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“Mr. Phipps’ Private Train, the Latest in Luxury Travel.” The Henry Phipps family’s nine-car, private train, pictured above, from Great Neck to Palm Beach reportedly cost $12,250, known then as the longest train ever chartered for a private family. The 33-hour trip included a final stop at Delray Beach where the polo ponies were led from their rail car down Atlantic Avenue by a platoon of handlers to stables located on the nearby Phipps sporting grounds in Gulf Stream. [Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, May 20, 1928]

The Early Years

The Henry Phipps family’s prominent role in making South Florida an ultimate destination is not told as often as Henry Flagler’s fabled story though it makes for a more engaging, multifaceted narrative.

The tightknit Henry Phipps Jr. household preferred the Gilded Age reserve fortified by British castles and rustic Scottish hunting lodges, fancying Claridge’s afternoon tea or foregathers at Hotel Cecil with crown heads rather than rubbing elbows with their American peers at one of Newport’s social summits. And yet, no matter the aura emanated by entrance halls populated with suits of armor separating them from the outside world, the family’s immense wealth, mansion building, real estate roulette, and pursuit of the winner’s circle, made for the most publicized 20th-century private lives imaginable in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Palm Beach, and London.

“From the many … To the Few.” In 1863, Henry Phipps’ company was one of many Pittsburgh forges. Then again, considering Phipps’ longtime association with Andrew “Andy” Carnegie, his business concerns evolved and expanded into Carnegie & Phipps and Carnegie Brothers, before the Carnegie Steel Company’s consolidation led to the formation of JP Morgan’s US Steel Corporation in 1901, resulting in an immeasurable financial windfall. [Pittsburgh Dispatch & Pittsburgh Daily Post]

Andrew Carnegie, “The Father of Modern Philanthropy,” and Henry Phipps Jr. [Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920]

Even before their Carnegie Steel shares reaped a fortune from their merger with the newly formed conglomerate, Henry and Anne (Annie) Childs Shaffer Phipps had already broadened their horizons beyond Pittsburgh’s confines, where their conscientious philanthropy assured them immortal standing. In between uprooting from their Allegheny City digs and settling into a more cosmopolitan life found in an upper Fifth Avenue mansion and Long Island estate, they took up residency in Washington, leasing Albert and Alice Barney’s Italian palazzo on Rhode Island Avenue, around the corner from Charles and Carrie Munn’s Scott Circle quarters. When the New York mansion was completed, several newspapers identified them as “former Washingtonians,” their names already etched among the turn of the 20th-century’s most princely in the US and Europe.

Having opened their checkbook for General Louis Botha’s Boer War relief and Lord Curzon’s famine aid in Calcutta, they were tapped for royal introductions at St. James Palace for intimate Drawing Room presentations. When the family disembarked from the RMS Mauretania’s royal staterooms with 145 pieces of luggage and a 12-member staff, stepping down the gangplank onto a waiting private two-car train, the family was welcomed with international headlines.

While the Henry Phipps Institute contended with the White Plague, the Henry Phipps Estates’ apartments in New York set forward-looking standards. Years later, there were no self-effacing gestures when family members boarded a helicopter to see their thoroughbreds run in three races on the same afternoon held on three separate tracks located in three different states.

“Henry Phipps: The Man and His Millions.” [New York Times, April 2, 1905]

Just as Pittsburgh newspapers publicized the family’s every whistlestop for decades after their exodus, New York’s tabloids were equally enthusiastic, documenting their lives from Long Island horse shows to the latest commercial real estate transaction. And in much the same Medici to Vanderbilt tradition, they built mansions that expressed their good fortune.

Having paid $450,000 for a prized parcel three blocks south of Andrew Carnegie’s marble mansion and spending as much as a million to build their Fifth Avenue villa, the Phipps family began acquiring other Fifth Avenue properties located at 96th and 102nd Street, as well as nearby commercial properties, according to the 1901 New York Real Estate Record.

