No matter how thorough Palm Beach’s past was documented, filtering fact from fiction can prove a daunting task to anyone interested in exploring the resort’s hybrid genre of reality. Time and again, social historians must rely on revised memoirs, third wives, feuds, after-dinner speakers, hearsay, and deadline items dashed off by Cholly Knickerbocker rather than vetted scientific research articles found in peer-reviewed journals. Palm Beach’s gilded altered state is an uncommon escape from reality where bigger-than-life characters in super-sized settings have been more likely the focus of Hollywood’s screwball comedies rather than scholarly chronicles. Among them, there is probably no more elusive subject than Paris Singer and no greater social and architectural defining moment than the building of the Everglades Club. Topics so extensively written about, that it is generally assumed everything about them has already been reported.
For the most part, because Paris Singer died unexpectedly at a relatively young age, various recollections of his life are the secondary subject matter of other people’s biographies, inclined to portray him either as an impulsive martinet or a well-mannered autocrat. These characterizations resulted in a romanticized version of events, whether recalling his relationship with the mercurial Isadora Duncan or recounting his last hurrah on Palm Beach.
Having amassed a fortune much greater than his sizeable inheritance, Singer was consumed by euphoria from Florida’s Land Boom of the 1920s. Ultimately, Paris Singer may have been the man who “ … made Palm Beach beautiful,” introduced the work of architect Addison Mizner, built the Everglades Club, and began the transformation of Worth Avenue into a world-class destination, but his imprudent real estate dealings relegated him to the town’s rogue’s gallery rather than its pantheon of visionaries.
By 1918, Paris Singer and the Singer family’s global triumphs and moral transgressions were headline news for more than sixty years.
Nonetheless, when Singer began buying property on both sides of Lake Worth, a local paper commented that “… he was not known in these quarters.” The inventive sewing machine heir’s Palm Beach chapter usually opens with a weary Paris Singer and a down-on-his-luck Addison Mizner, much like Samuel Beckett characters, arriving on Palm Beach accompanied by a nurse to die of social ennui. The nurse is a reference to Joan Bates (aka Joan Balsh and Anne Charlotte Bates), with whom Singer began an affair in 1912, following his “infatuation” with Isadora Duncan.
In March 1918, Singer was still married to his second wife, making the reference to Bates as his and Mizner’s nurse more of a humorous nod to the era’s decorum than actual fact. During that period, Bates was shuttling from New York to England and France, overseeing Singer’s properties that had been turned into Red Cross hospitals until after the war ended. The Singer-Bates-Mizner triangle tale grew more complicated perhaps when Mizner fell ill while a houseguest at Singer’s villa on Peruvian Avenue. In a 1918 letter to Mary Fanton Roberts, editor of The Touchstone Magazine, a robust energetic Paris Singer appears to refute details of the more popular story.
“Dearest Mary … I have but rather a time with Addison Mizner who came here with me because of a bad leg. He got pneumonia on the 3rd day of his visit and the house is now organized like a hospital, day and night with nurses and a doctor twice a day. The weather here is all for him and he is now out of danger but it was “touch and go.” There are very few people here so far but the trains seem to come in as before the war with dining cars, etc. … A man coming here to see Mizner the other day says he talked to Isadora in Washington? Is she back in the East again? — Mary Fanton Roberts papers, American Arts Archive, Smithsonian Institution.
This letter is among the considerable documents now available to researchers, not referenced in Donald Curl’s influential book Mizner’s Florida published in 1984, that enhance and expand, as well as contradict, our knowledge of Paris Singer and the genesis of the Everglades Club. These previously unpublished contemporaneous resources stored at The Smithsonian’s American Arts Archive are handwritten and typed letters and telegrams written by Paris Singer, Joan Singer, and Singer’s son Cecil Singer, postmarked Palm Beach, New York, London, Paris, and St. Jean, Cap Ferrat.
Yet, missing pieces still remain, making my research a work in progress. I have had to postpone my jaunt to the Torquay Library in Paignton where I could more closely review more detailed archival materials on the Singer family. Since the March 1918 issues of The Palm Beach Post that would have reported on Singer’s first acquisitions for the club site are not available, I relied on articles published in The Palm Beach Post during the first week of April 1918 that refer to Singer’s acquisitions the previous month.
The Palm Beach Daily News stopped daily publication for the season on 24 March 1918, just as Paris Singer was acquiring the club sites. In my review of the Palm Beach Daily News issues published during January-February-March 1918 that I was able to read, some have faded beyond recognition, I found no mention of Paris Singer or Addison Mizner. Berlin-based architect Luisa Hutton, a great-granddaughter of Paris Singer, granted me permission to include several Singer family photographs. Because of the US government shutdown, correspondence with various institutions was not possible.
Nevertheless, here is a look back when Paris Singer was the King of Palm Beach and the Everglades Club replaced Cocoanut Grove cakewalks and The Beach Club as the cottage colony’s social centerpiece.
Paris Singer & the Singer Family
Paris Singer, an architect-engineer? Having curated the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s voluminous archive more than a decade ago and been a close friend of Mizner scholar Donald Curl, author of Mizner’s Florida, I cannot recall any reference or mention of Singer as a professional architect-engineer. Singer’s numerous patent registrations and his active interests in automotive and aeronautical endeavors indicate expertise in the field of engineering. In addition to Singer’s studies at Caius College, Cambridge, Singer may have studied architecture in Paris, according to available records at the Torquay Library:
“During his early twenties Paris Singer found time to study architecture, probably at the fashionable Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and obtained a degree, though he assumed the role of patron rather than practitioner in later life. Nevertheless he is recorded as the architect of No. 3 Cadogan Gate, the large annex behind his mansion in London’s Sloane Street, which apparently bore a brass plate engraved “P. E. Singer – Architect” on the mews entrance door about 1900.” Torquay Natural History Society’s Transactions and Proceedings. Paris Singer: A Life Portrait, by John R. A. Wilson.
