The Other Breakers, A Peerless Resort in Palm Beach

Driving up the palm tree-lined boulevard to the imposing Italianate palace, The Breakers, visitors are transported magically to a small duchy, a wonderful other-land on fabled Palm Beach Island, like Oz. With its magnificent oceanfront buildings, two golf courses, privately owned and elegant shops, its restaurants, bungalows, and pools, The Breakers is one of the premier resorts of the world, and for guests provides life as it should be.

 

Like Newport’s The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s residence, the original building constructed by Henry Morrison Flager burned down, and was replaced by a larger, finer building-- twice. While it is known that Commodore Vanderbilt visited Palm Beach’s Breakers, it is not recorded that Mr. Flagler ever visited Newport.

 

A Standard Oil Company magnate, Flagler acquired and built railroads to serve Florida's east coast, opening the once isolated region to development and tourism. In 1894 he built his first hotel in the southeast coast, The Royal Poinciana Hotel at Lake Worth, attracting the elite to what would become the world's premier resort destination, Palm Beach. In 1896, Flagler built a second hotel, The Palm Beach Inn, on the beachfront of the Royal Poinciana. Soon guests requested rooms "over by the breakers." When Flagler redoubled the hotel's size, he renamed it The Breakers.

 

During an expansion project, the fourth in less than a decade, The Breakers burned down on June 9, 1903. Less than a year later, on February 1, 1904, it reopened to universal acclaim. Rooms started at four dollars a night, including three meals a day. The grounds then featured a 9-hole golf course.


The guest register read like a "who's who" of early twentieth century America – the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan vacationed alongside United States presidents and European nobility. On March 18, 1925, The Breakers burned again, the fire started by an electric curling iron left on. The architectural firm of Schultze & Weaver modeled its 550-room replacement after the Villa Medici in Rome, this time abandoning wooden construction for fireproof concrete. Built by 1,200 workers, the hotel reopened on December 29, 1926 to considerable acclaim. Today, the hotel and grounds occupy 140 acres fronting the Atlantic Ocean.


Today, The Breakers is a bustling, busy retreat for families, business conferences, diners and world champion croquet players, with beautiful rooms, fine restaurants, and family spaces. The service is impeccable, and the private 6th and 7th floor Flagler Club boasts its own lounge and manager, serving breakfast, afternoon tea, and a convivial cocktail hour, far from the bustle of the lobby. A lovely terrace overlooks Palm Beach Island, and VIP guests are pampered with newspapers, games, deep chairs and a large TV.

 

The grounds are utterly magnificent, replete with pergolas and oceanfront walkways, pools and palm trees.  Still privately owned by the Flagler family, which invests  $20 million a year in improvements, including an organic herb and vegetable garden supplying the restaurants, and new decoration and upgrades for the guest rooms, which are modern, The Breakers yet captures the historic Palm Beach "look."  Children's playgrounds and playrooms are discreetly placed in and among the outer buildings, and the hum of golf carts is heard.

 

Recent guests have included the Today Show's Matt Lauer, novelist James Patterson, and Emmy-winner Susan Lucci. The resort carefully guards the identities of its private guests.

 

 On August 14, 1973, The Breakers was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

 The Breakers c. 1935

 

Approaching from the air

 

 A chocolate replica for Flagler Cub members

 

The Flagler Club Terrace overlooking Palm Beach

 

Caleb greeting arrivals

 The Italianate hall of The Breakers

 

A garden vignette

 An outdoor terrace

 

One of the exquisite outdoor pools

 

A promenade along the Atlantic's breakers

 "The Sultan's Favorite" painting

 The Tapestry Bar

 Detailed ceiling of the Circle Restaurant

 

Breakfast in the Circle Restaurant

 Eggs Benedict, a favorite

 

The herb garden manifesto

 

Organic herbs for the Breakers' restaurants

 

Tiered vegetables under cultivation

 

 A pergola and garden

 

 

 

The Seafood Bar's living denizens

 

View from the Seafood Bar

 

Luncheon is served at the Seafood Bar Restaurant

 

Journalist Andrew Myers, The Breakers' Ann Margo Peart, and James Andrew, after lunch

 

Andrew Myers, Newport Seen's Linda Phillips, and James Andrew, of www.whatisjameswearing.com

 

The Flagler Club lounge

 

The Breakers tapestry bar

 

 

 Images by Newport Seen and courtesy of The Breakers

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