Mr. Edge believed, was a good wife and a lack of stress — and a lack of stress came from having a good wife.
In his home, he kept a photograph of Alice as a teenager on a table in the living room, where each evening he enjoyed a glass of wine, as they had shared one together for so many years.
In his final years, after his doctor forbade alcohol, Mr. Edge switched to nonalcoholic wine, but kept the evening tradition.
When his caretaker arrived on Aug. 24 to find him dead, he was still wearing his wedding ring.
In addition to Nancy Davis, he is survived by another daughter, Carol Edge of Fernandina Beach, and a son, Karl Edge of Tallahassee.
A celebration of Mr. Edge’s life will be held later.
By Ron Hayes