Down among the sheltering palms – that is, the palms of Palm Beach

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The Beach of Palm. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Cloudy, rainy off and on, yesterday in New York, with temps in the mid-50s.

Down among the sheltering palms – that is, the palms of Palm Beach which experienced a bull market winter in the social season now finishing up.

Obviously, it isn’t the first year of rising real estate prices to accommodate the growing numbers. But this year there was a strong sense of the newness, including lots of new faces — which made it more exciting for everybody.

Besides forking over larger than large sums for the leap in real estate prices, there’s been the leap in prominent New York restaurants opening up to accommodate the growing crowds —many of whom are moving their businesses down there and taking up year-round residency to avoid the taxes on their multi-multimillion dollar incomes that they’re paying in most states.

Although Henry Flagler achieved immense success, his personal life appeared less enviable even for martinet. He lived to see the first train arrive in Key West but had lost his first wife and daughter, was separated from his only son, had his second wife forcibly committed, divorcing her in order to marry, in true Palm Beach fashion, a much younger woman.

This area was developed by Henry Flagler – the original developer (and land owner of Palm Beach in the late 19th century. Flagler had been a partner of John D. Rockefeller in developing what became Standard Oil (the name he gave it). 

When Flagler left with his fortune in the 1880s, he and his wife discovered Florida and a climate that he loved. This was back when most of Florida was still wilderness (a tropical jungle). He then moved onto the growing railroad business with his own company on the East Coast. He discovered and bought the island when its native population was snakes and alligators. His interest in the area was to develop it as resorts for wealthy northerners.

The town (the island) of Palm Beach was first developed by Flagler with mainly a black population which was housed in a community they’d set up on the island. Flagler hired the men who were employed building the first grand hotel intended for the northern visitors. 

When the first developments (two hotels, streets laid out) were completed the construction employees and their families were “treated” to a ferry ride across the water to West Palm for a week of vacation in what was also a small community. While vacationing, unbeknownst to the workers, all the buildings of the which sheltered them were emptied of their belongings and razed to the ground; and they were forced to settle in West Palm. It was on that trip that the “vacationing” workers learned the fate of their Palm Beach shacks and shelters, and of their new official residency in West Palm.

Today Palm Beach and West Palm are becoming integrated luxury real estate-wise and the social activity is now found (along with houses in the multi-millions) on both sides of the water. Greater Palm Beach.

I’m not a frequent visitor if only because the NYSD keeps me mainly settled in to work everyday, but it’s easy to see why people love it. And now with more people (new people) and more restaurants to curry their appetite’s favor the place is now, like in the lyrics of the song “back- to-back and belly-to-belly.” Very chic nevertheless.

I asked a friend of mine, a longtime resident (years and years) what the “new” Palm Beach is like these days …

The sight: … and his insight – “I do see more young folks floating about … employees and junior partners of these financial firms opening Southern outpost offices …. Today, the Related Company is re-fashioning West Palm Beach across Lake Worth.

El Presidente is in his fishbowl … still surrounded by his prettied up partiers while he whizzes past the flag waving great unwashed on his way to 36 holes of golf most every day … Melania I hear is in the Spa every hour that he is on the golf course … A friend’s son is a classmate of Barron and it’s said he has a great sense of humor and is a good athlete … his Mother keeps him well hidden from the paps.

Every politician across the spectrum has made the pilgrimage to the Island this Season, hat in hand, hoovering up campaign cash … conferences at The Breakers, private dinners, think tank weekends at the Four Seasons … recent arrivals being drafted to Chair the Charity fundraisers … Paulson & Phelan et al. … William Lauder elevating his profile, Tommy & Dee Hilfiger at every event (the new kids on the block) … Dames and gents all hoping for more Tom Ford sightings now that he is a neighbor …

Californians are as common as Cuban coffee … they are loving the tax savings and the only tents they have stumble around are pretty fringed beauties from Jaipur giving a bit of cozy ambiance to the drinks table at the end of the pool.

“There will soon be the annual mass migration to all the usual summertime destinations  … although Paris seems a dirty mess right now; Turkey a bigger mess and London for the wannabes who are hoping for a brush with Coronation gold … Tangier has gone completely Gay; Marrakech for the newly rich … I’m hearing Scotland, the West Coast of Ireland and Comporta in Portugal if you’re sick of East Hampton, ACK or Mykonos.”

Then next autumn, it’s back to the Palm Beaches … for the wintertime action.

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