In concert with their legacy, the properties were acquired under the name of their oldest son John S. Phipps (Yale, 1898) who also bought a farm on Long Island in Old Westbury where several years later he and his wife Margarita built Westbury House.

1063 Fifth Avenue at 87th Street. Trowbridge & Livingston architect. Demolished in 1930, the house’s façade elements were salvaged and hauled to Templeton, their daughter Amy Phipps Guest’s estate. [Museum of the City of New York]

1063 Fifth Avenue, Dining room.

Society columnists aired family celebrations and comings-and-goings, posted by private secretaries armed with luncheon guestlists, dinner menus, and the latest charitable war efforts. Sporting pages captured their every win-place-show, fairway drive, and serve. While guest rooms might have quartered tennis pros brought in from New York and London, prepping them for the Palm Beach’s annual tennis tournaments, there was also Annie and Amy’s leading role as women’s rights advocates, marching in the frontlines of suffragist demonstrations and serving as vice-presidents of South Florida’s Equal Suffrage League.

From Chicago to Miami, the family’s large-scale residential and commercial projects placed them on front pages. For several of these speculative endeavors, they engaged planners Bennett, Parsons, and Frost, the nation’s eminent City Beautiful advocates. However, unlike many of their counterparts’ emphasis on the social climb, they maintained a disinterest for dazzle, however many flashbulbs blazed between chukkers, golf rounds, and finishing lines.

At any moment, a news story might have reported the Phipps family “ … live very quietly and do no entertaining of note.” While on the same page, another account stated: “Most of the Rolls Royces in the colony were gathered in front of Casa Bendita this afternoon while their mighty owners drank tea and listened to the songs of Russian soprano Mme. Nina Koshetz. Mrs. Henry Phipps, the dowager of this tremendously wealthy clan, and her daughter, Mrs. Frederick E. Guest, were at home to the most socially eligible of this colony’s satellites at Casa Bendita, the home of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Phipps. Some 200 guests attended the musical and tea party.”

No matter the paradox between avowed simplicity and actual grandeur, the Phipps family, for the most part, was perceived as distant from the era’s glitz as Old Westbury House’s gardens were from the City of Smoke’s steel mills where their fortune was made.  At Palm Beach, the Phipps family’s corduroy, cotton, and garden-gloves mystique prompted the New York Daily News to report, “The Phippses and their guests are in no way to be confused with Palm Beach’s circus gentry. They come to this Gold Coast, not for the whoopie gaiety it offers, but because they find it a delightful winter home.”

Whatever the incongruities and nuances, here are scenes from the Phipps 1st and 2nd generation chronicle in Florida. Part I focuses on Henry and Annie Phipps as well as the setting-up of the Bessemer Trust Company. Part II spotlights Heamaw and Villa Artemis, Palm Beach’s first oceanfront mansions, designed in 1916 by Vizcaya architect Francis Burrall Hoffman Jr. Part III focuses on Los Incas and Casa Bendita, first described as “An expression of the Spanish style under the influence of the Italian Renaissance.”

Palm Beach, Jungle Trail. February-March 1896. Left to right: As identified, Mrs. Henry (Annie) Phipps, Henry Phipps, Andrew Carnegie, Mrs. Andrew (Louise) Carnegie, Rev. Dr. William J. Holland (Director, Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh), and far right, Pittsburgh native and Palm Beach Yacht Club commodore, Charles John Clarke, for whom Clarke Avenue was named. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]

Henry “Harry” Phipps Jr. & Anne “Annie” Shaffer Phipps

By the early 1900s, the elder Phipps had not only ushered the 2nd gen onto a larger world stage, but they had also initiated the family’s interests in Florida, instilling in their five children, Amy, John (Jay), Henry (Hal), Howard, and Helen, an appreciation for the state from the Everglades to the Florida Keys. During the early 1920s, Jay and Hal would do something unheard of as they tossed their New York residency and became Florida residents.