Building the Everglades Club
Although the Everglades Club’s signature building has long been regarded a stylistic departure from the existing landscape, my latest findings point towards the clubhouse’s aesthetic composition as more harmonious with the era’s emerging cultural milieu. Even so, the Everglades Club remains a legendary architectural milestone, however it might have been inspired by its nearby predecessors — Vizcaya, the Moorish lakeside J. B. Elwell mansion on Seabreeze Avenue, the Italian villa built on South Ocean Boulevard, Casa Apava, the Tuscan-styled oceanfront house on North County Road, or the often overlooked under-appreciated, Spanish-style Beaux-Arts Building & Promenade on North Lake Trail by architect August Geiger.
After a review of the accessible resources, in my opinion, Mizner formulated a design plan for Singer that was influenced by, if not borrowed from, the grandeur and splendor found at Vizcaya. Shortly after Singer and Mizner returned from a weekend visit in March 1918 with Charles Deering and James Deering in South Miami, Singer announced plans for the clubhouse’s magnificent Old World look, to be built “ … as if it had been there for centuries.” Two weeks before Singer and Mizner’s jaunt, James Deering had checked into The Breakers. During that same time frame, Paul Chalfin, Deering’s major domo and designer, was ensconced in Palm Beach, having opened a studio on a houseboat tied up at the Beaux Arts docks on North Lake Trail.
Although the aesthetic mix of Singer’s original clubhouse appears to visually contrast with the Deering mansion’s more formally-modeled Italian facade and elevations, both buildings contained much the same ensembles of courtyards, loggias, and arcades. Though Mizner may have later said he was inspired by a cloistered Spanish monastery, the Everglades Club was first described as a fusion of Spanish and Italian features. In the original plan, Mizner included a Venetian Landing outfitted with gondolas along the club’s lakefront with its ecclesiastical bell tower.
And, if you always thought the Everglades Club began as a secret social cartel, you will be disappointed to learn there was no one more forthcoming than Paris Singer. As the club became the nucleus for his and Mizner’s real estate developments, Singer wanted the world to know the club’s who’s who. Not only did the club circulate its daily events schedule, golf and tennis results, and luncheon party guest lists and centerpieces, but it also disclosed the names of every newly elected member, publishing them in Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, and New York newspapers.
Prior narratives put the spotlight primarily on architect Addison Mizner rather than the patron, Paris Singer. I have not included information gleaned from essays or books written by club members, Mizner’s autobiographical The Many Mizners (1932) and the architect’s unpublished second volume of his autobiography (1933), or from Donald Curl’s informative Mizner’s Florida. It isn’t that I suppose these works inaccurate or regard Mizner’s recollections as capricious, even though he was known as a lively raconteur. Instead, I have attempted to reflect the temper of a certain era within a minimal framework by providing a chronicle that relies less on the lenience of predisposition and circumspection of memory.
On the following pages, I crafted a construction chronology to simplify and refine the club’s building history, combining the clubhouse’s complex adaptation of Spanish and Italian architectural elements with its functional evolution from the Touchstone Convalescent Club for Soldiers & Sailors to the exclusive Everglades Club. By focusing on the building process as it happened, rather than narrative summaries grounded on memoirs and anecdotal recollections, the unfolding account sharpens appreciation for the various factors in creating the club as a multifaceted composite. The timeline format’s sequential structure offers a clarity not found in narrative formats, too often held together by facts either condensed or lost at the expense of telling a more engaging story. Below each date, the story’s headline appears in italics, followed by a brief abstract of the article.
31 March 1918
“Paris Singer’s real estate plans”
In the last ten days, Paris Singer has spent $250,000 on eight parcels in Palm Beach. He has an architect and a lawyer and is incorporating a holding company to manage, develop, and build on the land. During the past week, Singer painted his cottage Chinese colors and placed a six-foot stuffed alligator on the roof, most likely a curio from the nearby alligator farm. (According to an April 1917 issue of The Palm Beach Post, Singer acquired his Peruvian Avenue house the previous month). Also, M. Nichols of Greenwich began construction on an Italian villa on an oceanfront parcel south of the Wigwam, the Croker estate, on South Ocean Boulevard.
1 April 1918
“Americans enter battle with dauntless allies”
2 April 1918
A local social column reports Paris Singer and his architect Addison Mizner (spelled Meisner) have returned to Palm Beach from a weekend in Miami. Singer and Mizner were guests of Charles Deering and James Deering in South Miami. The previous season, Deering’s younger brother James Deering had completed Vizcaya, a waterfront estate located in South Miami. Upon his return, Singer announced his Palm Beach clubhouse would be built in the Old World style, as if it had always been there, much like Vizcaya.
4 April 1918
“Villas for US soldiers”
Paris Singer and Addison Mizner (spelled Mizener) left Palm Beach and returned to New York after Mr. Singer spent the past three weeks investing $250,000 in building sites. Singer plans ten large country homes for wounded soldiers.
5 April 1918
“Paris Singer purchases still another valuable waterfront”
25 April 1918
“Paris Singer will build ten villas and turn them over to the government”
In two months, Paris Singer has invested $250,000 in Palm Beach real estate. He plans a “miniature Venice” on Lone Cabbage Island. Along Worth Avenue, the lakefront will feature two sets of villas. The Continental villas will be at the disposal of allied nations. The Palm Beach villas will be open to the U. S. government. Paris Singer has four sons fighting in the war. Singer has spent the last two weeks at the Ritz-Carlton in New York with his architect Addison Mizner (spelled Meisner), making plans for Palm Beach. The ten villas will be offered for free use to aid the recovery of wounded officers in France. Singer’s Oldway mansion was turned into a 600-bed Red Cross hospital, directed by a committee headed by the Duchess of Marlborough and Mrs. John Jacob Astor. His London house is a 60-room hospital. His house in Paris is a 50-bed hospital. Singer’s French Riviera house was also converted for the military’s use.
