The Sporting Life at Palm Beach

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Welcome aboard! An iconic presence on the Palm Beach waterfront for more than a century, the Rybovich family is synonymous with the boating world’s best whether custom designing a sportfisherman yacht, updating a classic cabin cruiser, or transforming a pleasure craft into a deep-sea adventure. Pictured above, Julia and Michael Rybovich, seated, with their sons, the fourth generation boatbuilders at the helm, Alex Gill, Dustin “Dusty” Rybovich, and Blake Gill. [COURTESY CHRIS RABIL PHOTOGRAPHY]

Fore! Ace! Splash! Wham! Pow!

However much Palm Beach’s countless billionaires and priceless mansions measure the town’s standing among today’s social capitals, yesterday’s leisure class believed it was the sporting life that turned the resort’s seasonal convergence into an ultimate destination. During the Golden Age of Resort Life, amid escapist architecture and idyllic landscapes, a confluence of aristocratic sportsmen, robber barons, and newly-minted millionaires retreated to Palm Beach’s golf courses and tennis courts.


Palm Beach Playground, aerial. October 1932. Where better to avoid a subpoena than within an amusement parkland designed for pleasures and pastimes set apart from the world on an offshore island? [WAR DEPARTMENT, US ARMY AIR FORCES. NATIONAL ARCHIVES.]
Social splash. Top-of-the-world at Palm Beach. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]


Along with hotel life, a cottage colony developed where extended families and circles of friends convened each season as players and spectators alike whether on the Palm Beach Country Club’s first tee or the Royal Poinciana Hotel’s clay courts. Two fishing piers extended more than 1,000 feet offering the claim to the biggest catch while at the end of The Breakers’ pier, passengers boarded steamers headed to Nassau.


In the North End, the Gun Club offered an orchestral concert and tea between bird shoots on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
As road building increased, “automobiling” became a popular pastime along the lake or ocean road. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
After the races in Ormond Beach, Gilded Age swells boarded southbound trains for the annual motorboat regatta on Lake Worth. [PALM BEACH LIFE COLLECTION / COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Cloud-nine at Palm Beach. Roger Wolfe Kahn, pictured above, was among Palm Beach’s high-flyers. Kahn, who would later become a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft and chairman of the National Aeronautic Association, was the multi-talented son of Otto and Adele Kahn, life members of the Sailfish Club of Florida and founding members of the Bath & Tennis Club and the Seminole Club. For more on Aviation history at Palm Beach, buckle up for High Over Palm Beach at the New York Social Diary. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]


Sky’s the limit at Palm Beach. In 1914 Palm Beach Life magazine added Aviation to its sporting pages. Pictured above, the view in January 1932 and the prices for taking the “Flying Boats.” [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

During the spring of 1942, a bowling alley opened on Sunrise Avenue. Gulf Stream Alleys was a sporting multiplex featuring ping pong tables, a miniature golf course, and an archery range. The venue welcomed a mix of seasonal visitors and local business owners who sponsored competitive teams. The short-lived gathering place was demolished in 1947 when the 700-seat Colony Theatre was built at the location.

After World War II ended, North End homes and Midtown apartments, later condominiums, were built with their own social centers, swimming pools and tennis courts, becoming less dependent on public amenities. Likewise, Palm Beach fishermen took to having their own custom-built boats rather than chartering commercial crafts, as offshore sport fishing was revived with the same enthusiasm as the Silver Sailfish Derby had garnered before the war.

During the late 1940s Palm Beach angler Charles F. Johnson asked Rybovich Boat Works, established on the lakefront in 1919, to design and build him a boat “worthy of pursuing giant tuna in the Bahamas.” In 1947, the 34-foot Miss Chevy II was delivered, the first Rybovich design complete with the family’s unmistakable trademarks — uncompromised craftsmanship, outriggers, and a fighting chair.


Miss Chevy II. Palm Beach, 1947. C. F. Johnson, owner. Miss Chevy II made headlines from Acapulco to Cat Cay. [COURTESY MICHAEL RYBOVICH & SONS]

As word of Miss Chevy II circulated, by the following season Palm Beach’s best-known fishermen became Rybovich clients. From 1947-2020, the family built more than 130 signature Rybovich boats, making for an impressive list of owners from Palm Beach to Sidney and from Hong Kong to Newport Beach.

