Vivre à Palm BeachIyna Bort Caruso
Henry Flagler, the oil tycoon who came to be known as the father of modern Florida, arrived on the barrier island of Palm Beach more than a century ago and declared it a “veritable paradise.” By the time the town incorporated in 1896, Flagler had set about establishing Palm Beach as America’s first resort destination.
For the elite, many of whom had summer residences in Newport, Rhode Island, Palm Beach became their cold-weather escape, creating a kind of American Riviera.
The island is just a few blocks wide and 14 miles long and connected to the mainland by three primary bridges over Lake Worth Lagoon. Echoes of the Gilded Age remain along this prosperous swathe of southeast Florida, about 75 miles north of Miami, where architectural showplaces are set on low-density parcels. Swanky and sophisticated Worth Avenue, the East Coast’s answer to Rodeo Drive, is as much a historic destination as it is a fashion spot. Proof? Worth Avenue walking tours, offered in season, cover the shopping venue’s architectural significance.
Year-rounders and seasonal residents have perfected the art of living well, supporting a thriving art scene of museums, galleries, music and sculpture gardens. They also live actively. Golf beckons with courses offering ocean and Intracoastal Waterway views. Tennis and yachting are routinely on the social calendar, while a global capital for equestrian events and polo championship matches is minutes away in Wellington.
Once upon a time, wooden shingle homes and bungalows were the dominant style. Until, that is, the boom times of the 1920s when architects like Addison Mizner, John Volk and Maurice Fatio put their mark on Palm Beach by designing lavish homes, many in the Mediterranean revival style. Local preservation committees have protected Palm Beach’s architectural legacy by designating many as historic landmarks and supporting restoration efforts.
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