L’Chaim at Palm Beach

Featured image
Louber Villa guests gather at 231 Sunset Avenue on Palm Beach, c. 1940. For several decades, owner Sadie Louber, standing fourth from left, operated a small hotel accommodating Jewish clientele. “There was never any discussion in my presence as a child or an adult about being Jews in a predominately Gentile area …,” wrote Sue Gelman Browning, Louber’s granddaughter who visited Louber Villa from 1940 until the mid-1950s. “There were always interesting guests at the hotel … and it was fun getting together in Palm Beach with my cousins and their parents,” recalled Browning. [IMAGE COURTESY JOHN M. HOENIG]

Several years ago, when Sue Gelman Browning visited the Jewish Museum of Florida on Miami Beach and noticed exhibition text stating Jews were not desirable on Palm Beach (“Always a view, never a Jew”), she wrote the museum about her grandmother Sadie Peller Louber who owned and operated Louber Villa, a hotel-inn located at 231 Sunset Avenue in Midtown Palm Beach that catered to Jewish clientele from the mid-1930s until the 1950s. Because of Browning’s photographs and memories, Louber Villa is no longer forgotten, now a part of the Jewish Museum’s collection and Palm Beach’s social history.

But Sadie Louber was not alone, as there was already an established Jewish colony in 1935 when she opened Louber Villa. Rather than among the millionaires and mansion builders, Sadie was one of several individuals and families who lived and worshiped on the island and were not within the social dynamic of Palm Beach’s more prominent Jewish personalities and hoteliers, whether Irving Berlin, George Jessel, or A. M. Sonnabend, that I wrote about in “Jewish Society in Old Palm Beach” and “Otto Kahn’s Palm Beach” on the New York Social Diary.

Professionals with offices on County Road, business owners on Main Street, and Worth Avenue shopkeepers were members of Palm Beach’s early 20th-century Jewish colony. [PALM BEACH DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE]

In a June 1925 feature, The Palm Beach Post described the kosher Horton Inn at 173 Peruvian Avenue as, “Incidentally, kosher or otherwise, it is better to get better luncheons or dinners there than at any other place in Palm Beach, and a peek into the dining room almost any night during the season reveals guests from all the hotels and the Everglades Club, as well as prominent people who have establishments of their own, and are of the Christian persuasion.”

In February 1921, The Everglades Club and the Horton Inn’s “Koscher Board” were on the same page. Established in 1918 by Sigmund and Eva Verschleiser as a Jewish guest house and restaurant, for more than four decades the Horton, first called Horton Place, hosted Seders, Passover services, Bar mitzvahs, weddings, and fundraisers for Temple Israel and Temple Beth El. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Nevertheless, the assumption of Palm Beach’s intolerance continues to prevail. Available records, much of it published in Jewish newspapers and magazines from the 1920s until the 1950s, disclose a contrary narrative from the too-often repeated story line about the marginalization of the Jewish colony who, though not listed in the Social Register or photographed by George Slim” Aarons or Bert Morgan, has long been disregarded in the telling of Palm Beach’s history.

The earliest reference to Jewish society in most Palm Beach timelines is during the 1960s. Today, Louber Villa has vanished from Sunset Avenue, displaced by the Publix supermarket loading dock. Although the Historical Society of Palm Beach County documents West Palm Beach’s earliest Jewish settlers, there are no files for Louber Villa, the Horton Inn, or the many Jewish individuals and businesses once a part of bygone Palm Beach from its earliest Main Street development until the 1960s.

Palm Beach was never all Blue Book and Who’s Who but a more diverse social spectrum where for the most part cultural differences were accepted rather than reviled.

Here are some of the people and the places who are part of Palm Beach’s Jewish social history.

Samuel & Pauline Scher
Main Street, Palm Beach

Before opening a shop and moving to Palm Beach permanently, New York-Newport clothier Samuel Scher ran Waldorf Men’s Shop in Daytona Beach. There, he was joined by his brother Joseph Scher, who operated a separate ladies’ wear clothing store on Beach Street. Their sister, Bertha Scher, face specialist, youth consultant, and rejuvenation expert, managed the Salon de Beaute in Daytona and Palm Beach as well as Berlin and Paris, perhaps a forerunner of Helena Rubenstein and Estée Lauder.