As a respite from their global treks, Britishness, and Long Island summers, Henry and Annie became seasonal visitors to Florida’s remote wilds. At first, there were stays at Jacksonville’s Hotel Windsor and St. Augustine’s Alcazar Hotel, followed by visits to Florida’s West Coast. Annie’s brother, Harvey L. Shaffer owned property in nearby Polk County. Shaffer was a protégé in his in-law’s steel business. Harvey also spent time with his and Annie’s parents’ John and Margaret Shaffer’s at their West Palm Beach cottage, believed to have been called Roseberry Cottage. A lifelong bachelor, Harvey also traveled with his sister and brother-in-law. He spent winters with them at Palm Beach and summers on Long Island where he often stayed with his nephew Jay and his wife Margarita at Westbury House.

Hotel Windsor, Jacksonville. Hotel Alcazar, courtyard, St. Augustine. [State Archives of Florida]

During the 1890s, the Shaffers had escaped Allegheny City winters to a seasonal lakeside cottage located on South Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach, set on five acres with 300-feet of lakefront. In 1902, Annie bought the Layton Abbott Willson cottage, adjacent to the Shaffer place. The following year, Annie’s father died, followed two years later by her mother Margaret’s passing. While her brother Harvey was the executor of his father’s estate, he died in a tragic car-train accident on Long Island in 1906, leaving Annie and Henry with the South Flagler Drive property.

Shaffer-Phipps Cottage, 1020 South Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. Henry and Annie often stayed at the Shaffer cottage, as the children were encamped at one of The Breakers’ cottages. Annie sold the property in 1919 to G. W. Bingham who then resold it to lawyer M. D. Carmichael, the owner for the next 40 years. [Sanborn Insurance map, 1907. West Palm Beach]

The Seminole, the Phipps family’s 120-foot houseboat, was a familiar sight along the West Palm Beach lakefront when the Phipps were in residence. [Halcyon Days – An American Family Through Three Generations, by Peggie Phipps Boegner.]

From Palm Beach, the family often took the Seminole south to the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami. They visited family members, including Henry’s sister Amelia Phipps Walker and his nephew Lawrence C. Phipps. As well, they spent time with some of their longtime Pittsburgh friends who lived along Biscayne Bay near where James Deering would build Vizcaya. Miami became the base for the family’s at-sea adventures to the Florida Keys.

The Breakers. Among the earliest Cottage Row dwellers, the senior Phipps hosted a musicale in March 1902, with newlyweds Henry and Lily Flagler, among the crowd. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]

The Breakers, Cottage Row, north. After they sold the West Palm Beach cottage, Henry and Annie stayed at a Breakers cottage when they were not houseguests at one of their children’s houses. After Henry died in 1930, she stayed at Villa Artemis or Casa Bendita. Michael Grace, Margarita Phipps’ father, also stayed at The Breakers’ cottages while his house, Los Incas, was being built, or when he had leased Los Incas for the season. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]

Henry & Annie frequently visited Miami. In 1906, they explored the coast of California, touring in the Olympia, the family’s private rail car. [Photo Library of Congress]

From the Everglades to Inverness

Henry, Annie, the children, and staff went from Gilded Age New York and Flagler’ Florida to Great Britain aboard the era’s luxury liners during the Americanization of Great Britain, or “the invasion of American millionaires,” as coined by London’s Fleet Street. They first housed at Knebworth Castle during the early 1890s, Lord Lytton’s (Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton) citadel. Lytton’s verse-novel Lucille was reported to be the first gift Henry Phipps gave his wife when they were first engaged to be married.

