Monday

The Largest Wooden Structure in the World!

The HRP (Hotel Royal Poinciana), circa 1900. The main entrance to the hotel was here on the west side facing the lake. This picture was taken from the south end of the hotel, renowned for the colorful gardens that gave winter visitors a respite from the frozen north. Henry Flagler's "Whitehall,' completed a year or so after this picture was taken stands just behind where the photographer stood. Click to enlarge! (Library of Congress photo)

There were 1,150 guest rooms. The main dining room could feed 1600 guests at one time. With seven miles of corridor running throughout six stories, the Hotel Royal Poinciana was the largest wooden structure in the world. The wealthiest rich and famous flocked to Henry Morrison Flagler's "Newport of the South" to make the Royal Poinciana their Winter home. Thousands of local citizens were employed to keep the hotel operating. Both Palm Beach and West Palm Beach owne their existence to Flagler's vision.

The mammoth Hotel Royal Poinciana opened in 1894 and stood on the shore of Lake Worth for just over forty years. It survived major hurricanes and the 1925 fire that destroyed the Breakers and Palm Beach hotels. But it couldn't recover from the economic bust that started with the market crash of 1929 or the changing tastes of the times.

In a sense, the Poinciana became one more victim of the 1925 fire when the new Breakers Hotel reopened less than a year later. The aging Poinciana was no match for this new masterpiece of Italian Renaissance style that was not only "fireproof" but offered a bathroom in every guest room. The end came fast for the Hotel Royal Poinciana. 

Just a decade after the Breakers reopened the last pieces of the hotel were hauled away. More than 500 homes and at least one church were built from the scrap. 
We know more about Titanic than the Poinciana! (con't)
Photographs of Titanic, her passengers, staterooms, cabins and public areas abound. Not so with the great Hotel Royal Poinciana.

In the fever to develop Palm Beach- a sprawling condo complex stands on the site of the Poinciana today- the most significant building in the town's history was quickly erased from sight and memory. All that remains of the original building is the Slathouse in the Royal Poinciana Plaza (also facing demolition to make way for condos.)

Exterior photographs of the hotel are easy to find but they don't reveal much. There were good photographs of the interior taken by professional photographers but they are of the public areas- the Rotunda, the ballroom, dining rooms, a reading room etc. The architectural details these photos reveal are priceless. 

What's missing are photos of guests inside. There are no known photos of the guest rooms. None of the front desk, the Doctor's office, the elevators, the stores that lined the main hall. There are hand colored photos of the dining room and ballroom that match written descriptions. Written descriptions are even harder to come by than photographs!

Still- there is enough information out there to do a pretty decent rebuild of the Hotel Royal Poinciana. 

Help Raise the "Titanic!"

Please share what you have- photos, ephemera etc. 

Unless otherwise noted - all images and photographs are the property of Pat Crowley and are not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without my permission. 







7 comments:

Derek said...

Dear Mr. Crowley -

I had the opportunity to look at your wonderful depiction of the HRP on the Internet - I was wondering if, in the course of your research, you had come across images of the many shops at the hotel and at Breakers (both versions) -

With thanks and kind regards,
Derek Ostergard

Pousada florianopolis said...

Really,This one is very nice post.Thanks for this great information about hotel royal Poinciana.I like this hotel and hotel facilities.

PaulD said...

Pat,
Thanks so much for your efforts in finding and posting this information. Very interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

OK, somebody needs to contact Stephen King about a sequel to "The Shining." The storyline: With the invention of the wireless, it becomes possible to receive ship-to-shore weather reports, and based on those, it's apparent that a giant hurricane is headed for Florida's Gold Coast. A massive evacuation by train is undertaken, except for one caretaker who remains behind...

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you for this site. I have several snapshots from my grandmother. All that is written on the back is "in Fla". Thanks to your blogspot I now know where these snaps are from. One of the front of the HRP, one at the iron fence, one of the front entrance to the Beach Club and two at the Breakers Pier.

Pat Crowley said...

To Anon,

Would you be willing to share your pictures? I'd love to post them on the blog.

I'm particularly interested in the Beach Club picture.

If anyone one has scans of the HRP and would be willing to share them please contact me at crowleytoon@mac.com.

Pat

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