While Sam and his wife Pauline settled on Palm Beach, Joseph Scher stayed on Beach Street where he helped establish the Temple Beth-El synagogue for Daytona’s Jewish colony just as Sam and Pauline did in organizing a Palm Beach congregation of Temple Beth El. In 1939, Temple Beth-El in West Palm Beach officially dedicated the Joseph Scher Memorial Hall.

North Lake Trail, 1916. Sam Scher’s Waldorf Men’s Shop on North Lake Trail was a seasonal fixture for several decades. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
In 1916, Bertha Scher established the Salon de Beaute for the Scientific Culture of Loveliness at Palm Beach. The author of The Oneness of Life: The I, Dr. Scher’s “art” was believed to be based on a Hungarian herb. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
North Lake Trail, 1919. Sam and Pauline Scher bought the smaller lakefront J. J. Ryman estate for $35,000. To the north of the Scher’s place, Samuel Untermyer and his wife Minnie had purchased the Mel Spenser homestead for $75,000, an ocean-to-lake tract adjacent to the new Palm Beach Country Club. Just south of the Country Club, A. F. Sulzberger owned an oceanfront parcel bordering on what would become Treanor & Fatio’s The Reef several decades later. Along with his popular clothing store, Sam Scher began buying numerous properties in Royal Park, Midtown, and on Main Street, building an extensive real estate brokerage office on Main Street. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Palm Beach 1929. Sam and Pauline Scher celebrate at Zaned Cottage, North Lake Trail. The Schers held numerous philanthropic events at their Palm Beach home for Jewish charities. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Samuel Scher Real Estate, Scher Building. Main Street, Palm Beach. Whether the North End, Midtown, or the Estate Section, Scher Real Estate represented sellers and buyers throughout Palm Beach during the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually, the Scher’s moved from the lakefront to an oceanfront home at 104 Australian Avenue. A 30-year resident of Palm Beach, Sam Scher died in 1942. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

New York real estate developer Mark Rafalsky bought the Untermyer ocean-to-lake property next to the Palm Beach Country Club in 1925. Then he turned-around and resold it with platted lots, recording Palm Beach’s first Jewish-named subdivision. Lots were bought and sold quickly. Many of the buyers were Jewish who eventually built homes in this North End development.

In 1953, Samuel Paley failed to obtain a zoning change east of the Rafalsky tract that would have allowed a beach club on the southside of the existing Coral Beach Club. At the same time, on the north side of the Country Club, the Town refused Anna Thomson Dodge’s petition to rezone Playa Riente for a club or a museum.

Samuel Untermyer had planned to build an estate on his ocean-to-lake parcel. When his wife Minnie Carl Untermyer, a suffrage supporter since 1909, died in 1924, he sold the property to Mark Rafalsky. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Mark Rafalsky Tract, Original plat, 1925. [PALM BEACH COUNTY COURT RECORDS]

Horton Inn – 1918
173 Peruvian Avenue 

As I wrote in a 2014 feature “Horton Inn leaves legacy catering to Jewish clientele” for The Palm Beach Daily News, Sigmund and Eva Verschleiser opened The Horton Inn in 1918 at 173 Peruvian Avenue with a popular kosher kitchen.

Horton Inn, 173 Peruvian Avenue. The Verschleisers arrived in early November and stayed until the end of April. Their neighbor on Peruvian Avenue, three doors east, was Paris Singer when he owned the “Chinese Villa” before moving to an Everglades Club apartment. After Sigmund died in 1939, followed by Eva the following year, their daughter Sadie took over the Horton Inn. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Horton Inn, 173 Peruvian Avenue. Since subdivided with major additions and alterations. In 1946, Sadie Verschleiser sold the corner lot, now Bricktops Restaurant, to Murray Grossman for $40,000. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]

1930s Palm Beach

Joseph Mendel moved to Palm Beach after serving as a West Palm Beach councilman and West Palm’s first Jewish mayor in 1923. WPB’s earliest Jewish settlers arrived in the mid-1890s at the same time as Flagler’s railroad. Temple Israel was organized in 1915; Temple Beth-El in 1925. Both started separate congregations on Palm Beach. Temple Israel’s records, 1915-1928, were destroyed during the 1928 hurricane. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Congregation Beth Israel (Temple Israel)
238-240 Sunrise Avenue, Palm Beach /Horton Inn