“The American Settler” & “Rich Americans In England.” Castle dweller Marshall Field was among those American invaders responsible for “the horrors and dangers,” chastised by Warwickshire Hunt members for taking residence in this midland shire and “not even being a hunter.” [The American Settler, 1880-1892/ Associated Press, 1900]

Knebworth House, Hertfordshire. Spring-Summer-Autumn, 1892. “Mr. Henry Phipps Jr. seems to be enamored …” led the latest post of the Phipps’ life of leisure abroad amid upland moors and hidden valleys. Of interest, when they visited Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893, Henry bought a 160-acre farm that was converted into an industrial center named the Knebworth Industrial Park. [Pittsburgh Dispatch, April 1892]

With Henry and Annie’s near every breath reported by London’s ever curious tabloids who labeled them as “distinguished strangers,” their children’s marriages made for a week’s worth of media melees. In 1903, it was Jay’s marriage to Margarita Celia Grace, daughter of international businessman Michael Paul Grace, an Irishman turned American who made England’s historic Battle Abbey his home for almost twenty years.

The following year, daughter Helen’s vows with Bradley Martin and castle reception were detailed.  In 1905, the Phipps family added a touch of British upper crust when Amy married the Hon. Frederick “Freddie” Edward Guest, a cousin of Winston Churchill’s.

November 1903. Phipps-Grace marriage, Battle, East Sussex.

Beaufort Castle, November 1904. Inverness-shire. Ensconced at the ancestral seat of Lord and Lady Lovat and known for its “ghost chamber,” the Phipps’ reception for their daughter Helen’s marriage to Bradley Martin Jr. was detailed by nearly every newspaper in the US and Great Britain. After several seasons at Beaufort, Henry and Annie relocated in 1906 to Glenquoich Lodge. [Daily Mirror, London,  1904]

Apparently, after only five years at the center of the world’s social vortex, Helen shared her impressions of English society. [Miami News, July 26, 1909]

London, 1905. Daughter Amy’s marriage to Freddie Guest was “a very big one.” [Daily Mirror, London, April-June, 1905.]

Americans in the Highlands, 1906. “Brilliant affairs with jigs, reels, and flings …”

Glenquoich Lodge, Inverness, located deep inside a 6,000-acre deer forest. Demolished, now submerged.[CANMORE, Historic Scotland Environment.]

Glenquoich Lodge, first-floor plan. “High life in the Highlands.” The fish pantry, meat larder, milk store, scullery, lumber room, and a boot hall at this Scottish lodge contrasted with Newport’s libraries and ballrooms. Glenquoich was demolished in 1955. [CANMORE, Historic Scotland Environment.]

Just as Jay and Margarita were moving into Westbury House, their Long Island estate designed by British architect George Crawley, brother Hal’s engagement to Gladys Livingston Mills was announced. Gladys’ uncle Whitelaw Reid was the American ambassador to the Court of St. James. Her twin sister Beatrice Mills would become Lady Granard, wife of the 8th Earl of Granard. A longtime singleton, their youngest son Howard was the last to wed, marrying Harriet Price in 1931, settling in nearby Gulf Stream.

December 1907. Gladys Livingston Mills and Henry Carnegie Phipps. [St. Augustine Evening Record]

Having built several distinctive skyscrapers and buildings in Greater Pittsburgh, including the Bessemer Building, Henry Phipps was irate when a tenant, the Fulton Café located in the Phipps-owned Fulton Building, was denied a liquor license in 1909. The New York Times reported Phipps said, “Pittsburgh shall not again receive one penny of my money for playgrounds, conservatories, etc.”

Henry and Annie acquired an 80-acre Long Island estate named Bonnie Blink, located on Lake Success across from William K. Vanderbilt Jr.’s Deepdale.The 39-room Georgian Revival brick house was designed by Horace Trumbauer, its columned portico façade more understated than his children’s nearby estates at Westbury House, Knole, or Spring Hill. Family members would donate Bonnie Blink to the Great Neck School district in 1949. [Robert Yarnall Richie Collection, Degolyer Library, SMU]

Rosebery Cottage site, West Palm Beach, aerial. 2023. M. D. Carmichael owned the former Shaffer-Phipps cottage from 1920 until the early 1960s when they sold it to the Baptist congregation that owned the octagonal church on Olive Avenue across the street from them. The landfill across from Roseberry Cottage became the site for The Bristol condominium.

