When Michael Dell’s MSD Partners LP rebranded the Boca Raton Resort & Club as The Boca Raton, it unveiled a more than $200 million renovation ensuring the platinum destination’s five-star status would outpace other name-only resorts that are privately owned, such as The Breakers and The Greenbrier. Even so, while White Sulphur Springs’ guests take to carriage rides and Palm Beach cliff dwellers dash about in their Bentley convertibles, The Boca Raton’s 200-acre enclave continues to attract a convergence of less visible Fortune 500 swells who prefer the purr of an Aston Martin and their Gulfstream G650 or Bombardier Challenger parked discreetly at Boca Raton’s nearby private airport.
First known as the Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn when it was designed and built by Addison Mizner, it became the Boca Raton Club following architect Schultze and Weaver’s 300-room addition for then owner Clarence Geist. An exclusive “Sportsman’s Paradise,” Geist operated it as a “No photos-No publicity” private club. Later reincarnations, as the Boca Raton Resort & Club, included an association with the Waldorf-Astoria group during the Blackstone Group’s stint that brought in designer Thierry Despont for an au courant makeover.
Just as Mizner’s Old World design was described as “history passing through the ages,” architect-designer Thierry Despont believed an architect’s mission was to be “a guardian of memories.” Although Mizner’s plans for Boca Raton collapsed much too soon, a century later his legacy endures in Boca Raton, as it does at Palm Beach. While Despont’s recent death recalls his exceptional work at Palm Beach and the brilliance of his out-of-this-world renovations, whether at The Plaza’s Palm Court, The Ritz in Paris, Fifth Avenue’s Cartier Mansion, or Claridge’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair.
When Despont’s bold floor plans, swatches, and sketches were first revealed, they were perceived by some as a detraction rather than an enhancement. In addition to the lobby, Despont reformulated the area where the resort’s two principal buildings intersected into an ultramodern Palm Court, topped by a transparent ceiling supported by palm-shaped steel structures made of Texlon.
Now, two decades since Despont’s progressive intervention at the Boca Raton Resort & Club made for a fascinating architectural paradigm, sparing the landmark from being frozen in time, the Rockwell Group’s “rethink” of the public areas and guestrooms has added new dimensions “to create cohesion and luxury.”
And what better way to explore a range of 20th-century design motifs beginning with Mizner’s adaptation of an 11th-century convent, along with additions by Marion Sims Wyeth and Treanor & Fatio, than by taking the local historical society’s walking tour of The Boca Raton. Along with an eclectic architectural history, the Boca Raton Historical Society’s guided ninety-minute walkabout tells of its illustrious past hoteliers, among them, Philadelphia utilities titan Clarence Geist, hotel and theatre magnate J. Myer Schine, and his wife Hildegarde Schine, one of Boca Raton’s earliest cultural philanthropists, Alcoa’s Arthur Vining Davis, Waste Management’s Wayne Huizenga, Chicago’s VMS Realty, and the Blackstone Group LP, Chairman Peter Peterson & CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who acquired Huizenga’s Boca Resorts packaged with several other resorts for $1.25 billion in 2004.
Groups of ten or more may schedule their own private tour at any time. Individual reservations will be available beginning in December for the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m. from January-May 2024. Note: Tour spaces are limited and fill quickly. The tour includes climbing several staircases. The Boca Raton charges participants a reduced valet fee. The tour is not recommended for children under age 12.
Here are a few of my recent iPhone 14 impressions of The Boca Raton.
And then, to the left of the Cloister’s arched entrance, a view of …