Beth Israel at Palm Beach, 1929-1931. 240 Sunrise Avenue. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Beth Israel Sisterhood, New Years’s Eve, 1931. New Palm Beach Hotel, Sunrise Avenue. Mrs. David Feldman welcomed 100 members to the festivities. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Congregation Beth Israel, February 1931. Festival of Lots celebrated at 240 Sunset Avenue. “Jew and Non-Jew — The Jewish Atitude.” [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Congregation Beth-El
“The Temple on Main Street”

Temple Beth-El, 1935. “The new temple on Main Street.” More than 200 members and guests gathered on Main Street at Bradley Place, today known as 283 Royal Poinciana Way. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Congregation Beth-El at Palm Beach, 1935-1936. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Congregation Beth El at Palm Beach, 1937. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

About Town

Popular gathering places during the 1920s and 1930s for Palm Beach’s Jewish colony from the Palm Beach Post archive.

Café Gabrielle, 15 Via Parigi.
Bradley Hungarian Restaurant (Mrs. S. Funk, 1929) became Marline’s Restaurant (1935) became Strauss’ Hungarian Restaurant (1936).
Russian Tea Room, 1930s. 325 Worth Avenue, Palm Beach. “Presided over by Dr. Mary Feldman.”

Louber Villa c. 1935-1960
231 Sunset Avenue

In 1935, Sadie Peller Louber and family members acquired 231 Sunset Avenue, turning what was previously called Flora Villa into Louber Villa, a small kosher hotel. Along with the full-service resort hotels, Palm Beach’s seasonal housing was predominately composed of various daily-weekly-monthly small inns and guest houses that dotted the Midtown area.

Louber Villa, 231 Sunset Avenue. Aerial, c. 1938-1940. View west from County Road to West Palm Beach. [HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Aerial from the ocean west to the lakefront. Left, Sunset Avenue; Right, Sunrise Avenue. [HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

Sunset Avenue was once an eclectic mix of residential and commercial buildings. One block east of Louber Villa, Otto Kahn built Oheka I along the oceanfront extending from Sunset to Sunrise Avenue. To the north, S. W. Strauss owned Sun & Surf Beach Club for guests at his Biltmore Hotel as well as resident members that included many Jewish families. Two doors west of Oheka I, Henry and Addie Seligman built Casa Mia. Louber Villa was a block from the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Across the street from Louber Villa, the St. Charles Hotel was a popular venue. Main Street was one block to the south. Next door, at 235 Sunset Avenue, Cecilia Kavanaugh ran the Orange Blossom Inn, opened in 1920.

The Town of Palm Beach Records Department has no building files for any of the buildings that might have made up Louber Villa at 231 Sunset Avenue. It appears to have been demolished during the late ’60s-early ’70s as part of the Publix redevelopment.

Available contemporaneous accounts indicate the 1920s-styled main house at 231 Sunset Avenue was first the residence of Fred De Forest Newman, a Pennsylvania Railroad division executive. It was sold following his death in April 1929 and converted into a guest house, Flora Villa.

“On Beautiful Sunset Avenue, Palm Beach …”

Flora Villa, 231 Sunset Avenue. February 1931-1935. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Louber Villa is believed to have opened in December 1935.

Soyja “Sadie” Peller, left, and her father, Schaija Peller, right, arrived in the United States in 1890. Schaija, also known as Simon, trained as a rabbi in New York, according to John M. Hoenig, genealogist and family member. The Pellers were also known to own and operate lodgings, including the New Windsor Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York. [COURTESY SUE GELMAN BROWNING]
July 1921. New Windsor Hotel, Saratoga Springs. Strictly Kosher. “Sadie and her husband Lou Louber had owned a hotel in Saratoga called the New Windsor Hotel, which they lost in the Great Depression,” said Sue Browning. “I have no memory of Louis Louber, my grandfather, since I believe he passed away when I was very young.” During the early 1960s, the New Windsor was destroyed by fire. [HEBREW STANDARD, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL]

Palm Beach, December 1935. “My grandmother Sadie first moved to Miami Beach, which she didn’t like, so she moved to Palm Beach,” said granddaughter Hannah Antiles, who often visited Louber Villa. Hannah remembers, “Sadie slept on the ground floor in a room off the laundry room. She was always there. She did everything. She had a Black housekeeper Liza who had to leave Palm Beach before dark, so she left at 5 o’clock to catch the ferry back to West Palm Beach.”

