From Arcadia to the Wigwam, Palm Beach homeowners were once closely- linked with their house names, as essential as today’s online usernames and hashtags. Palm Beach domain names are a more than century-old tradition. Then, domain names were the only de-rigueur address. Although this custom appears to be vanishing in favor of house numbers, it was a common Palm Beach practice. Now, scattered throughout the island’s landscape, house names also bring to mind the personalities who played a role in Palm Beach’s history. Qui-Si-Sana and Ut-Se-Wa-Na were places known by historians and the postman.
When Henry Flagler ushered in Newport’s custom of grandiose houses, he set a new standard for Palm Beach as a platform for historical tableaus, theatrical settings, and decorative displays of wealth. Flagler titled his showplace, Whitehall, bestowing a Gilded Age stature to his mansion’s Havana inspired red-tiled roof and central courtyard. Whitehall, like the Royal Poinciana Hotel’s titanic scale, was in contrast to the more informal lakefront cottages. The era’s pre-mansion porch-and-parlor wood-frame cottages, however, were not valued for their dimensions but an incomparable sense of charm — Dulciora, Satinwood, Orangerie, and Rabbit Hill were Palm Beach.
Originally part of the Brelsford family’s compound, Rabbit Hill was acquired by Flagler’s Florida East Coast Hotel Company before it was sold to James Y. Arnold. What remains of this late 19th-century homestead makes for one of the island’s most significant historic sites, never landmarked by the Town of Palm Beach or nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
At the South End, Charles Bingham and his wife Mary Payne Bingham kept the name Figulus, meaning “potter,” for their estate, named for the previous pioneer owners, the Potter family. For Richard and Bula Croker, their rambling South Ocean Boulevard cottage became the Wigwam, reflecting Boss Croker’s association with New York’s Tammany Hall where its meeting hall was called the Wigwam. More recently along Billionaires Row, Terry Allen Kramer’s La Follia, and Sydell Miller’s La Reverie.
To the north of The Breakers’ cottage row, Otto Kahn’s Oheka I was built on Sunset Avenue, considered Palm Beach’s pre-WW I Millionaire’s Row. Next door, Tip and Belle Reese’s Bellamar; adjoining them, Casa Mia, Henry and Adele Seligman’s Wyeth-designed seasonal retreat. Across the street, prominent Philadelphia chemist and drug manufacturer S. Ross Campbell and his wife Annie Stuckert Campbell’s seaside Vue de Mer built in 1913.
Just as the North Breakers Row cottages were supplanted with multi-story condominiums, Wewoka, Kawita and Kee-Way-Din, located on the south side of Sunset Avenue, were replaced by the Leverett House condominium. Other landmarks also became condos. Zila Villa was put down to make room for Dunster House. One Royal Palm Way stands in place of Addison Mizner’s Villa Fontana.
On Chilean Avenue, long known anomalously as Chilian Avenue, townhouses and condominiums line the street where yesterday Franklin Villa, Sara-Dan, Palmella, Haus Bovard, and Villa Justine, headed an owner’s stationery and envelopes. On Australian, Passamaquoddy and Cobblehurst.
Las Puertas has never been designated a local landmark, despite the exceptional Addison Mizner addition. Nate Spingold was a longtime Columbia Pictures executive; more importantly, an expert bridge player. “Madame Frances” was a well-known fashion designer in New York, Paris, and among the Hollywood and Broadway set. The Spingolds’ house guests tended toward Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford, and a host of other celebrities who touched down on Palm Beach during the season.
Louwana may sound like somewhere on a lost map though it was simply an acronym for owner Marie Louise Wanamaker Munn’s North County Road beach house. At 720 South Ocean, El Solano, perhaps forever associated with John Lennon, was named by architect Addison Mizner for his birthplace, Solano County, California. At 172 South Ocean, La Solana, “Sunshine, Bright Light, or East Wind,” was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth for banker Wiley Reynolds. La Billucia defies translation in any language. It too was a contraction for owners Bill and Lucy Kingsley, in spite of the countless times it has been cited as La Bellucia, meaning “Beautiful Light.”
Ditto for Treanor & Fatio’s signature Casa Bella Porta at 195 Via del Mar, built for Detroit industrialist William J. McAnneny. It is now known as Casa Della Porta ever since a repeated 1950s spelling gaffe became the standard. By the time, Eugene and Katherine Howerdd bought the house in 1957, it was known as Casa Della Porta. Even a recent book titled Maurice Fatio: Palm Beach Architect refers to what some consider Fatio’s “grandest” as Casa Della Porta.
The names of some landmarks survived the wrecking ball, albeit as street signs. Charles and Frances Cragin set their cottage amid the Garden of Eden, one of the island’s earliest experimental botanical stations displaying an extensive showcase of imported exotic plants. Today the Cragins’ site is known as Garden Road and Eden Road. Los Incas and Casa Bendita are also memorialized with street names.
The Stotesburys named their property El Mirasol in 1917, a year before Addison Mizner arrived at Palm Beach. “The Sunflower” name was a nod to a Santa Barbara estate named El Mirasol, owned by their first Palm Beach designer and close friend, Albert Herter.