Singer announces everything in Palm Beach is to be Spanish or Italian architecture, or a combination of the two. He plans to carve Cabbage Island into six islands, working up a “Venetian effect.” To the south of the Convalescent Colony, he will develop the existing jungle into a park with trails and a lakefront restaurant. Singer believes “all improvements must blend with natural scenery.” There will be “no big white houses with glaring red roofs.” A month earlier, Singer had visited Vizcaya, the Deering place in Miami, that inspired his Palm Beach site. He will not build “something laid out with a yardstick,” but instead, “… something that looks old, like it has always been there, with soft colors.”
3 May 1918
“Paris Singer here to start work on Convalescent Colony”
Paris Singer arrives in Palm Beach accompanied by architect Addison Mizner. Together they will superintend the construction of the convalescent colony for wounded American soldiers. The colony will be located on nineteen lots in Royal Park, bounded on the south and west by Lake Drive, by Coconut Row on the east, and Peruvian Avenue on the north. Some of the lots face the yacht basin.
Singer and Mizner open an office on Gardenia Street in West Palm Beach, opposite the Lainhart and Potter Lumber Company, where they place orders for the construction materials needed for several villas. The colony will accommodate “only such men in need of the invigorating influences of this climate.” The Touchstone organization sponsors a national “Back to Health Movement for our Wounded Men.”
The architect is Addison Mizner (spelled Meisner), of New York, a Californian associated with “some of the most attractive buildings in America.” Mr. Singer has spent part of the past two winters at Palm Beach. Singer says, “Lake Worth is studded with islands and the scenery is beyond words, beautiful.” The soldiers’ recovery will be stimulated by “deep-sea fishing, wild pig hunting, alligator hunting, and wild duck shooting.” Dr. A. Thompson Downs, of Saratoga Springs and formerly physician at The Breakers, will be the resident physician and prescribe treatments for the recovering soldiers.
6 May 1918
Western Union Telegram
Paris Singer sends magazine editor Mary Fanton Roberts a telegram saying “…Mizner does interesting picture of club. Would make good magazine cover in Fall. Sending it. Love, Paris”
The New York Times reports the American Red Cross Hospital in Paignton, located at Oldway House, the country home of Paris Singer, is the finest hospital for the wounded in England. Queen Mary visits.
15 July 1918
“Paris Singer tells of his Palm Beach development plans”
Singer tells of spending millions for his “loving donation to the cause of democracy.” The July issue of The Touchstone Magazine features drawings of the new Palm Beach facility. Few knew of Singer in Palm Beach before he began acquiring property in March. First, the project was known as convalescent hospital. In the article, Singer described Mizner as “the well-known and genial New York architect who is now staying in Palm Beach all the time to devote to this project.” Singer “banishes” the idea that the project will be “profit-making.” Instead, it will be patriotic and humanitarian. Classes will be offered by The Touchstone Magazine in October to ladies in New York who want to be useful companions to the wounded veterans in Palm Beach.
24 July 1918
“Tile made in Tunis 2,000 years ago will be used in club”
Palatial home for soldiers and sailors will soon be under construction; greenhouses and gardens are being gotten underway. Tunisian tiles are stored in a warehouse in West Palm Beach. Architect Addison Mizner explained that “Tunis was the Palm Beach of its day.” Construction of the villas is underway but the clubhouse has yet to start. A dredge is digging in front of the basin. Five greenhouses have been erected in the heart of the jungle as thousands of crotons are being rooted. Singer purchased a nearby farm that will supply the clubhouse with fresh dairy products and produce. The article states “wonders” have been accomplished since construction of the villas began two months ago.
3 August 1918
“Singer may go to California; wants no troubles with labor.” “Patriotic carpenters will return to work on Paris Singer contract”
When construction workers strike and demand a raise in their daily minimum wage, the local Labor Council agrees to exempt the Singer project in Palm Beach, giving in to the argument that it is a patriotic undertaking.
“Wealthy philanthropist buys more property”
On the west side of Lake Worth, Paris Singer buys the Gables Hotel that will accommodate “sixty French widows and their children.” The widowed French women will help “nurse the wounded men.”
7 September 1918
“Palm Beach as a Fountain of Youth …”
The Touchstone War Work, as Singer’s project is termed, is in progress with eight villas now nearly completed. The Clubhouse foundation has been laid at the gateway to the famous Florida jungle. The Clubhouse will be semi-tropical in style and is being built not to furnish hospital rooms and treatment but for men discharged from hospitals not yet ready to face life. The purpose of the facility is to fulfill the need for peace and calm in their lives. The club will provide happiness and entertainment, a release from responsibility with a variety of joy. The alligator pens remain to the south of the greenhouses where Mizner was rooting crotons. The Clubhouse has been renamed the Everglades Rod and Gun Club.
The Touchstone Magazine
14 September 1918
“Old World treasures gathered by Singer”
Singer announces Clubhouse will feature antique doors, furniture, and tile from “ancient Troy that Helen may have walked on.” Also, to be installed will be 400-year-old doors with the heads of saints, and male and female figures in the upper panel. Mizner stages an exhibit of rare furniture pieces at Speer Pharmacy on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. The artifacts and furnishings will be installed in the clubhouse now under construction.
“First Shell-Shock Club in America for Soldiers and Sailors”
13 October 1918
27 October 1918
“Wonderful artistic effects achieved in architecture of Paris Singer’s homes for convalescent soldiers.”
The Clubhouse is described as “a blend of feudal, Medieval, Spanish, and Italian in delicious harmony.” The structure’s ambiance is “of a high and venerable pile like a monastery.” The dining room measures 70 by 40 and the roof measures 40 feet from its lowest point to the massive beams. The living room is 85 by 44 with a fireplace 6.5 feet high, “large enough to roast an ox.” The structure suggests barons and monks. Also, ladies rooms, cloak rooms, a club office, musicians’ balconies with narrow-arched doorways. The plans include an Orange Court and a double-terrace angled, the lower of which will form a true Venetian landing stage overlooking Lake Worth. The tower is 30-foot square whose two uppermost floors will contain apartments for Mr. Singer and Mr. Mizner. Twelve bedrooms are located west of the tower. According to the story, Mizner “makes the most pretentious efforts of his predecessors appear inappropriate and commonplace.”
