The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth. In 2000, Palm Beach had a year-round population of 10,468, with an estimated seasonal population of 30,000.
Palm Beach was established as a resort by Henry Morrison Flagler, who made the Atlantic coast barrier island accessible via his Florida East Coast Railway.
Henry Morrison Flagler (1830 – 1913) was an American industrialist and a founder of Standard Oil. He was also a key figure in the development of the Atlantic coast of Florida. He is known as the father of both Miami and Palm Beach, Florida.
Flagler visited Florida in 1883, and, annoyed at the inadequate transportation and hotel facilities, he undertook to improve them. This project sparked Flagler’s interest in creating a new “American Riviera.”
He bought up and consolidated several local railroads and organized the Florida East Coast Railway, which he extended from Daytona through Palm Beach (1894) to Miami (1896) and thence 150 mi (241 km) to Key West (1912). Along the way, Flagler built additional hotels, establishing Florida’s east coast cities as tourist destinations.
To accommodate the workers who built the hotels, Flagler established a community of tents and shacks called “the Styx” on the island. He generally treated the workers, many of them African-Americans, well, but he didn’t want them living near him. So he laid out a city across the lake and built homes, churches and government buildings, creating the city of West Palm Beach.
In 1893, Flagler bought land on a little known barrier island called Palm Beach. He built the Royal Poinciana, which was the largest resort hotel in the world. It had six floors and 540 rooms. It and a smaller hotel nearby called The Breakers, became gathering places for wealth and fashion during “the season”, from December to April. After Flagler built a railroad bridge onto the island, wealthy people travelled down in private railcars for parties, golf, tennis, boating, bathing and fishing.
He encouraged people to farm Florida’s land by giving them a break on rail rates to transport their produce. Orange, grapefruit and lemon groves were soon dotting the state. He also established many of the state’s newspapers. Over thirty years, Flagler had invested about €45 million in railroad, home and hotel construction.
In May of 1913, Flagler died in Palm Beach at 83 years of age. At 3pm on the day of the funeral, every engine on the Florida East Coast Railway stopped wherever it was for ten minutes as a tribute to Flagler. It was reported that people along the railway line waited all night for the passing of the funeral train as it travelled from Palm Beach to St. Augustine.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Palm Beach, Florida
Wikipedia: Henry Flagler
Encyclopedia.com: Henry Morrison Flagler
Palm Beach County History Online: Frangler Era
Library of Congress
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