Hialeah Park was a Palm Beach affair!

South Ocean Boulevard resident Joseph Widener, chairman of the board and majority owner, made Hialeah Park the nation’s showcase for thoroughbred racing during the 1930s, flourishing during the post-war years, even after Widener’s death in 1943, and three years later, the passing of his minority silent partner, E. R. Bradley. Former Palm Beach’s mayor Barclay Warburton served as president of the Miami Jockey Club that ran the racing operation, along with board members Henry Carnegie Phipps, John Sanford, Jock Whitney, and Philadelphia liquor scion James H. Carstairs who had sold the Jockey Club, previously the Miami Racing Association, to Widener.


Hialeah Park. [PALM BEACH LIFE ARCHIVE / HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

For the new $500,000 clubhouse, Widener selected Palm Beach architect Lester Geisler with the Palm Beach-area firm Smith & Riddle, engineers. The Munn brothers, Charles, Gurnee and Ector Munn, supplied Hialeah’s parimutuel tote board from their Baltimore-based American Totalizator Company. Before his death, E. R. Bradley sold his interest to another longtime Palm Beacher, a syndicate headed by Joseph P. Kennedy. In January 1951, the inaugural non-stop Palm Beach to Hialeah Park train carried 250 residents, along with Hialeah shareholder Joe Kennedy and his wife Rose, directly to the gates of the nation’s premier thoroughbred race track. The exclusive train included five coaches, several club cars and a dining car.


Hialeah Park. At the races, newspaper publisher Dan Mahoney Sr. and longtime Palm Beach resident Bernard Gimbel. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]
Hialeah Park. [MARION POST WOLCOTT, PHOTOGRAPHER / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]


Having a ball for today’s Palm Beach sporting enthusiasts could imply basketball or pickleball, lacrosse or soccer, and bocce anyone. Here is an appreciation for Palm Beach at play.

Golf

Remarkably, the opening of Michael Phipps’ oceanfront Par 3 Golf Course in January 1961, designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee, generated as much excitement among golfers as the opening of the Poinciana-Breakers golf course did in 1897, with players having lost none of their enthusiasm for the sport. While it would be another decade before the Town of Palm Beach bought the 39-acre Par 3, the town’s shortest and most beautiful course has been regarded as one of the nation’s best public courses since the 2009 renovation by golf pro and resident Raymond Floyd for whom the course is now named.


Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course, 2345 South Ocean Boulevard. [TOWN OF PALM BEACH]

The improvements and recognition for the town’s Par 3 course parallel the changes and prestige of the town’s other three golf courses, associated for more than a century with golfing’s finest professionals. Until 1920, Palm Beach boasted the only three golf courses in Palm Beach County, designed by the golf world’s best designers — Alexander Finley, Donald Ross, and Seth Raynor.


“Golf is king,” declared Palm Beach Life magazine in 1930, endorsing the sport as Palm Beach’s calling card, representing the resort’s social civility and sporting lifestyle. Pictured above on a November 1963 cover of the John H. Perry-owned Palm Beach Life magazine, Allen Manus, John H. Perry, and an associate. [COURTESY KING LIBRARY ARCHIVE/THE SOCIETY OF THE FOUR ARTS]

Poinciana/Breakers golf course
Palm Beach Golf Club

In 1897, when a nine-hole links course opened between the Royal Poinciana Hotel and the Palm Beach Inn/Breakers, it was one of several activities to keep hotel guests entertained.  Designed by Alexander H. Findlay, “the father of American golf,” the nine-hole 2,183-yard course was built with unique elevated box tees and sand greens. A popular diversion, by the following winter season, Flagler’s Florida East Coast Hotels were equipped with five courses and clubhouses, managed by Findlay. For many, back-to-nature would come to mean spending part of each day on a golf course.


Palm Beach Golf Club, Hole #1. 1904. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS] The #1 tee with the two-story clubhouse, Royal Poinciana Chapel and Royal Poinciana Hotel in the background. Originally featuring unique elevated sandbox tees, the hotel’s course was first a nine-hole links course. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]

Tournaments were scheduled to attract accomplished golfers. In January 1898, the Palm Beach Golf Club announced the first Royal Poinciana Cup to be held during Washington’s Birthday Ball weekend. Henry DeForest of the Philadelphia Cricket Club won the first trophy. Following the men’s competition, the first woman’s tournament was held. Team competitions between the Royal Poinciana and the Palm Beach Inn increased the sport’s popularity.