1 December 1918
“Paris Singer here for a few days”
Paris Singer along with Frederic Roosevelt Scovel, secretary of the new club, arrived to look over interests at the Everglades Club. Scovel’s mother Maria Roosevelt Scovel was a cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt. Scovel’s father Edward Scovel was titled Chevalier by the king of Italy.
11 December 1918
“Mr. Paris Singer divorced after 30 years”
Note: According to several Isadora Duncan biographers and court documents, the Singer-Duncan “infatuation” ended by 1912, though Singer still gave Isadora financial assistance for her various artistic projects. He remained concerned about Duncan’s welfare especially following the tragic accidental drowning in 1913 of their three-year-old son Patrick Singer. Previously, when Singer reportedly stayed at The Breakers, he was visited by Isadora Duncan, who “stopped over on her way to South America.” Some say Duncan never recovered from the loss of her children; she died in 1927. Since 1912, Singer had lived openly with Miss Joan Bates in London, Paris, New York, and Palm Beach until his divorce from Cecilia “Lily” Singer in 1918. Soon after, in 1919, Joan became his third wife, called “the bride of the season” by a Palm Beach social columnist.
15 December 1918
“Paris Singer buys large tract in Royal Park”
Sydney Maddock sold Paris Singer a tract in Royal Park. The article does not detail the precise location.
22 December 1918
“Palatial homes for shell-shocked convalescent soldiers built by Singer nearing completion”
The article states, “The main clubhouse suggests a castle.” The clubhouse utilizes quaint antiquities from Spain and Italy, such as the iron doors at the entrance on Worth Avenue. Upon entering, cloakrooms are located for men and women. The cloak room is the only room provide for women, for this is to be a man’s club. Ahead, looking through the building is a view to the south of the orange court and to the west to the lake and the island, also a part of this enterprise. The lounging room and the dining room are high-ceilinged and paneled. These rooms evoke recollections of Washington Irving’s Alhambra or of old English inns. Decorated beams reproduce the period long past. The first floor also includes a model kitchen and servant’s quarters. The villas are described as “Homes for Heroes.” The gardens are a half-mile south of the clubhouse. The dairy is “on the mainland, two miles distant.”
17 Jan 1919
“Everglades Club for Convalescent Soldiers Most Complete of its Kind in the United States”
With residences in Devonshire, St. Cloud, and the French Riviera, Paris Singer has invested $1 million into the Palm Beach project. Singer states club will not be charitable or a moneymaker but an institution. The facility is set on 70 acres plus a nearby 140-acre farm to supply the club. The club features a dining room with service for 150-200, large living room, several reception rooms, and 12 bedrooms and baths for residential members. Seven villas each with seven bedrooms and living rooms are nearby with one occupied by a resident physician, Dr. Sherman Downs, of Saratoga Springs. The club offers a fleet of motor boats, tennis courts and a nearby log cabin, where hunting parties can hunt turkey, quail and deer. A golf course will be constructed later.
25 Jan 1919
“Everglades Club opens on February 4”
The Busoni Orchestra from New York will arrive in Palm Beach on 1 February 1919. The club will offer members boating, fishing, dancing, and a tea dansant from 3 to 6. The club’s president Paris Singer is reported to be indisposed and may not make opening. The club’s officers are: E. Clarence Jones, vice-president; T. T. Reese, treasurer; F. Roosevelt Scovel, secretary. The Board of Governors members are: Pierre Barbey, Harlan Kent Bolton, William Lawrence Green, Lewis Quentin Jones, Frederick P. Moore, E. Clarence Jones, Walter J. Mitchell, Henry C. Phipps, T. T. Reese, Paris Singer, Joseph E. Speidel, J. Frederick Pierson, and Edward T. Stotesbury.
29 January 1919
The club is rapidly nearing completion. The front of the club is lined with wheelchairs. The stucco villas are complete. The Yellow Villa will be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte; the White Villa by Mrs. Charles B. Alexander and her daughter Mary Crocker; and, the Green Villa reserved for Lt. Earl C. Horan and Mr. and Mrs. F. Roosevelt Scovel. There is already a membership of 100 names with new names constantly proposed. Nelson Slater is occupying the apartment in the Club Tower over Addison Mizner’s. Three of five motorboats are now in commission with Capt. Wilson Rowan in command. The Club maintains its own “Tuileries” in West Palm Beach. The club’s tiles are also manufactured in West Palm Beach. The Everglades Club was “Made in America,” said Paris Singer.
30 January 1919
Palm Beach Life Magazine
4 February 1919
Everglades Club’s Opening Afternoon Event
4 February 1919
Opening Evening Event
“The First 100”
16 February 1919
The New York Sun reports the Everglades Club has 125 members, among them, Reginald Boardman, Charles F. Choate, Richard Croker, Fulton Cutting, James Deering, George Peabody Gardner, and John Rutherfurd.
19 February 1919
The New York Tribune reports “The largest social affair of the season was the opening of the Everglades Club the other night … There are fancy canoes, sailboats, fast motor boats, servants with turbans and sashes, and, in fact, every touch known to the stage which the development smacks strongly of. It has cost about half million dollars, in addition to the real estate.” Also, “The handsome new club, erected for the use of French officers, caught fire during a housewarming a few nights ago but the damage was slight. The blaze occurred at dinner time. The diners rushed to the street but returned to finish their meal. A dinner was being given for Mrs. Vernon Booth of Chicago. The guests included Stanley Mortimer, Grafton Pyne, Mrs. Quincy Shaw 2nd, John B. Kitchen, Robert Toland, Mr. and Mrs. John Rutherfurd, and Mr. and Mrs. William Lawrence Green.
5 Mar 1919
Sketch of Club with image captioned “Now open for convalescent army officers.”
5 March 1919
“Society Leaders at Palm Beach”
The newspaper edition I was able to access featured a badly damaged photograph taken 4 February 1919 in the club’s Court of the Oranges headlined: “Eight ladies considered society’s leaders.” The photograph included Mrs. Walter Mitchell, Mrs. Harlan Bolton, Mrs. Pierre Barbey, Mrs. John F. Harris, Mrs. E. T. Stotesbury, Mrs. Joseph Speidel, Mrs. William Lawrence Green, and Mrs. Lewis Quentin Jones.
