The Breakers (hotel)
Breakers Hotel Complex
|Location||1 South County Road |
Palm Beach, Florida
|Area||105 acres (42 ha)|
|Architect||Schultze & Weaver|
|Architectural style||Renaissance Revival, Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Revivals, Shingle Style|
|NRHP reference No.||73000598|
|Added to NRHP||August 14, 1973|
It has been suggested that this article be checked to ensure a neutral point of view. (August 2021)
In the late 1890s, just before the turn of the century, industry tycoons and elegant socialites began flocking to the pristine shores of a new destination—a long strip of an island called Palm Beach.
It was founder Henry Flagler, one of America’s great industrialists, who started the trend of grand, gorgeous properties on the island. His first was The Royal Poinciana, a six-story Georgian beauty. Two years later, Flagler debuted his premier oceanfront hotel, which delighted guests with its proximity to the water and unique location—right at “the breakers,” where the waves crashed and sprayed.
After fires in both 1903 and 1925, the hotel reemerged more opulent each time. The second reconstruction of The Breakers was awarded to New York City-based designers Shultze and Weaver, the same minds who would later create many of Manhattan’s most coveted hotels: the Pierre, the Sherry-Netherland and Park Avenue’s Waldorf Astoria. Described by the duo as “the acme of perfection in design and magnificence,” The Breakers reopened in 1926, ushering in a higher degree of European influence and architectural flair. Flagler’s newest iteration was modeled after the magnificent Villa Medici in Rome—an ambitious effort that called for 75 artisans brought in from Italy. Together they completed the intricate paintings, detailed across the ceilings of the 200-foot-long main lobby and first-floor public rooms, which remain on display today. It was a grand gesture that placed The Breakers in a class all its own.
Year by year, the resort’s reputation grew and word spread, beckoning the glitterati to vacation in Palm Beach year-round. At any given time, the guest register read like a “who's who” of early 20th-century America: Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, vacationing alongside US presidents and European nobility.
Today, the story of The Breakers continues, holding fast to the ideals that put it on the map—unapologetic luxury, seaside glamour and world-class service—but also embracing the new. In our modern world that is more interconnected than ever before, we’re fully committed to our employees, our environment and the enduring mission of our organization.
Across our resort grounds, we implement ecologically friendly practices that conserve resources and protect the environment, promising an enhanced quality of life for future generations. Our efforts epitomize The Breakers’ devotion to environmental stewardship while maintaining the distinctive quality and world-class service that guests expect of our resort. These green endeavors include energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction.
The Breakers is committed to expanding and enhancing all of our environmental programs to protect and preserve our precious natural resources. We are also honored to be a Green Power partner of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
As a modern organization employing more than 1,800 people, our sense of social responsibility extends to our team, our environment and our community. From employee wellness and sustainable practices to community enrichment and powerful partnerships, our commitments not only ensure our enduring success, but also contribute to a sense of greater good.
- Henry Morrison Flagler purchases 140 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth.
- On February 11, Flagler opens his first luxury Palm Beach hotel on Lake Worth, the Royal Poinciana, which becomes the largest hotel in the world at the time.
- The Florida East Coast Railway begins service to West Palm Beach on April 2.
- Flagler enlarges a winter home on the oceanfront side of his 140-acre property to form the Palm Beach Inn (later renamed The Breakers - see 1901). As an extension to the Royal Poinciana, the Palm Beach Inn opened on January 16 and held the designation of being the only oceanfront hotel south of Daytona Beach.
- Flagler extends the Florida East Coast Railway to Miami and builds the Port of Palm Beach, a 1,000-foot pier off the Palm Beach Inn, which allows travel via steamship to Nassau, Havana and Key West.
- Flagler contracts Alexander H. Findlay to build the first nine-hole golf course in Florida.
- Due to Palm Beach's growing popularity and new reputation as a “winter paradise,” the Royal Poinciana is enlarged by half its size.
- During the summer, Flagler lays foundation for Whitehall, his private residence.
- Guests begin to request rooms “down by the breakers” and the Palm Beach Inn is officially renamed The Breakers.
- On August 24, Henry Morrison Flagler (71) marries Mary Lily Kenan (34) in Kenansville, North Carolina.
- Mr. & Mrs. Flagler move into Whitehall, one of the great estates in America's Gilded Age, on February 6. This exquisite 55-room marble palace on Lake Worth was built as a gift for Flagler’s bride. Today, Whitehall is known as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum and it is open for the public to enjoy.
- While being enlarged, The Breakers catches fire and burns to the ground on June 9. A magnificent new wooden structure opens in its place on February 1, 1904 and is deemed one of the finest hotels in America.