After the course was lengthened to a 4,500-yard 18-hole layout, it became a destination for regional and statewide tournaments. As Findlay was placed in charge of all the Florida East Coast Hotel courses, the Palm Beach venue was managed by Arthur Fenn. After his death in 1925, his daughter Bessie Fenn, also a golf pro, was named his replacement, becoming the nation’s first woman to manage a major golf club.

Palm Beach activities would no longer be solely consigned on society pages as the results from golf tournaments placed it on the nation’s sport pages.  In 1899, the Palm Beach course hosted its first Florida state tournament. Hundreds of spectators followed the players around the course, as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago’s best golfers gathered for the Palm Beach Cup and the Greenleaf & Crosby Cup.  By 1908, there were six tournaments during the season.

The Old Guard Society formed at Palm Beach Golf Club as a chartered private club with playing privileges on the hotel’s course. Walter J. Travis, the nation’s leading golfer, became the club’s president. The hotel set aside rooms for the Old Guard Society’s growing membership for card playing and meeting rooms.

Following the 1928 hurricane, Donald Ross returned to Palm Beach to redesign the greens on the Poinciana-Breakers course. After the demolition of the Royal Poinciana Hotel, Ross redesigned and lengthened the fairways into a more challenging course during the 1938 to 1939 seasons. In 2018, renowned designer Rees Jonesaccomplished a full-scale renovation of the 5,778-yard course, now known as The Ocean Course at The Breakers.

Palm Beach Country Club

By 1913, the Florida East Coast Hotel Company decided Palm Beach needed another golf course as the Palm Beach Golf Club’s clubhouse between the Royal Poinciana Hotel and The Breakers had already been enlarged three times. The company secured nearly 100 acres with 1,760-feet of ocean frontage in the North End, “rolling country containing many natural advantages,” for an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse set on the town’s highest ground, several miles north of the Midtown hotel course set on flatland. A bus line, as well as wheelchairs and a lakeside dock, would transport guests between the hotels and the country club.

In September 2020, the New York Social Diary featured the history of the Palm Beach Country Club @ The Greening of Palm Beach


Palm Beach Country Club, clubhouse and course. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

Everglades Club Golf Course

On February 4, 1920, the Everglades Club opened its nine-hole golf links course designed by Seth Raynor.  The club’s professional William Robertson, formerly of the North Shore Country Club, welcomed a considerable gallery of social and golf notables, including national champion Walter J. Travis. Each hole at the new links course was modeled on a fairway from one of England, Scotland and France’s most famous courses. The course was designed with grass greens, plenty of natural hazards, and bunkers.

By the time Seth Raynor returned to finish the club’s additional nine-hole layout, he was a sought-after golf course architect, having designed courses for the National Golf Links at Shinnecock Hills, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, and the Del Monte Country Club course in California.

Unfortunately, in January 1926 Raynor fell ill with pneumonia and died in a West Palm Beach hotel room. Because of a hurricane in the fall followed by another hurricane in 1928, the Everglades Club’s 18-hole course was not completed until 1929.


Everglades Club golf course, aerial view north. October 6, 1932. A rare glimpse of the club’s Raynor-designed course with water on three sides before Island Road, Tarpon Island and Everglades Island were engineered. [WAR DEPARTMENT, ARMY AIR FORCES. NATIONAL ARCHIVES]
Everglades Club golf course, aerial view to the southeast showing Island Road completed. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Everglades Club golf course, c. 1930. The Robert Glendinning’s home Casa de Leoni overlooked Singer Basin and the golf course. [COURTESY ELLEN GLENDINNING ORDWAY COLLECTION]


Tennis


Florida East Coast Hotel, brochure. 1902. Tennis [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Royal Poinciana Hotel, tennis courts. March 1907. Although never surpassing golf’s popularity, the Royal Poinciana’s tennis courts hosted the State of Florida championships sanctioned by the US Lawn Tennis Association. The hotel’s ten courts were kept “in the pink of condition” with spectators lining the two-story veranda overlooking the courts. [STATE OF FLORIDA ARCHIVES]


Just as tennis at St. Augustine’s Ponce de Leon Lawn Tennis Club had taken hold as early as 1888, tennis at Palm Beach gave guests yet another opportunity to change clothes. Those weary of swimming and dancing at The Breakers, could roll over to the Poinciana in their wheelchairs for a few sets of tennis or watch a state-sanctioned tournament attracting the nation’s best racquet wielders.