6 Mar 1919
“New members at the Everglades Club”
New members include: From New York, Francis Burrall Hoffman Jr., Phillip Stevenson, Marion S. Wyeth, Leonard Thomas, William Gammell, James Byrne, and David Forgan; Philadelphia, John F. Kelly; and Lenox, Courtland Field Bishop. Paris Singer has been “absent for some time,” as he is in New York at the Everglades Club office located at the Anderson Galleries at 58th Street and Park Avenue.
18 March 1919
After a first season of nine weeks, the club will close 29 March. The club has grown from 100 to 300 annual subscribers. The club’s sixty-odd rooms have been completely occupied with many applications refused because of lack of room. Additions to be made before next season include a golf course and four or five clay tennis courts. The club will be open from 15 December 1919 -15 April 1920.
5 Apr 1919
“Paris Singer buys Hotel Arches”
Singer pays $25,000 for hotel located on the oceanfront at Australian Avenue. Singer sells 200-feet of oceanfront north of Gus’ Baths for $45,000.
6 Apr 1919
“Elks buy Gables Hotel from Paris Singer”
8 June 1919
“Everglades Club enlarged in three sections”
During the season, the Everglades Club had “three applications for every room.” Fifteen additional sleeping rooms are being added to the south side of the club. Another addition on the northeast side is being extended east to house 300 lockers for golfers, 200 for men and 100 for women, and showers. Across the street, the club will add a garage to accommodate 40 or more cars, with servants’ quarters above. To the south of the clubhouse, the old Jungle Trail is being cleared for the golf course.
22 December 1919
“Opening of Everglades Club today marks beginning of Palm Beach season”
“Paris Singer and F. Roosevelt Scovel arrive today to open the Everglades Club for the season.” R. F. Denzler, of Piping Rock, club manager, arrived two weeks ago. Nine-hole links will be ready at first of the year.
5 Jan 1920
The club’s first chef was a Swiss cook named “Sheible.” The first Maitre’d was also Swiss, R. A. Sulzer. Following the 1919 and 1920 seasons, Chef Jacques Lescarboura arrived and stayed until 1925 when Cesare Innocenti became club chef. Two of six davenports arrived for placement in the Living Room. The sofas are old gold in color with splashes of mauve and blue flowers. The club announced that Thursday and Sunday nights were $5 prix fixe dinner-deluxe and dancing nights. Afternoon tea dances will be held on Wednesday and Saturday from 4pm to 6pm. On gala nights, dinner appears to have been served at 8:30; supper service at 1:00 am. Breakfast also served.
A menu from one of the club’s dinner deluxe evenings “… served in true medieval fashion at long tables with gorgeous old tapestries and crimson and gold altar cloths.”
Filet of Striped Bass Colbert
Medallions of Beef Bouquetiere
Meringue Glace Chantilly
Café Special Petits Fours
8 Jan 1920
Foremost dramatist Percy Mackaye is staying at the Everglades Club. Singer receiving congratulations on recent marriage to Joan Bates; he is expected to arrive today. Singer’s son Cecil Singer has arrived at the club for the season.
14 January 1920
In legal matters, Paris Singer’s Ocean and Lake Company reclaims Lone Cabbage Island as part of its acquisition of the Hiriam F. Hammon tract. By the later part of the month, it will be standing room only at the Everglades Club. There have been many changes and improvements over the summer and fall. The nine-hole golf course will soon be played on. Work progresses on the clay tennis courts. Sherwood Aldrich is in residence at White Villa. Also, in residence at the club are mural artist Robert Astor Chandler who is working on murals for Joseph Riter at Al Poniente and architect F. Burrall Hoffman, who is designing Reiter’s music room that will become home for the first events by the resort’s Society of the Arts. Chandler designed the murals at Vizcaya; Hoffman was Vizcaya’s principal architect. Singer’s nephew Fred Singer arrives from Paris. The club adds a Ladies Association Annual Membership. Because of the club’s popularity, board meetings are being held almost every few mornings to consider additional new members known as either annual or temporary subscribers.
The club’s officers are: Paris Singer, president; E. Clarence Jones and E. T. Stotesbury, vice-presidents; Martin Sweeney, secretary and treasurer. The board of governors are: Pierre Lorillard Barbey, Harlan K. Bolton, William Laurence Green; John F. Harris, E. Clarence Jones, Lewis Quentin Jones, Frederick P. Moore, J. Frederic Pierson, H. C. Phipps, Henry T. Sloane, all of New York; Edward Crozer, Charles Munn, E. T. Stotesbury, Philadelphia; T. T. Reese, Palm Beach; Joseph Speidel, West Virginia; and Walter J. Mitchell, Manchester–by-the-Sea.
17 Jan 1920
New club members include: From New York, Leroy Baldwin, Thomas Barbour, James F. Carlisle, Edward Clark Crossett, John Edwin Deitz, Winthrop Dwight, Robert L. Ireland, Percy Mackaye, Edward Martin, Evander Schley, and Cecil Singer. Chicago: William Waller Jr., Robert C. Wheeler. Others: Col. Richard O. Davies, Henry F. du Pont, Frank Griswold, William P. Snyder, William G. Warden, Robert Webb (West Palm Beach) and George W. Wightman.
The nine-hole golf course will open soon, designed by Seth Rayner and Charles Blair MacDonald.
20 January 1920
Mrs. F. Roosevelt Scovel hosted a luncheon at the Everglades Club to honor Mrs. Paris Singer. Mrs. Scovel was the former Vivian Sartorius, second cousin to President Theodore Roosevelt and granddaughter of President Ulysses S. Grant.
3 Feb 1920
“Everglades Club golf course opens tomorrow”
4 Feb 1920
“Everglades Cub course opens – Nine-Hole Links ready for play…”
William Robertson is the club’s first golf professional. The course is 2,830 yards; par for the course is 39.
