Mizner Fountain & Town Hall
The town square in Palm Beach has at its centre the 1929 double-bowl cast stone fountain designed by Addison Mizner. The fountain was in a poor state when we visited in 2014, but it was restored in 2016. Behind it to the right is Palm Beach Town Hall, which was built to also house the fire station. The doors for the fire engines are still visible, but the fire station has been relocated. Click Tab 2 for a wider view of Palm beach Town Square
Salon Margrit Building
Palm beach is not immune to the occasional mock Tudor building. This building at 165 Brazilian Avenue houses the Salon Margrit Salon, Spa and Boutique and a designer boutique selling clothes, jewellery and accessories for women. You probably need a Palm Beach sized income to enter the building!
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Royal Poinciana Chapel
Henry Flagler looms large over much of Palm Beach, including this church. Congregational missionary, The Rev. Alexander B Dilley preached in Palm Springs and in 1884 he and his congregation were recognised as Lake Worth Congregational Church. They had no church to meet in, instead they used homes, schools and other buildings to hold their services. Building a church would be costly, but Henry Flagler had arrived and he was not short of cash. Flagler was keen to see a church built but it soon emerged that there was a conflict of interests as Flagler wanted an interdenominational church which guests at his hotels could attend while the Congregationalists did not. The Congregationalists split from Flagler and built their church in West Palm Beach. The chuch was built adjacent to Sea Gull Cottage which was Flagler’s winter home until Whitehall Mansion was built nearby. Royal Poinciana Chapel was completed in 1898 and Flagler installed Dr. George Morgan Ward as the preacher. The chapel remains in use today, referring to itself as a ‘post-denominational’ congregation. Click Tab 2 to see a picture of Sea Gull Cottage, Henry Flagler’s original winter home in Palm Beach.
Henry Flagler opened the Palm Beach Inn two years after the Royal Poinciana Hotel. Unlike the Poinciana it was built beside the beach on the Atlantic side of the island and for that reason it did not keep that name for long. Guests wrote in asking for rooms ‘by the breakers’ so it was soon renamed ‘The Breakers’. After fire destroyed the hotel in 1903, Flagler replaced it with a bigger and more luxurious hotel. That building burned down in 1925, 12 years after Flagler’s death. It was replaced by a Italian Renaissance-style stone and concrete structure, the work of New York City-based designers Shultze and Weaver. With 538 room The Breakers reopened in December 1926 and remains in operation today.
Henry Morrison Flagler was born in 1830 in Hopewell, New York. He became an entrepreneur in the salt and grain businesses and he got to know oil magnate John D Rockefeller. Together with Rockefeller he founded Standard Oil. In 1878 his wife Mary became ill and to avoid the New York winter they stayed in Jacksonville, Florida. Sadly, Mary died in 1881. Two years later, Flagler married Ida Shourds and they travelled to St Augustine, Florida. Flagler loved the city but was frustrated by the poor transport and lack of hotels. Believing that Florida had huge potential he gave up his day-to-day role at Standard Oil to focus on bringing hotels and railroads to Florida. In 1893 he bought and existing cottage in Palm Beach which he renamed Sea Gull Cottage.He built numerous hotels and his railroad ultimately ran all the way to Key West. In 1901 after Ida Flagler had been institutionalised with mental illness, Flagler married Mary Kenan. In 1902 he had a mansion built in Palm Springs as a wedding present for Mary. Named ‘Whitehall’ it had 75 rooms and it became their winter home. In 1913 Flagler fell down a flight of stairs at Whitehall and he subsequently died of his injuries. Mary died in 1917 leaving the mansion to her niece who sold it to investors who turned it into a hotel with an added bedroom tower. The hotel opened in 1926 and closed in 1959 leaving Whitehall in danger of demolition. Henry Flagler's granddaughter, Jean Flagler Matthews, raised money to save the building and convert it into a museum. The Flagler Museum opened in 1960 and the hotel accommodation block was removed in 1963. The museum shows how Henry Flagler lived and his private Railcar No. 91 is on display to show how he travelled. There are also exhibitions that change periodically. Click Tab 2 to see the Grand Hall or Tab 3 to see the Dining Room.
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When the first permanent settlers arrived here in 1872 the whole area was known as Lake Worth, the name originally given to the lagoon separating the barrier island from the mainland. It was named in honour of Major General William Jenkins Worth who fought in the Second Seminole War. The early settlers found life difficult on the barrier island but in January 1878 the ship ‘Providencia’ was wrecked on the island. The settlers salvaged its cargo of coconuts and planted them. Lush groves of coconut palms grew up and the settlement became known as Palm Beach. In 1880 the first hotel opened, called Coconut Grove House but it was railroad tycoon Henry M Flagler who really put Palm Beach on the map. In 1894 he opened the Royal Poinciana Hotel on the shore of Lake Worth, then the largest hotel in the world, then in 1896 he brought the Florida East Coast Railroad to the town. Thousands of black labourers who had worked on the railroad and draining swamps on the island lived in temporary accommodation in an area called the Styx. In the early 1900s Palm Beach landowners decided to clear the Styx by evicting all of its residents. Most of them moved to the mainland side of Lake Worth which became the town of West Palm Beach. The town of Palm Beach was incorporated on April 17, 1911. Nowadays Palm Beach is an upmarket winter resort. In 1985 Donald Trump a 58 bedroom mansion called Mar-a-Lago which he turned into a private club and also, after he became President, his winter White House.