- Flagler extends his railroad to the front of the hotel for convenience; tracks remained next to the circular driveway until the late 1920’s.
- Following a serious fall at Whitehall, Flagler moves to his seaside Nautilus Cottage where he dies on May 20.
- On March 18, the “second” Breakers burns down due to a fire that was allegedly started by one of those “newfangled curling irons.”
- The Turner Construction Company signs a contract to build the new Breakers on December 4.
- In a tribute to Henry Flagler’s vision, The Flagler heirs build the current Breakers in a record 11½ months at a cost of $7 million. The hotel opens its doors on December 29, 1926, just in time for the start of season. Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, the exterior design is similar to Flagler’s Ponce de Leon hotel masterpiece, located in St. Augustine, Florida. The resort’s interior boasts both gilded and hand-painted ceilings by Florentine artists, Venetian chandeliers and paintings of great Renaissance rulers. Today, The Breakers is recognized as one of the most splendid architectural and artistic achievements of its era.
- As The Breakers increases in popularity, and seating guests comfortably at dinner becomes a problem, the heirs add The Circle, one of the most picturesque dining rooms in the world.
- The Royal Poinciana is gradually torn down (1930 - 1935) as The Breakers has become the primary resort in town.
- On September 10, The Breakers becomes the U.S. Army’s Ream General Hospital where thousands of servicemen and women recuperate from their wounds and illnesses during World War II. Prominent visitors included Eleanor Roosevelt and President Harry Truman.
- More than a dozen babies, known as “Breakers Babies,” are born at the hotel (1942 – 1944).
- In May, the U.S. Army returns The Breakers to its owners, who prepare for reopening on December 24.
- The Breakers Ocean Golf Clubhouse opens.
- The Breakers adds: 150 guest rooms to the east wings, extensive meeting facilities, the Venetian Ballroom, and a new Beach Club, which replaces the older Beach Casino.
- The Breakers becomes fully air-conditioned.
- The Breakers, originally open mid-December to mid-April, commences year-round operation.
- The Breakers named to the National Register of Historic Places.
- The hotel completes a five-year, $75 million renovation program.
- The resort celebrates its Centennial anniversary as a Palm Beach and national landmark.
- The Breakers opens its new oceanfront Spa, Beach Club and Ponce de Leon Ballroom.
- Echo, the resort’s first off-site restaurant opens; it features the distinctive cuisines of Asia.
- The historic Ocean Course completes a renovation and the new Golf & Tennis Clubhouse opens.
- The guest room & suite renovation comes to completion, the main drive is redesigned and the resort owners commit to capital expenditures averaging $15 million per year.
- Building on its reputation as one of America’s leading family-friendly resorts, The Breakers unveils its new Family Entertainment Center, a complex of activities for all ages.
- Famed golf course architect Rees Jones partners with The Breakers on the reconstruction of The Breakers Rees Jones® Course located at Breakers West.
- The Breakers unveils a new $15 million beachfront redevelopment that includes the addition of 20 private poolside bungalows, two pools, three whirlpool spas, a Beach Gazebo and The Ocean Grill.
- A five-year, guest room renovation commences and the John Webster Golf Academy opens at both Ocean Course and Rees Jones® Golf Course at Breakers West.
- The resort completes the second phase of its five-year room revitalization. This phase reduces the resort’s guest room count to 540 guest rooms, including 68 suites.
- In November, The Breakers opens a new fashion and fine jewelry boutique, Mix at The Breakers®.
- The resort celebrates the opening of its Guerlain boutique and Signature Shop.
- The five-year, $80 million guest room renovation is completed and the hotel opens Lilly Pulitzer® at The Breakers and Match at The Breakers® - the ultimate resort shoe boutique.
- The Breakers’ begins a design partnership with Tihany Design, which launches with the opening of HMF - the resort’s chic social club. The restaurant’s namesake honors the resort’s founder, Henry Morrison Flagler.
- The Breakers introduces The Surf Break – an open-air bar nestled between the Active and South Pools, the Adult Pool and the re-imagined Flagler Steakhouse – a vibrant take on the classic American chophouse.
- The resort embarks on another phase of guest room revitalization.
- With views overlooking the Atlantic, the resort opens its 6,000-square-foot, indoor/outdoor Ocean Fitness center.
- After a full-scale, $5 million transformation, The Breakers unveils Flagler Club, a 25-room boutique hotel within-the-hotel. Upon completion, the resort’s room count stands at 538 rooms, which includes 68 suites.
- Following a dramatic $8 million transformation, the indoor/outdoor Spa at The Breakers reopens as the resort’s coveted destination for relaxation and personal renewal, along with the newly re-imagined Ocean House (formerly The Ocean Grill).