4 February 1920
The club’s 1st Anniversary is celebrated with a golf exhibition, followed by a tea reception and dance. The following annual subscribers were added: From New York, James Anyon, Cooper Bryce, Hamilton Carhart, Bayard Dominick, Robert Dougherty, Thomas Eastman, Henry Kipp, Henry H. Rogers, Arthur Punnett, James Punnett, and John J. Watson Jr.; Charles Pillsbury, Minneapolis; Jerome Wideman, West Palm Beach; A. E. Dietrich, Millbrook; Jonathan Godfrey, Bridgeport; R. I. Huntzinger, Greenwich; C. Bai Lihune, Chicago; and Lord Queenborough, London.
4 Feb 1920
Sketch image announces the club’s advantages “Modern Laundry and Dairy Farm.”
17 February 1920
Among the subscribers at the tea and dance celebrating the club’s first anniversary and opening of the golf course were: Mr. and Mrs. Richard Croker, Mr. J. Horace Harding, Sherwood Aldrich, Lord and Lady Queenborough, Mrs. Whitney Lyon, M. and Mrs. William Thaw, Mr. and Mrs. Leland Sterry, Michael P. Grace, and Dr. and Mrs. Landon Humphreys.
2 March 1920
At a meeting held 23 February 1920, the following new subscribers were elected:
New York: Howard Cole, Conde Nast, A. R. Pierson, Herbert Pulitzer, J. Ernest Richards, William Rhinelander Stewart Jr., Edward Tinker, and Sidney Whelan; Neil Bertson, Flint; Harold J. Bryant, Lake Forest; Waldo Bryant, Bridgeport; NY; George Crawford, Pittsburg; Irenee du Pont, Wilmington; James Elverson Jr., Philadelphia; W. J. Matheson, Florida; and Lloyd Thayer, San Francisco.
Temporary subscribers elected were:
New York: Clifford Brokaw, Howard Brokaw, Herbert Harriman, John Inman, Ferdinand Jelke, A. V. Otergren, Orme Wilson, and John S. Wise Jr. Also, Henry Darlington, Newark; Harry Holloway, Philadelphia; F. Wilson Pritchett, Philadelphia; Michael Van Beuren, Newport; and John B. Warren, Philadelphia. Among the temporary annual subscribers elected were: Gen. P. D. Fitzgerald, London; John K. Branch, Richmond; Lawrence Fuller, Philadelphia; Capt. Cyril Hargraves, London; and Eugene Levering, Baltimore.
Thursday evenings were appointed Venetian Fete nights, complete with melodious Italian singers and a fleet of gondolas.
16 March 1920
Among the most recent subscribers elected: Sam Bell, Philadelphia; Arthur W. Butler, New York; R. Hugh Carleton, Long Island; Walter Carpenter Jr., Wilmington; T. DeWitt Cuyler, Philadelphia; Edward C. Dale, Philadelphia; Dr. James A. Draper, Wilmington, H. Wilfred Dupuy, Philadelphia; F. W. Fuller, Springfield; Lord A. Levison Gower, London; Robert Goelet, NYC; Sydney Hutchinson, Philadelphia; Ogden Reid, New York.
2 Jan 1921
“Everglades Club opens”
Chef Jacques Lescarboura returns with “a galaxy of gourmet and epicure delights.” Dr. Sherman Downs, club physician, is in residence. The club has a “welcome foreign atmosphere.” By 7 January 1921, the club has a waiting list of members and for accommodations.
14 Mar 1922
Annual members elected: Clarence Dillon and Col. L. H. Slocum. Women members elected were Mrs. Felix du Pont and Mrs. Arthur Brockle.
14 June 1922
In a letter to Mary and Bill Roberts in New York, Joan Singer invited the couple to Palm Beach the following winter and updates them on the Singers’ latest comings-and-goings from Villa les Rochers in St. Jean, Cap Ferrat. “Poor Paris has been quite ill with grippe and congestion of the lungs with a temperature of 104 for two or three days and an abnormally high blood pressure… He came downstairs yesterday for the first time in three weeks. It has made him awfully weak but with this lovely sunshine he will be getting strong again and we are planning to be in Paris by the 24th and then to England and Oldway House at Devonshire … Addison is expected here in July when we hope for great things.”
2 January 1923
The Everglades Club’s informal opening will be 3 January 1923 because so many members have yet to arrive and the absence of the president. The club formally opens 8 January 1923 when the orchestra arrives. Gala nights reserved for Thursday and Sunday nights. During the 1923 season, the club expects many distinguished diplomatic and foreign visitors.
Of the club’s many changes and improvements suggesting an ancient Spanish monastery, Paris Singer “… has made Palm Beach beautiful with the magic of his taste and money.” Since the need diminished for accommodations for officers following the armistice, the Everglades Club has since become an exclusive residential club. Members are elected at weekly board meetings held on Mondays during the season. The club’s officers for the 1923 season are: Paris Singer, president; E. Clarence Jones and E. T. Stotesbury, vice-presidents; Martin Sweeney, secretary and treasurer. The board of governors: Pierre Lorillard Barbey, William Laurence Green; John F Harris, E. Clarence Jones, Lewis Quentin Jones, H. C. Phipps, Henry T. Sloane, all of New York; Edward Crozer, Charles Munn, E. T. Stotesbury, Philadelphia; T. T. Reese, Palm Beach; Joseph Speidel, West Virginia; and Walter J. Mitchell, Manchester–by-the-Sea.
Paris Singer arrives January 8 to open his Chinese Villa on Peruvian Avenue. The opening dinner will introduce the sales force from the club’s parent company, The Ocean and Lake Realty Company. The 18-hole golf course features a new stucco golf and tennis clubhouse with a view of the course lake. Martin L. Hampton is the architect of golf club house. The club’s tennis manager is James Bevans; the golf director is William Robertson.