Louber Villa, c. 1940. Paula and Louis Gelman with their daughter Sue Gelman Browning. “Sadie put the Louber Villa sign with the Star of David under the house when she stopped taking in guests,” recalled Hannah Antiles. “I wished we would have kept it.” [COURTESY SUE GELMAN BROWNING]
Louber Villa. Photo undated and Guests unidentified with Sadie, far right. Louber Villa may have lacked architectural provenance and marble floors, nonetheless, as these photos attest, it was full of life and filled with characters. [COURTESY JOHN M. HOENIG]
Louber Villa, February 1935. Samuel Benjamin speaks on “The Modern Jew in His Ancient Land.” [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
The Palm Beach Post social columns kept records during the 1930s and 1940s of guests at the Louber Villa. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Louber Villa with Sadie Louber at the center of attention. Sue Browning recalled, “My brother, Larry Gelman, says that Grandma took him to black churches in West Palm Beach because she loved gospel music. Larry credits Grandma with his love of music to this day.” [COURTESY SUE GELMAN BROWNING]

Louber Villa, 1940. The state’s rabbinical association met for a conference at Temple Beth-El in West Palm Beach and stayed at Louber Villa. [SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY]
Louber Villa. Undated photograph marked on back: “L to R, Mr. & Mrs. Rubin, Wille, Sadie Louber, Mr. Gaines, Mille, Julie, Esther, Dolly, and Lou.” [COURTESY JOHN HOENIG]
Louber Villa, 231 Sunset Avenue. Palm Beach, c. 1945. Family matriarch Sadie Louber, pictured far right, with her daughter, Paula Louber Gelman, far left, granddaughter Sue Browning, fourth from left, and friends. “I visited my grandmother at Palm Beach from the time I was about four until the mid-1950s when I brought my son Tony to visit with his great-grandmother,” recalled Sue Browning. [COURTESY SUE GELMAN BROWNING]

Sue Browning wrote about Louber Villa in an article for The Miami Herald. I stumbled on it last week. It took me several hours of searching to find the Sue Browning that wrote the article. Within a few days, I went overland to Miami and spent some time with her, only to discover we both lived in Coconut Grove at the same time and knew some of the same people and places that are no longer.

“Fond Memories of a Jewish-owned hotel,” by Sue Browning. April 2014, Miami Herald.
Sue Gelman Browning, May 2021. Miami. “I am Christian Science of Jewish extraction,” smiled Sue. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]

Thank you Sue Browning!

Palm Beach 1941

Palm Beach 1948

Palm Beach, 1948. “We Salute the New Jewish State.” [THE SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY]
Palm Beach, 1948. “Million Dollars Raised in Resort for Palestine Aid …” [PALM BEACH POST]
Palm Beach 1952-1956. [THE SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY]

Palm Beach, 1952. “Inter-Faith Dinner to Benefit Hospital.”
Temple Beth El Sisterhood, February 1952. Biltmore Hotel, Palm Beach.
Left, B’nai B’rith at Palm Beach. 1955. Right, Temple Israel Sisterhood at Palm Beach, 1956. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

Palm Beach 1956

Palm Beach, 1956. “Society’s International Playground” [THE SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY]
Palm Beach, 1956. “Society’s International Playground.” [THE SOUTHERN JEWISH WEEKLY]

Palm Beach 1965

B’Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League charge The Breakers “discriminated against Jews…” [THE NEW YORK TIMES, MARCH 13, 1965] Right, Mr. & Mrs. Adolph Ochs celebrate 50th Anniversary at The Breakers. During the previous decades, ADL board members stayed at The Breakers. [PALM BEACH POST, MARCH 1, 1933]

Those halcyon days at Louber Villa and the Horton Inn are gone. Palm Beach moved on. Although no matter how it has changed in so many ways, some remain gripped by past beliefs and perceptions that will always make the contrary appear improbable.


The Palm Beach Daily News archive (1910-1975) has been inaccessible since Cox Media took it offline several years ago, leaving many chapters of Palm Beach’s significant history, for the most part, difficult, if not impossible, to document. I relied on The Palm Beach Post archive, the New York State Historic Newspapers and the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America. During the season, major New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia newspapers sent their own social columnists to report on Palm Beach.

In addition, I referenced several Jewish newspapers and magazines that had detailed comings and goings on Palm Beach since 1900, especially these excellent online sources: The Southern Jewish Weekly, The Jewish Floridian, Chicago’s Reform Advocate, The Hebrew Standard, and New York’s The American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger.

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