THE PALM BEACHES – DESTINATION FOR THE WORLD’S ÉLITE
POSTED ON February 14, 2017 - 5000 North Ocean
Palm Beach – and by extension, its surrounding area known as “The Palm Beaches'” – defies comparison to any of the world’s most exclusive oceanfront hideaways. The aura of Palm Beach has embellished American culture for more than a century. Novels and glossy magazines continue to offer glimpses of the highly styled, gilded life beside the Atlantic that is Palm Beach. Henry Flagler was the progenitor of Florida’s resort civilization and his name resounds everywhere, from street signs to universities. Even though Miami was also born of Flagler’s vision, his lasting memorial resides in the two magic syllables: “Palm Beach” and all it has come to mean to the world of fashion and style. Flagler’s oil fortune made it all possible when he extended his railway to that part of Florida.
“Restrained opulence” defines many of the Palm Beach homes where families whose names are associated with America’s legendary successes have lived “in season”, some for a century. The Kennedy family established themselves there in 1933. The houses themselves are a who’s-who of American architecture though the brightest star will forever be Addison Mizner who created the “Florida style”. Mizner’s fondness for the Caribbean and Mediterranean cultures led him to favor the signature Spanish tile roofs beneath which his interiors have been kept cool since long before air-conditioning.
When it opened in 1896, “The Breakers”, which was the first oceanside hotel to be boldly poised at the water’s edge, set a new international standard for unabashedly opulent accommodations with its instant ability to attract the haut monde along with the merely wealthy and chic. Since the nineteen-twenties when The Breakers underwent an epic rebuild, it has stood as a jaw-dropping renaissance palace modeled after the Villa Medici where an alert visitor might believe they’d just heard the whispering voices of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
By way of chilling contrast, Peanut Island Park, situated in the Intracoastal Waterway off Rivera Beach, reminds us that President John F. Kennedy would have taken refuge there in a fallout shelter had the Cuban Missile Crisis actually gone the way it appeared it might have at the time.
While Palm Beach is renowned for the social delights that draw discerning people to it, one of its most powerful attractions has always been Worth Avenue. Lined with Royal Palms, “Worth” combines the allure of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice with the resonance of Fifth Avenue and the Via Veneto. Every vaunted international brand name will be found somewhere on Worth Avenue along with beguiling boutiques and an array of restaurants that offer unbridled succulence to discriminating palates.
And, lest we forget, there are always the soft beaches themselves where the sibilance of the Atlantic has soothed the élite, their children and their grandchildren since the day when the gleam of Palm Beach first twinkled in Henry Flagler’s eye.