In 1919 the Everglades Club introduced tennis courts engineered in the “English and California fashion.” The courts were first built with a wooden floor coated with oil paint, then covered with canvas tightly-secured on top of the floor surface. The earliest courts in St. Augustine were also built with wooden flooring. During the 1920s private tennis courts became as commonplace as swimming pools and loggias at many Palm Beach homes.


Palm Beach Life covers. 1927 & 1932. Tennis at Palm Beach. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Royal Poinciana Hotel, tennis courts and gallery. As the sport’s popularity grew, the Poinciana attracted more tournament play. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
“Tennis, anyone?” became “Tennis, everyone” at Palm Beach. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Bath & Tennis Club, c. 1930. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Tennis at The Breakers, 1918. [FLORIDA MEMORY, STATE ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA]


Boating

Palm Beach’s earliest settlers arrived on lakefront steamboats and sailboats before there ever was a bridge to the mainland or the arrival of roads and the railroad. Whether for social visits or trips south to Miami for provisions, the lake was filled with as many sloops as motor boats. When The Breakers pier was built, private yachts and cruise steamers anchored at the end of the pier, making for the first Port of Palm Beach. As the inlet was deepened in various stages, larger commercial vessels entered the lake.


The pre-Flagler era docks at Palm Beach harbored small sloops and ketches than motor boats. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]
The Royal Poinciana Hotel provided guests with the latest pleasure crafts. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]
The Singer Basin dock first harbored gondolas tied to multi-striped Venetian poles, giving members a sense of Palm Beach’s version of the Grand Canal. Later, pictured above, sleek cabin cruisers were docked. Behind the two gentlemen, Ned and Marjorie Post Hutton’s Hussar launch that would take them to their ocean yacht, later renamed Sea Cloud. At the time, the Hussar was often moored in Miami. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Sea Cloud. Marjorie Post commissioned a model of the Sea Cloud that she gifted to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Ermmina, owned by William Jarvis. Palm Beach, 1934. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Palm Beach Life, covers. February 1932 and March 1942. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
“Society Afloat” was the name of the Boating column in Palm Beach Life magazine. November 1963. [KING LIBRARY / THE SOCIETY OF THE FOUR ARTS]


Making waves: Michael Rybovich & Sons

In 1919, John “Pop” Rybovich, a carpenter-turned-boat repairman, established a West Palm Beach boat works and commercial fishing dock overlooking the Palm Beach Inlet. Along with his sons, Johnny, Emil and Tommy, Pop built their business into an internationally-known brand, as recounted by Marlin magazine’s in-depth Rybovich Confidential. Today, generations later, Michael Rybovich & Sons has recast and reorganized itself on the Palm Beach Gardens waterfront in much the same form of a family-owned business that began more than a century ago on North Flagler Drive, now run by Pop’s grandson and great-grandsons. While the original Rybovich boatyard still carries the Rybovich name, it is today known as the Rybovich Superyacht Marina, and apparently, until recently, owned and operated by South Florida scion Wayne Huizenga Jr.


John Rybovich & Sons, 4200 N Flagler Drive, WPB. 1919-1975. Following John and his son Tommy’s deaths, the family sold the business at the Flagler site. Michael and his father Emil formed Rybovich International, later named Ryco Marine, building large sport fishing boats during the 1980s and 1990s. [COURTESY MICHAEL RYBOVICH & SONS]


Rybovich Superyacht Marina, 4200 N Flagler Drive, WPB. In 2005, Michael Rybovich and Huizenga formed a five-year partnership, and after more than 20 years, a Rybovich was once again building boats at the family’s North Flagler Drive facility, since converted into an international superyacht destination. According to January 2021 press releases, Safe Harbor Marinas, the world’s largest boating network, acquired the Superyacht Marina from Wayne Huizenga Jr. [PHOTO RYBOVICH SUPERYACHT MARINA]
Michael Rybovich & Sons, 2175 Idlewild Road, Palm Beach Gardens. In 2010, Michael Rybovich left the Huizenga operation, acquired a waterfront site north of the Palm Beach Inlet, and formed the new family-owned company. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]


In 2010, Michael Rybovich, who for several years headed the boatbuilding side of the Huizenga organization, and his son, Dustin “Dusty” Rybovich, and stepsons, Alex Gill and Blake Gill, organized into a family-owned boat building enterprise minutes north of where the family first began more than a century ago. Dusty, a graduate of New York’s Webb Institute for Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, is the first Rybovich to have a formal education in the family business. Alex heads the mechanical department; Blake manages sales and marketing.


