A short history of Palm Beach Island

A short history of Palm Beach Island

A short history of Palm Beach Island

Aerial of Palm Beach and Worth Avenue

This image is the exclusive property of Andy Frame / Andy Frame Photography and is protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

The community of Palm Beach is known around the country as a tourist destination and winter retreat. Since its earliest days, it was appreciated for its natural beauty and seaside location. As you plan your visit to Palm Beach, take the time to learn a little more about the history of this beautiful island.

Early Settlement

In 1872, the first permanent pioneers arrived in the area that is now Palm Beach. Originally called Lake Worth, the area proved difficult for early settlers who needed to clear land for their homes. In January of 1878, a wrecked ship carrying coconuts washed ashore on the land. The settlers salvaged and planted the coconuts, bringing them to South Florida for the first time, and the community was renamed Palm Beach in an attempt to turn it into a commercial coconut growing destination.

Yet, while palms still thrive in the community, commercial coconut growing was not the destiny for the beautiful beachfront property. Just a few years later, as word of the area’s beauty spread, the Coconut Grove House, its first hotel, opened. By the 1890s, just 10 years later, hotels, businesses and winter residents were a common sight along the beachfront property. In 1894, Henry M. Flagler’s Royal Poinciana Hotel opened, and two years later the Florida East Coast Railroad, which made it easier for tourists to come, opened.

Flagler’s success inspired him to build another hotel, the Palm Beach Inn, later renamed the Breakers. The original building burned in 1903, and was rebuilt. The all-wood building burned again in 1925, sparking Flagler to build the iconic building that still stands and attracts notable people today.

In 1927, The Breakers, the iconic stone structure known today as the symbol of luxury vacations on Palm Beach, opened for business. Today, guests can still enjoy the magnificent paintings on the ceilings and the stunning stone archways in the 200-foot main lobby while staying on the oceanfront.

Incorporation and Growth

Once those first hotels were established and transportation needs were met, it did not take long for Palm Beach to grow in popularity both for year-round residents and vacationers.

In the 1920s, a building boom took place in the area, and many historic structures that still stand today were built. The building boom also brought a slew of architects to the area to build private residences. Today, guests often spend an afternoon driving past the mansions designed by famed architects such as Addison Mizner, John Volk, Maurice Fatio, Marion Syms Wyeth and Howard Major.

Today, Palm Beach stands as a testament to its history. The coconut palms planted by the original settlers still stand alongside historic buildings that the who’s who of the early 1900s enjoyed. Guests and residents alike appreciate the beauty and historic significance of historic Palm Beach.