The new maisonettes overlook the tennis courts with a wide loggia on the second floor. The club’s maisonettes apartment tenants included: John Sanford, Alice DeLamar, Mrs. Lorenzo Woodhouse, Mr. Irenee du Pont, and Herbert M. Cowperthwaite. Singer’s Golf View Development Company has built bijou houses of unique architecture each of a different color on Golfview Road designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth. Each house features three master bedrooms and baths, adequate servants’ quarters, and large living room. In addition, the Jay Carlisles have already moved in. Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Hutton and Mr. and Mrs. David McCullough already occupy their houses. Nearby, Singer Place is a broad boulevard offering large lots and lots between 2nd (Gulfstream Road) and 3rd Streets (Via Marina) and between Ocean Boulevard and County Road.
Martin Sweeney begins his third season as the club’s manager. A beautiful new Bridge Room has been added on the ground floor entered from the left side of the loggia. The bridge room features colored theatrical gauze curtains with green wool embroidery and the necessary soft lighting that affords winning a game of bridge. A new seawall on the southwest of club’s lakefront, allowed for a new fill-in area to make a large garden plot. The Great Hall has new light fixtures with yellow parchment shades on the great iron chandeliers making the light softer.
On Worth Avenue east of the clubhouse, the Everglades Arcade Shops open with Jay Thorpe, Exotic Gardens, Miss Flora Darrah Silver, Palm Beach Decorative Society, Wood, Edey & Slater and William Baumgarten, Max Littwitz lace shop, Ladd & Webb, real estate, Edward F. Foley, photographer, Louis McCarthy, gowns, Gontran, hairdresser, a barber shop, and Western Union.
The club’s staff includes: A. D. Tunnecliffe, superintendent; Jacques Lescarboura, chef; Maitre’d Frank Walfel; James Bevans, tennis director, William Robertson, golf manager, and C. D. Miller, gardener.
17 June 1923
In a letter to Mary Fanton Roberts, Joan Singer relates the work being done on their villa at St. Jean. “Paris has bought a lot more property and the scheme is to be much bigger than Palm Beach! The new villa is unfinished but well on its way and we hope to be occupying it in October. We are getting furniture into the rooms that are furnished and Addison is expected here in July when we hope for great things. Paris is busy from morning to night and is well except for his high blood pressure for now as a result of his stupendous energy. … Cecil and Laura are coming down July 7.”
8 Mar 1924
“Paris Singer to retire; Give up control of Everglades Club.”
Apparently, this New York Times headline was premature.
1 May 1925
“The Beginning of the End …”
4 June 1925
“Singer obtains $1.5 million more beach to the North. Adds Blue Heron tract of 5,200 feet to enormous holdings beyond inlet.”
“Millionaire clubman” Paris Singer plans Mizner-designed Blue Heron Beach Inn to accommodate “thousands of pleasure-seekers.” Plans include a yacht basin and deepening the inlet for sea-going yachts.
24 September 1925
“Singer to build costly theater for Palm Beach. Ziegfeld will stage Follies this winter.”
Singer announces plans for a Venetian-style theater to be built on the lakefront south of the Everglades Club. Pending its completion, Singer has engaged Joseph Urban to redesign his Club Montmartre on Royal Palm Way to showcase Flo Ziegfeld’s “Palm Beach Follies,” described as a “high-styled amusement.” Ziegfeld adds that Palm Beach will host the first international beauty contest in search of a “Modern Cleopatra.”
15 December 1925
31 Dec 1925
The Everglades Club opens on New Year’s Eve. The Maisonettes, Everglades Arcade and several cottages along Worth Avenue are completely occupied. And now, perhaps the greatest improvements can be found in building across from the Everglades Club. A façade and tower were joined by a group of twenty shops with apartments above (Via Mizner).
The club’s Main Building has altered its own entrance and added apartments extending east towards the arcade of shops. In the rear, additional apartments add to the capacity. There is a welcome addition to the south side where the loggia facing the patio is now a beautiful room with a sliding roof that members may engage for private parties. The roof of the ballroom/living room forms a beautiful roof garden with rare shrubs, trees, vases, and jardinières. The roof garden is reached from the apartment above by a flight of tiled steps and set aside for the exclusive use of Paris Singer whose apartment it adjoins.
At the club’s southwest, the domed Moorish roof of the loggia has achieved a full story height dominating the apartment built especially for Mr. and Mrs. Harris Hammond. The apartment overlooks the golf course and gardens on one side and the Singer’s garden on the other.
The center of the patio itself has a tiled oblong fountain with a goldfish pond lined with green tile and an octagonal tile top arising from the base in which a beautiful symmetrical orange tree has been planted. A wonderful pile of Tunisian tiles in the loggia denotes they are to be used for completely tiling this space overlooking the patio.
The new addition to the front of the club facing Worth Avenue is reached by a beautiful circular staircase leading to the private apartments of Mr. and Mrs. James Donahue and Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Beaver Strassburger, these now having been completed. Mr. Strassburger is president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.
During the summer, the dining room was completely redecorated. Exquisite mural decorations by Achille Angeli have transformed it. The decorations depict the Spanish Armada on the north wall, on the left of the panel being the inscription, “ On May 13th there sailed from the port … And on the other side of the panel, this inscription, “Under instructions from Fillippa II, the great Armada was held at Sea…”
The smaller private dining room beyond has frescoes of orange trees combined with Spanish crests. The entire wall above the paneling of these two rooms was decorated by the master, Achille Angeli. It seems like a veritable antique.
The Great Hall, the comfortable lounge and card rooms beyond, and the great Orange Gardens with their terraced dancing floors remain unchanged. But to the south of the club, there are beautiful new gardens adjoining the golf links. Rising from the corner of the gardens is a beautiful great building which contains a studio atop and the apartments of English artist Oswald Birley.
The club’s manager is London Wallick; Chef Cesare Innocenti; and doorman, Jock Dempsey.
Across from the clubhouse on Worth Avenue, the six-story office building on Via Parigi is completed. The tenants are :1st floor, Grace Hyde’s hat shop; 2nd floor, La Tienda, Duchesse de Richelieu’s antique import shop that will furnish the Blue Heron Inn; 3rd floor, Palm Beach Ocean Realty; 4th floor, H. C. Orrick, banker from Toledo; 5th floor, A. J. Drexel Biddle Jr.; 6th floor, Ocean and Lake Realty. Mortimer Singer, son of Franklin Singer, is appointed club’s honorary secretary.