78’ Persistence built in 2009. [COURTESY MICHAEL RYBOVICH & SONS]
Built in 2018, the 73′ Thorfinn was first known as No Agenda. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]
94’ Sportfisherman, sketch. 2020. [COURTESY MICHAEL RYBOVICH & SONS]
94’ Sportfisherman, nearing completion. Michael Rybovich & Sons. April 2021. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]

For a Who’s Who in the boating world, among them, Widener, Maytag, Kimberly, du Pont, Roebling, Johnson, and Alan Jackson, visit the Rybovich Registry 1949-2020

Fishing

“Who are you wearing?” may be a routinely-asked opener in today’s fashionable Palm Beach but more than century ago “What’s biting?” was the only question anyone asked on Palm Beach’s oceanfront. Sport fishing was one of the resort’s most captivating allures whether reeling in blue runners or mackerels along the shoreline, casting from one of the ocean piers, or angling offshore for trophy-sized sailfish.

“The sea is so clear a man may drop a dime in more than forty feet of water at The Breakers pier and see it distinctly in the sand,” reported The New York Times. The Gulfstream current, the north winds and temperate climate, kept Palm Beach’s waters teeming with wahoo, kingfish, marlin, sailfish, and sharks.


The Breakers Pier was not only a popular fishing pier but also served as the first Port of Palm Beach, providing dockage for steamers and yachts. The pier was destroyed during the 1928 hurricane. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Fishing off Palm Beach’s shore resulted in good catches. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
The Sailfish Club of Florida, known as Palm Beach’s oldest private club, was established in 1914. Started in 1935, the Silver Sailfish Derby held off Palm Beach was one of the world’s premier fishing tournaments. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
March 27, 1949. The West Palm Beach Fishing Club founded the Sailfish Conservation Club, aimed at “catch-and-release.” [MIAMI NEWS ARCHIVE]
The Angler’s Club was first organized for pier and beach fisherman and later merged its membership with the Sailfish Club of Florida. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Palm Beach Pier, c. 1950s. A view of the popular rooftop dining area offering moonlight dancing above the waves. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]


Polo

In February 1920, John S. Phipps announced plans to inaugurate polo on Palm Beach, having incorporated the name Palm Beach Polo. The field would be located in the North End near the Palm Beach Country Club. “There is an insistent demand for this sport locally and will attract widespread attention …” reported The Palm Beach Post.

By the following year, the prospective location of the polo field shifted to another Phipps family-owned property, an ocean-to-lake parcel south of the Everglades Golf Course and El Bravo Park, later platted as El Vedado, Jungle Road and Banyan Road. The Palm Beach Polo Club would complement the Everglades Club’s golf course, expanded during the late-1920s from nine holes to an eighteen-hole course.


John S. “Jay” Phipps, and his sons, Hubert Phipps and Mike Phipps. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

As Palm Beach’s fast-paced 1920s developments turned large tracts into residential subdivisions, the Phipps interest then announced plans to establish Palm Beach Polo as part of a larger sports complex at the north end of Delray Beach, later incorporated as the Town of Gulf Stream. In the fall of 1923, Bessemer Properties acquired a sixty-acre parcel along the Intracoastal Waterway north of the new golf club featuring an 18-hole course by Donald Ross and a clubhouse designed by Addison Mizner. Several months after the golf club opened in January 1924, the Phipps family began developing the Palm Beach Polo Club at Phipps Field, Gulf Stream, later known as the Gulf Stream Polo Club.


Bennett, Parsons and Frost of Chicago, the nation’s leading City Beautiful planning firm, was retained to devise the plan. [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]
Palm Beach Polo, aerial, at Gulf Stream. Looking southwest, the two playing fields and practice field were the sporting complex’s centerpieces. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]


Palm Beach Polo at Gulf Stream opened in January 1927. By the next season, Phipps Field was the largest polo enclave south of Aiken. There were three fields with fourteen stables housing more than 150 polo ponies along with a complex of frame polo cottages built for the players and their families. Phipps Field at Gulf Stream reigned as polo’s winter capital for 35 years, although the plan for an even more elaborate equestrian center never materialized.