While some preferred names echoing their location or natural environs, Vista de Mar-y-Lago on Peruvian or Russell and Vera Hopkins’ lake-to-ocean Arcadia, others imported Spanish and Italian idioms, as if their villa or hacienda existed during the 16th-century or along the Italian Riviera.
1095 North Ocean Boulevard
Following Charles and Mary Munn’s naming their Mizner-designed Palm Beach house Amado, “Beloved”, Louis Rodman Wanamaker christened his beach house La Querida, “Dear One”. The Kennedy family continued calling it La Querida after they bought the house in 1933, according to numerous contemporaneous sources. Nonetheless, because of a likely repeated typographical error it continues to be called La Guerida.
White Elephant Palm Beach
280 Sunset Avenue
From the 1920s Boom, when it was conceived as the 60-unit Rosemary Apartments, to the 2020s Boom, transformed into the 32-unit uber modern White Elephant Palm Beach, 280 Sunset Avenue’s various names, owners, and functions make for a fascinating chronicle documenting the past century’s ever-changing market cycles as well as the whims and assumptions in the telling of the resort’s history, unique to Palm Beach’s domain names.
In November 1967, more than 20 years after E. R. Bradley’s death and the Beach Club’s closure and demolition, the Plaza Hotel’s new owner architect Robert W. Richardson renamed it the Bradley House Hotel, “to honor E. R. Bradley.”’ Regrettably, this often resulted in linking Bradley with something more than only being the initial land developer.
According to available records, after E. R and his brother Jack Bradley bought the Sunset Avenue site in 1910, they platted the Floral Park subdivision, engineered street improvements, and sold off the lots. I am not aware of any primary documents/deeds indicating the Bradleys ever owned or built a hotel. Thoroughbred horses, yes; IOU collections, yes.
In Chicago, E. R. was a co-lessee of the Del Pardo Hotel, never an owner, where he ran a private gaming club similar to the Main Street operation. As part of John “Blind John” Condon’s gambling syndicate, the Bradleys operated the Bacchus Club in St. Augustine before opening a venue on Palm Beach and elsewhere.
Here is a look at 280 Sunrise Avenue’s progression from the Styx’s wetland and ponds to hotel suites and room service.
In 1912-1913, Philadelphia chemist-drug manufacturer and philanthropist S. Ross Campbell bought several parcels from the Bradleys on Main Street and Sunset Avenue, including Lots 31-37. Before Campbell built an apartment-hotel on the Sunset Avenue lots, he built his Vue de Mer residence on the ocean block of Sunset Avenue (1913-1914) and the Campbell Building (1915), a mixed-use commercial building located today at 283 Royal Poinciana Way, the northeast corner of Bradley Place and Royal Poinciana Way. The Campbells docked their houseboat The Quakeress at the lakeside dock on Sunset Avenue; later, their yacht Narcoa.
Architect Martin Luther Hampton was selected to design the Rosemary Apartments. Hampton had been associated with architect August Geiger when Geiger designed the Fashion Beaux Arts Building (1917) on North Lake Trail. Hampton also worked for Addison Mizner during the building of the Everglades Club, credited with the club’s Moorish-style golf building with an onion-shaped roof. When Paris Singer decided to add a ten-story hotel addition to his Whitehall Club in 1925, he also selected Hampton as the architect. Hampton and his partner E. A. Ehmann became prominent Miami-based architects with 12 of their buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
From the Rose May-Rosa May Apartment to the Algemac Hotel
A hotel owner from Tennessee, Lina King Paty arrived in West Palm Beach following the end of World War I, co-leasing the newly-built, four-story, 72-room Royal Palm Hotel with J. J. Raney. Located at the western foot of the Royal Palm bridge on Lakeview Avenue in West Palm Beach, the Royal Palm opened in November 1922. A decade later, Paty operated the Vineta Hotel, now the Chesterfield Hotel, that was in receivership. In 1934, she took over the Algemac and renamed it.
During the 1940s, the Plaza Hotel sold twice. First, in 1944 for $110,000 to A. A. Winer and Sorrel Rose Bollet. At the time, the hotel was owned by Palm Beach Algemac Properties, George Bensel, president, and Paul Twitty, secretary. Then, two years later, when a contract with Dr. A. D. Jansik, who operated the Safety Harbor Spa for many years, for $215,000 failed to close, Jansik transferred his contract to Mr. & Mrs. George Flick of Evanston, Illinois.
In October 1978, Richardson sold the property to the Gladwyne Corporation. The following year, Gladwyne, an entity associated with Ft. Lauderdale investor-hedge fund manager George G. Levin and his then wife Gayla Sue Levin, transferred the property to a company called the Bradley House Ltd. In November 1979, it deeded the property to the New Bradley House Ltd.
George Levin headed Banyon Investors Fund that reportedly dropped more than $800 million in convicted lawyer Scott Rothstein’s $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, making Levin the scheme’s largest contributor, according to newspaper reports. During the 1990s, Levin headed GGL Industries. The company pleaded guilty to mail fraud and paid a $2.5 million fine.
In April 2018, New Bradley House LTD, represented by the since divorced Gayla Levin, sold 280 Sunset Avenue for in excess of $15 million to Bradley Park Owner LLC, a company that also owns the White Elephant Resorts on Nantucket Island.