1930. Henry Phipps’ death was reported worldwide, including these headlines in Great Briain. Before she died in 1934, Annie legally changed her name to Anne Henry Phipps. The Social Register declared her a “Society Immortal.” [London Daily Mirror]

Entre Nous: The Bessemer Trust Company

Following the reported $50 million windfall from the US Steel merger, Henry and Anne Phipps structured their estates to be equally shared by their five children. In a letter to each of them, Henry Phipps mapped how his legacy would be distributed and the principles fostering his “Family Plan” that evolved into the Bessemer Trust Company, state chartered in New Jersey in July 1907. Once described as “An intricate maze of trusts, corporations, subsidiaries, and investments,” today’s Bessemer Trust manages 13,000 trusts with more than $100 billion in assets for 2,500 client relationships, according to the company’s website.

Newspaper editorials termed his legacy “Henry’s Way,” suggesting other millionaires might benefit by following Henry Phipps’ lead to avoid court battles between their children and deflect inheritance taxes. While the two Phipps daughters, Amy and Helen, each held one-fifth shares, his three sons, Howard, Hal, and Jay, would manage the trust. As the oldest son and a Harvard Law graduate, Jay Phipps headed the family’s holdings during its formative years while Hal and Howard were often titled vice-presidents.

Along with the Henry Phipps Institute and the Pittsburgh Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, the elder Phipps and his sons developed affordable housing in New York for the working class that focused on providing amenities to “make life worth living,” known as the Phipps Houses, later Phipps Garden Apartments. Regarded as an economic success, the Henry Phipps properties in New York were eventually transferred to the Bessemer Investment Company. [US Board of Tax Appeals]

Thus, a thousand newspaper reports from 1910 until 1912 headlined that his assets went solely to the sons when for the most part they were placed in a single trust, evenly split among his children. By then, the family had formed various enterprises and companies, such as Bessemer Securities and the Bessemer Investment Company, as well as the Potomac Corporation and the Delaware Securities Corporation.

In 1924, the Bessemer Securities Corporation, a Delaware-based company was formed. All these entities were organized to “solely benefit Phipps family members (direct descendants of Henry Phipps) and charitable trusts established by those family members.”

“The Sons.” Jay Phipps, Howard Phipps, and Hal Phipps. [Photo Halcyon Days – An American Family Through Three Generations, by Peggie Phipps Boegner]

February-March 1912. “Sons of Phipps Given $3,000,000.” Chicago & Pittsburgh.

[Bessemer Securities & Subsidiaries. Supreme Court State of New York, Appellate Division, 1955]

Julian Field, longtime managing director of Bessemer Properties, told the Palm Beach Post in a 1970s interview, “By the 1940s, the family’s trust was the single largest landowner in Florida.” At that time, the Phipps name was synonymous with the development of Palm Beach, Gulf Stream, and Miami, in addition to owning tracts in Martin/ St. Lucie counties and large patches of northwest Florida plantation lands.

Although they had developed extensive residential and commercial ventures in Pittsburgh, New York, and Chicago, it would be during Florida’s early 20th-century Golden Age when the family’s legacy flourished, especially at Palm Beach, becoming known to some as “Phippsburg.”

Ayavalla Plantation, Tallahassee. Main house, façade. While the Phipps family still owns Ayavalla, beginning in the 1920s they had acquired other surrounding plantation properties in the Red Hills Tallahassee-Thomasville-Monticello triangle. [Photo Augustus Mayhew]

Palm Beach 1912

During the spring of 1912, when Henry Phipps paid $90,000 for 1,000-feet of Palm Beach’s prime North End oceanfront, he stated it would be for his children to build their own houses, making for the town’s earliest oceanfront mansions. The dimensions and design aesthetics for  Villa Artemis, Heamaw, and Los Incas initiated what would become the resort’s calling card, bringing about Palm Beach’s extraordinary architectural history built on the pursuit of bigger and grander houses resulting in 21st-century $100 million teardowns.