Phipps Field at Gulf Stream. Left to right, Tommy Hitchcock, Stewart Iglehart, Cecil Smith, and Mike Phipps. [STATE OF FLORIDA ARCHIVES, BERT MORGAN COLLECTION]
Roy Evans, president of the American Bantam Car Company, arrives for a match, having landed his plane on the polo field. [STATE OF FLORIDA ARCHIVES, BERT MORGAN COLLECTION]
L. to r.: Cecil Smith [STATE OF FLORIDA ARCHIVES, BERT MORGAN COLLECTION] … Juan Rodriguez. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]


As polo was discontinued during World War II, Stewart “Mr. Polo” Iglehart, George Oliver and Michael Phipps revived polo play at Gulf Stream in 1946.  Once again, polo matches became a weekend spectator sport even more popular than during the 1930s. Every Sunday hundreds flocked to watch the world’s finest players. Mike Phipps would arrive in his boat-plane; Laddie and Mary Sanford motored down from Los Incas in their Rolls-Royce station wagon; Robert and Anita Young shared box seats with their prized house guests, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


Left to right, Sammy Kaye, seated in car, Princess Jeanne-Marie Lubomirski (later, Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld), Mary Sanford and John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI. [STATE OF FLORIDA ARCHIVES, BERT MORGAN COLLECTION]
Gulf Stream Polo, mural by J. C Shepherd. Palm Beach Athletic Club, 1958. Among the players featured, General Rafael Trujillo, Emilio Taglie, and Porfirio Rubirosa. [SHEPHERD FAMILY COLLECTION]


In December 1954, a Chicago-based group unassociated with the Phipps interests set up a club in West Palm Beach on Military Trail with playing fields located on Congress Avenue, calling itself Palm Beach Polo Club. The following year, the Phipps interests leased the Gulf Stream fields to B. B. “Bert” Beveridge and A. D. “Don” Beveridge from Detroit, whose schedule of matches continued to attract large crowds. In 1964 Gulf Stream Polo merged with Royal Palm Polo in Boca Raton, sponsored by Arvida, former Alcoa president Arthur Vining Davis’ development company. After 38 seasons, polo at Gulf Stream’s Phipps Field ended at the close of the 1964 season. The fields and stables were developed into the Gulf Stream School, a subdivision of Bermuda-styled houses, and a private club’s golf course.

In 1965, Philip Iglehart, joined by Norberto Azqueta Sr, Will Farish, Paul Butler, and others who wanted to continue competitive polo, purchased 90 acres west of Lake Worth, where they organized the Gulfstream Polo Club with playing fields and stables for 600 horses.


Gulfstream Polo Club, Azqueta Field. The Gulfstream Polo Club closed in May 2016 when the land was sold for residential development. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]

For more on polo at Gulf Stream visit Graceful Living: The Phipps Family At Gulf Stream — now playing on The New York Social Diary.


Found among today’s boots and saddles, equestrian jumper Jessica Springsteen, pictured above, who, along with polo patrons with strings of ponies, converge in Wellington for a season of competitive events and chukkers. [AUGUSTUS MAYHEW]

Croquet

When Joseph and Ruth Tankoos hosted an English lawn party at The Colony in January 1966 to introduce their hotel’s new croquet course, the sport was still regarded at Palm Beach as a backyard lawn game. Two years later, there were three croquet courts on the island. In addition to The Colony’s, reported to have cost $50,000, Lillian Bostwick Phipps and Woolworth Donahue also installed regulation courses. Mallets were crafted by no less than Jacques of London.

Beginning in 1970, The Colony held an annual three-day croquet match between a New York club and the Palm Beach Croquet Club with additional play at the Phipps court on North Lake Way. Among the Croqueteers, Joseph Tankoos, Barton Gubelmann, Grace Ryan, Lillian Bostwick Phipps, Thomas Shevlin, and Leon Mandel.