Club policies remain unchanged, “… being more than ever like smart French and English clubs.” The entrance to the club has changed so members will receive mail and cashiers in new offices giving onto the loggia on the entrance floor. The club’s architectural features are of “best London clubs.”
The club’s Gala Nights will be on Thursday and Sunday featuring the Meyer Davis orchestra. A House Committee was created to bring members closer with suggestions and complaints. The Board added Bylaw IV enabling “a few desirable young men, whose occupations prevent them from fully using the club, to become junior associate subscribers. The Club will close for the season on 15 April.
The Seminole Golf Course has been built with 18 holes ready to play. This season there is a golf pavilion containing dining rooms, sitting rooms, locker rooms, and a caddie house. Seth Raynor is the architect of golf course located along the Intracoastal Waterway six miles north of Palm Beach.
New kitchens have been built for the club. A covered carriage entrance port cochere has been added on east side, together with a visitor’s reception area. A new private ballroom or banqueting hall has been built at the east end of the east patio. Two nine-room cottages, plus three maisonettes have been added. If the embargo on construction is not too severe, eight club cottages with be refurbished in the Spanish style. A new barber shop was built and two new garages added. Via Parigi contains twenty stores. The club’s harbor has been dredged thoroughly, cleaned, and the bottom blasted to six feet. Paris Singer purchased Gus’s Bath along the oceanfront at Worth Avenue, reserving a part of it as a private swim club for Everglades Club members.
During the 1925 – 1926 season, there was an avalanche of requests for membership. Maisonette leases have been extended to: W. Jackson Crispin, Cecil Singer, Princess Polignac, (aka Winaretta Singer, Paris Singer’s sister); and George Singer. The cottages are occupied by Felix Doubleday, Leonard Schultze and Fullerton Weaver. Apartments on Via Parigi are leased to Maurice Fatio and artist William Van Dresser. Via Parigi has softly tinted walls in cream, eau de Nile, blue, and cream with a half-timbered effect. The winding pedestrian street has a lovely plaza.
5 March 1926
9 April 1927
“Florida authorities allege huge fraud. Singer bailed after arrest.”
While Paris Singer was exonerated of criminal fraud, numerous civil suits were filed by investors against him and his Palm Beach Ocean Realty Company. These suits alleged Singer made off with more than $1.5 million under false pretenses. Eventually, Singer lost these cases and liens were file against his various interests.
30 April 1927
“Mr. Singer explains ..”
6 March 1930
“The last dance …”
Shortly after the Fancy Dress Ball at the Everglades Club, Paris and Joan Singer left Palm Beach, where they had spent their final season in a rental cottage on Seaspray Avenue. For a time, they encamped on a houseboat on The Nile before heading back to London. Several months after a Palm Beach County court lodged a $1.5 million lien against Singer, already in tenuous health, he died of heart failure in a London hotel room on 23 June 1932. He was entombed in the Singer family vault in Paignton.
Singer’s sons Cecil and George Singer represented the family’s interest in dealings with the Everglades Club. Cecil Singer succeeded his father as the club’s president for the 1933 season. In August 1933, Cecil and the bond holders placed the Everglades Club’s real estate in receivership appointing local realtor John L Webb as their receiver. Singer, his brother Paris Graham Singer, and the family’s various Devon and Vosges syndicates of Canada (holders of stock and notes of the club’s parent company), filed a suit alleging the Everglades Club owned them more than $200,000, claiming officers of the club fraudulently appropriated money. They also filed a damage suit to recover $375,000 in promissory notes, recorded in March 1928 Following the Singer family’s lawsuit against the club, the club’s members, including Hugh Dillman and John Shephard, filed for involuntary bankruptcy of the club itself. Columnist Cholly Knickerbocker reported an “explosion in the Everglades Club, as far as management policy.” Nonetheless, the club’s directors explored various options for the club to continue operation.
In January 1934, James Cromwell advocated opening the club to the public between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am each day except Thursday and Sunday. A vote was taken and nine governors voted favorably with one voting against the suggestion. It was decided to ask the Receiver to petition the court for such authority. Several weeks later, Charlton Yarnall reported the court would not approve the open night policy because it might affect the solicitation of new members. Charlie Munn suggested members be permitted to issue invitational cards permitting guests to use the Orange Gardens during prescribed times. Also, Yarnall proposed a Committee of Ladies be formed for the purpose of sponsoring teas in the Orange Gardens on Saturday afternoons. Both the Munn plan and Yarnall’s suggestions were approved. At one juncture, club members considered selling the club to the Town of Palm Beach.
After years of acrimonious wrangling, the club’s future was finally settled in January 1936 when a group of club members formed The Everglades Protective Syndicate, acquiring the club and its real estate holdings for $450,000 from the trusteeship held by the Central Farmers Trust and H. C. Rorick. A decade later, the Everglades Club became member-owned when, reportedly, each of its 800 members paid $1,000 to become an equal shareholder of the club and its holdings..
Addison Mizner died 5 February 1933, several months after his patron, Paris Singer.
Paris Singer’s third wife Joan died 4 February 1946 at the Singer estate in St. Jean, Cap Ferrat.
Paris Singer set new standards for Palm Beach; he believed Palm Beach always deserved better. Just as Henry Flagler’s and E. R. Bradley’s flaws have been overlooked, Paris Singer’s numerous contributions outweigh his faults. His legacy deserves a reassessment.
“Paris Singer has become almost legendary in the famous resort, which probably owes to him more than to anyone else its place in the sun.”
“Palm Beach Pioneer, Paris Singer dies of a heart ailment,” The Palm Beach Post, 25 June 1932.
Historical Society of Palm Beach County
New York Sun – New York Tribune – New York Times
Palm Beach Daily News – Palm Beach Post
Mary Fanton Roberts papers (1880-1956), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
The Touchstone Magazine – Torquay Library
Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.