Pre-World War I was still predominately a hotel resort town with residential developments underway in the Royal Park subdivision from Royal Palm Way to Worth Avenue, Poinciana Park’s Sea Streets by City Builders, and at Floral Park, built on the north side of Main Street by the Bradley brothers. Shortly before news was published that the Flagler-owned Florida East Coast Hotel had acquired a North End dairy farm with plans for an 18-hole golf course, Anne Phipps bought the ocean-to-lake parcel on the north side of it, later publicizing it as a site for a possible polo field.

May 1912 “Phipps Chooses Palm Beach for Winter Home.” [Miami Metropolis]

As construction began on the three Phipps family’s oceanfront houses to the north, Hal, Amy and Jay Phipps, along with Jay’s father-in-law Michael P. Grace, bought considerable undeveloped Midtown tracts extending from Wells Road south to the Bradleys’ Floral Park subdivision.

With published plans to introduce “Spanish-style houses,” complementing the lakefront, Mediterranean-styled, Fashion Beaux Art shopping promenade that opened in 1917, the Phipps group platted as many as 100 lots, naming the streets Grace Trail, Seminole Avenue, and Everglade Avenue.

Palm Beach, May-July 1916. “Valuable Property Transfer Ninety Thousand Dollar Deal.” [Palm Beach Post]

Palm Beach, 1916-1918. Jay Phipps built his first oceanfront house “in the Spanish style” on the corner of Everglade Avenue and Gulf Stream Boulevard, later renamed North Ocean Boulevard., about one-half mile south of where Hal & Gladys Phipps were building Heamaw and Michael Grace was building Los Incas, inspired by the Brenta River villas that also served as models for Villa Artemis, Heamaw, and Vizcaya. [Sanborn Insurance map, 1919]

Bought under the name H. W. Robbins Company, Hal, Amy, and Jay formed the joint venture, acquiring and platting a 70-lot subdivision on Grace Trail, Seminole Avenue, and Everglade Avenue. H.W. Robbins managed the family’s Henry Phipps Estate real estate holdings in New York.

In 1916, the Phipps company paid $143,255 for what became a three-street ocean-block subdivision. Lot sales from 1917-1924 totaled $443,425, according to a May 1930 report of the US Court of Tax Appeals. [ John S. Phipps vs. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service].

February 1917. “Ocean Park” & “War Inevitable.” [Palm Beach Post]

Palm Beach, 1916-1960. Phipps acquisitions surrounding Casa Bendita, Heamaw, and Los Incas. As Jay and Margarita began building Casa Bendita on the north side of Heamaw, they sold the Everglade Avenue house to J. T. McLaughlin of Pittsburgh and rented a cottage at The Breakers until their Mizner-designed house was completed. [Sanborn Insurance map]

Chicago. July 1923. “$1 Million Cash Paid For Armour Tech Grounds.” With numerous South Florida developments underway, the Phipps brothers continued acquiring Chicago industrial and residential properties. [Chicago Tribune]

Chicago, 1923-1924. “South Shore Park.” The Phipps Industrial Land Trust participated in commercial as well as residential Chicago suburban subdivisions, often calling upon City Beautiful planners Bennett Parsons & Frost who they would also retain for their plans for the Town of Gulf Stream. The following year, Bessemer became a principal in the development of Miami’s 200-acre Charles Deering estate that became the Bay Point development on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Town of Gulf Stream, 1924. In 2010, the New York Social Diary featured Graceful Living: The Phipps Family at Gulf Stream [HSPBC-Palm Beach Post Archive]

While the Phipps brothers kept cottages at Gulf Stream near the polo fields, Howard Phipps built an oceanfront mansion in 1927, designed by Museum of Modern Art architect Phillip Goodwin. Highlighted by an interior central courtyard, the house emulated aspects of his brother Hal’s Heamaw and sister Amy’s Villa Artemis at Palm Beach. [Robert Yarnall Richie Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU]

By the 1930s, the Phipps family’s conglomerate was Palm Beach County’s second-largest property owner, exceeded only by the Florida East Coast Railway and Seaboard Air Line Railway companies. In addition to developing various Palm Beach subdivisions, among them, Jungle Road/El Vedado, Via Bellaria, Woodbridge Road, and the Boca Ratone Company’s Inlet Subdivision from Mediterranean Road to Indian Road, Bessemer owned large oceanfront parcels in West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Hillsborough Beach and on Jupiter Island.