As the owner of The Colony hotel, Joseph Tankoos, left, served as the first president of the Palm Beach Croquet Club, photographed with Archie Peck, right, who once described croquet as “the most misunderstood sport in America.” [COURTESY PALM BEACH DAILY NEWS COLLECTION / HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

During the 1970s, The Breakers held tournaments on its “modified English court.” A round-robin of tournaments was held between New York, Bermuda and Palm Beach. The Beach Club added croquet courts as did other private clubs. At the time, the U. S. Croquet Association had only five clubs nationally. By 1980, there were fifteen clubs and the popularity of “everyone’s second sport” continued to grow.  When the Palm Beach Croquet Club Invitational welcomed more than 80 competitors in 1986, the Palm Beach tournament had become the nation’s oldest continuing croquet tournament.


Barton Gubelmann, pictured above, was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with her husband Walter, in 1987. Palm Beach residents J. Archie Peck, Richard Pearman and Catherine Tankoos were selected in 1984. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Author of Croquet: The Sport, John R. “Jack” Osborn was the croquet professional at The Mar-A-Lago Club. [COURTESY PALM BEACH DAILY NEWS COLLECTION/HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY.]


Baseball

In keeping with Palm Beach’s tradition as “a place to relax and keep from thinking,” a baseball diamond with a grandstand was added at the north end of the Poinciana-Breakers golf course.


Royal Poinciana Hotel, 1906. The hotel hired professional Black baseball players to work at the hotel and play baseball. Employees formed teams, playing afternoon games as a diversion for hotel’s guests weary from golf rounds or dancing the fox trot in the Cocoanut Grove. [SCHUMBERG CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN BLACK CULTURE, NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY]

Automotive executive Lawrence Fuller, president of Philadelphia’s Interclub Baseball League, was reported to have first organized a competitive baseball match between New York and Philadelphia’s society men and women that would benefit the Palm Beach police pension fund.

In February 1915, a society baseball game attracted more than 500 spectators to watch society’s boldfaced names. Ned Stotesbury threw out the first ball.

After The Palm Beach Post declared “society baseball all the rage,” New York and Philadelphia’s team included men and women playing together in 1928. During the game, the benefit event’s chair Marjorie Post Hutton could be seen passing a plate among the spectators to gather donations. By the 1930s the event included doubleheaders with teams fielded from the police department playing against the town’s gardeners or the Poinciana hotel team playing against the Bath & Tennis Club team. In 1933 crowds watched doubleheaders with some finishing before midnight on a floodlit field. By the early 1950s society baseball had played out its nine-innings in Palm Beach’s social history.


The 1938 society baseball game pitted teams from Philadelphia and Palm Beach, held as a benefit for the Town of Palm Beach police department’s pension fund. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]

Boxing

Could there be anything more incongruous with Palm Beach’s genteel social profile than boxing matches?

In February 1920, The Palm Beach Post declared, “Society is quite mad about boxing bouts.” After dinner at the club, bluebloods, including Mrs. Morgan Belmont, Mrs. James King Clarke, and Fred Sterry, crossed the bridge two or three times weekly to the bouts at the West Palm Athletic Club or at the Rialto theatre, if they could get a ticket. “The smart set goes in for these as strenuously as they did in Paris,” wrote The Post’s columnist.

Anthony “Tony” Drexel Biddle managed a string of touring boxers. Thus, as the first president of the Bath & Tennis Club, he installed a boxing ring by the oceanside pool. For Fight Night at The Patio on North County Road, the dance floor became a boxing ring.


The Sea Spray Beach Club, pictured above, was established in 1927 at 221 South Ocean Boulevard. The club’s 250 members appreciated not being part of the fashion promenade at The Breakers. Boxing lessons were offered in an open-air ring during the late 1920s as part of a fitness program. Trainor William A. Koehler supervised the club’s annual boxing matches where 5-year-olds fought in three 20-second rounds. In 1936, Woolworth Donahue served as judge for the annual children’s competition when 40 young boxers competing for gold medals in each age group. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Opened in January 1927, the Oasis Club’s walled courtyard boxing ring was circled with tea tables for spectators to savor late afternoon bouts. Between matches, a dance band played, as members and guests entered the ring for a cha-cha or rhumba before the next round of jabs and punches. [COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY]
Boxing at the Oasis Club. “It was such a scene as could be seen in only one spot in the world — Palm Beach.” [PALM BEACH POST ARCHIVE]

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