- The Breakers elevates 65 guest rooms and suites to a new level of casually chic elegance and opens the legendary Seafood Bar – with breathtaking, sweeping views of the Atlantic, the restaurant is designed by Tihany Design, and inspired by the yachting lifestyle of Palm Beach.
- The expansion of the south mezzanine meeting spaces increases the number of conference rooms to 33.
- Named after Mary Lily Kenan, Henry’s wife, Mary Lily’s welcomes visitors with sweet treats and frozen indulgences.
- The Breakers’ popular shopping destination, News & Gourmet, undergoes an extensive makeover and the historic Ocean Course unveils a full-scale renovation by award-winning golf architect Rees Jones.
- The Imperial and Royal Poinciana Suites in the resort’s south oceanfront tower, along with the hotel’s main lobby, the Ponce de Leon Ballroom and our 25 poolside bungalows are all refreshed by celebrated Tihany Design.
- The resort updates its north tower guest rooms, Gulfstream Meeting Rooms, Ocean Fitness center and Polo Ralph Lauren and Match boutiques.
- Making its debut on Royal Poinciana Way, Via Flagler by The Breakers opens. This alfresco plaza features a collection of boutiques, eateries and residences and includes the resort’s second off-site restaurant, Henry’s Palm Beach - elevated, American comfort food with character and first off-site boutique, SHAN – innovative, ready-to-wear swimwear and resort wear clothing.
- An experience that blends a classic café with a contemporary boutique, the resort welcomes Main Street by The Breakers to its retail collection at Via Flagler.
- On January 16, The Breakers commemorates its 125th anniversary.
Thanks to the dedication of its long-standing family ownership, The Breakers continues to reinvest an average of $25 million each year in capital improvements and ongoing revitalization. More to come in 2021.
Pre-Negro leagues, Winter League baseball teamEdit
In the winter of 1915/1916, The Breakers hired the services of Cyclone Joe Williams and many fellow team members of the Lincoln Giants pre-Negro leagues baseball team to take on another pre-Negro leagues baseball team made up of Indianapolis ABCs players hosted by the Royal Poinciana Hotel. The games hosted Negro league baseball stars of the day, including Ben Taylor, C.I. Taylor, Candy Jim Taylor, John Donaldson, Ashby Dunbar, Jim Jeffries, Jimmie Lyons, Bill Francis, Blainey Hall, Dick Wallace, Louis Santop, and Spot Poles. One newspaper column claimed that "Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, and hundreds of others, who never see a ball game outside of Palm Beach... (are) rooting hard for their favorite team.
1925 fire and subsequent yearsEdit
Twelve years after Flagler's death, The Breakers burned down again, on March 18, 1925; the fire was started by an electric curling iron that had been left on. The architectural firm hired by the Flagler heirs, Schultze and Weaver, modeled the 550-room replacement building after the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy. The firm worked with New York-based Turner Construction Company and a well-known local Palm Beach contractor, Eugene Hammond, who built the first theater in West Palm Beach and worked on the Palm Beach estate built for Rodman Wanamaker by Addison Mizner (which would become a Kennedy winter retreat in 1933).
The contractors decided to abandon the wooden construction for fireproof concrete. Built by 1,200 construction workers, the hotel reopened on December 29, 1926, to considerable acclaim. The lobby ceiling was painted by Alexander Bonanno, a classically trained New York City artist who taught at Cooper Union. This hotel influenced the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba.
On April 18, 2012, the AIA's Florida Chapter ranked the hotel seventh on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places. Today, the hotel and grounds occupy 140 acres (57 hectares) beside the Atlantic Ocean.
- History of The Breakers
- Florida, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, 2004, pg. 119
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- "The Breakers". Florida Heritage Tourism Interactive Catalog. Florida's Office of Cultural and Historical Programs. 2007-02-28. Archived from the original on 2007-03-10.
- "Social Impact". The Breakers Social Impact. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
- "Historic Timeline". The Breakers Historic Timeline. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
- ""Palm Beach Notes" Indianapolis Freeman, Indianapolis, Indiana, February 12, 1916, Page 4" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- ""Palm Beach Weekly Review" Indianapolis Freeman, Indianapolis, Indiana, Saturday, February 19, 1916, Page 5, Columns 5 to 7" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places". Archived from the original on 2012-04-29. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "The Breakers Awards". The Breakers Awards. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2018-04-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Breakers.|
- Official website
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. FL-228, "The Breakers Hotel, South County Road, Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, FL", 33 photos, 1 color transparency, 1 measured drawing, 28 data pages, 3 photo caption pages, supplemental material
- HABS No. FL-223, "The Breakers Hotel, Cottage, South County Road, Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, FL", 6 photos, 7 data pages, 1 photo caption page, supplemental material