Palm Beach Properties.” Bessemer Properties Inc. acquired nearly every North and South End ocean-to-lake estate, often selling it to another developer who would then build spec houses. With its capital increased from $10 million to $40 million, Jay Phipps organized The Palm Beach Company to facilitate the building of Phipps Plaza where 20 commercial, office, and residential buildings were completed over a four-year period. In 1935, Hal Phipps succeeded his brother Jay as president of the Bessemer Trust Company. [Palm Beach Post, 1930]

Palm Beach, Gulf Stream, and Miami properties. [Palm Beach Post, Miami News, & Miami Herald]

Following decades of litigation, Bessemer Properties Inc. paid $506,500 in 1937 for the last remaining tract of the former Bula Croker property, adding 9,500-feet of ocean-to-lake property along 1.75 miles of South End oceanfront to their extensive real estate portfolio. In 1948, Phipps Ocean Park was donated. The Ibis Isle development was approved in November 1953.

“House of Memories Razed.” During the summer of 1947, Bessemer had acquired the El Mirasol oceanfront parcel for development, located to the south of Los Incas. Several years later, El Mirasol was demolished, and an ocean-block subdivision was platted. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County & Palm Beach Post]

St. Lucie County, 1955. Michael Phipps, one of Jay Phipps’ sons, developed a 400-acre thoroughbred training center and track. [Palm Beach Post archive]

Named “The Nation’s Plushest Par Three Golf Course” when it opened in January 1961, the course was built on 27 acres with 1,900-feet of oceanfront, inaugurated by the Royal Poinciana Plaza Invitational tournament. [Palm Beach Post archive]

Palm Beach, 1977. First incorporated in May 1929, the Phipps family’s Palm Beach Trust Company became known as the Bessemer Trust Company of Florida. The Bessemer Group, based in New Jersey, was incorporated in 1981. [Palm Beach Daily News, July 1977]

Beginning perhaps, as early as the 1950s, a 3rd generation Henry Phipps heir had begun publicly demanding a forensic accounting of Bessemer Trust to determine his share of the family’s opaque trust, a claim some speculated was for as much as $100 million. Everything going back to the trust’s inception was questioned, including whether Bessemer was actually a trust, a bank, or a holding company.

Was it following Florida, New York, or New Jersey guidelines? Court papers alleged that Bessemer was “rife with unholy and incestuous relationships;” there were divided loyalties. Depositions and discovery exhibits detailed each family member’s financial records.  Apparently, the affair culminated in a New Jersey courtroom in 1986. With their lives now part of court pleadings, motions, and discovery, some family members shunned the press, putting up a “No Comment-Do Not Disturb” sign that for some continues into the 21st-century.

Inquiries, hearings, depositions, and discovery exhibits that began in 1952 continued for more than 30 years, unearthing Bessemer’s complex nuances. [Depositions, New York State Court of Appeals, 1968]

The squabble continued into the 1970s and 1980s. “The Phipps Affair” made headlines. [Institutional Investor, New Jersey Record, Palm Beach Post, Miami News]

Henry Phipps Building, Bessemer Trust. 222 Royal Palm Way, Palm Beach. Architect Gene Lawrence’s 1980s design for the Bessemer headquarters’ façade closely resembles Addison Mizner’s original design for Casa Bendita’s west elevation overlooking the courtyard. [Photo Augustus Mayhew]

Next —
A World of Their Own, Part II:
Heamaw & Villa Artemis

[Left, Heamaw, [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]. Right, Villa Artemis, [Robert Yarnall Richie Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU]

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