Editor’s note: This article was originally written in winter 2020.
Although Palm Beach has been mentioned on the news for the past four years with President Trump’s jaunts to his home and club, Mar-a-Lago (formerly Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate), I don’t know much about this strip of sand separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway.
However, I’ve been invited to an awards ceremony hosted by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Florida Chapter at The Colony Hotel, and I’m excited to stay in this iconic 1947 “Pink Lady” (the hotel is painted a blush rose hue—my favorite color) to meet friends both old and new.
Upon arrival at this 14-mile-long and half-mile-wide Atlantic coast barrier island, the mystery is over. Pristine beaches, tony boutiques, five-star restaurants, and oceanfront resorts make this a place to see and be seen. At this Gilded Age winter haven to the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, historical grand estates are hidden behind iron gates and high hedgerows.
My driver turns onto Hammon Ave., and I arrive at the pretty-in-pink classic Colonial-style hotel. The interior lobby is welcoming, with a nod to the tropics, thanks to Celerie Kemble of Kemble Interiors who has worked to give the original spaces (first designed by the iconic Dorothy Draper & Co.) a refresh. Palm frond-themed fabrics dress the club chairs, while shimmering green crystals drip from the chandelier.
I am welcomed at check-in with a glass of champagne and then head to my suite. Each room is decorated in a unique color palette. Comfortable and ultra luxe, my accommodations are impeccable, and I’m surrounded by a swath of pink and green. After unpacking my weekend wardrobe, I head to the pool, where even the sunbathers are dressed to the nines in fashionable wide-brimmed straw hats, chic Audrey Hepburn-esque sunglasses, and Lilly Pulitzer shifts, finished off with Jimmy Choo jute mule sandals.
Couples enjoy brunch on the patio overlooking the pool: many men in navy blue jackets and shorts and women dressed in crisp white linen. The pool and the lush green lawn beyond are immaculate. I take a table on the terrace and order a salad and a sauvignon blanc and watch the scene featuring the who’s who of Palm Beach’s elite unfold before me. The temperature is a perfect 78 degrees and a gentle breeze washes over me—I think this quite possibly just might be heaven.
After lunch, I head to the beach for a long walk on the soft white sand. The bright blue sky and Gulf Stream waters create the perfect Floridian day. I then head to Worth Avenue for a peek at the boutiques and shops lining the street. I walk into Neiman Marcus to find it resembling more a museum for couture gowns than a department store—frock after frock is more glamorous than the last.
I also visit historic Via Mizner, built in 1923 by the famous architect Addison Mizner, who brought the Spanish Colonial Revival design to South Florida. Via Mizner has a collection of more than 20 shops, as well as restaurants, businesses, and apartments, including the five-story “tower” residence Mizner lived in. Mizner’s pet monkey, Johnnie Brown, is buried at the foot of the home’s living room. A stuffed toy replica of Johnny Brown is also the mascot of The Colony Hotel.
Later in the afternoon, I tour Whitehall, built in 1902 by Henry Flagler for his third wife, Mary Lily (his first two wives died), as a wedding present. Designed by architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, Whitehall became the Flaglers’ winter home. With more than 75 rooms, Whitehall was described in 1902 by the New York Herald as “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.”
In the evening, I dress to dine at Swifty’s, once an Upper East Side stalwart; the restaurant’s founder, Robert Caravaggi, has re-created it at The Colony. With classics on the menu such as lump crabmeat salad with tomato aspic and Scottish salmon tartar.
The next day is the awards’ ceremony—aptly named for Addison Mizner—and I am excited to meet the movers and shakers of the traditional architecture world, who have arrived from all over the country. Cocktails and champagne are served on the terrace overlooking the pool as I greet old friends and make some new ones. The socialite scene is alive and well and very fun in this pretty pink paradise in Palm Beach.
For more information, visit thecolonypalmbeach.com.