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Getting to Palm Beach



Vanderbilt family at Royal Poinciana Hotel,
1896. Courtesy HSPBC.

When the Royal Poinciana first opened in 1894, Flagler’s hotel company brought the houseboat St. Augustine down from its namesake city as a temporary ferry between the east and west shores of Lake Worth. During 1894-96, the train depot was removed from the West Palm Beach wharf, a 1,200-foot railroad bridge across Lake Worth was completed, and a lane was added for pedestrians and wheelchairs. The train then delivered guests directly to the south side of the Royal Poinciana Hotel, where an orchestra greeted them. The wealthiest guests often arrived in their own railway cars, which were parked on the sidings of the hotel station during their stay.




Completed in 1902, Whitehall was the winter
residence of Henry M. Flagler and his third
wife, Mary Lily Kenan. The residence is now
the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.

Courtesy HSPBC.

Whitehall, now operated as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, was completed south of the hotel in 1902, a 75-room winter home built as a wedding gift to Flagler’s third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. Mrs. Flagler’s disliked the noise and smell of the trains next to their home, and the bridge was moved to the north side of the hotel the next year where the present day  Flagler Memorial Bridge is located. The bridge now connects Royal Poinciana Way in Palm Beach to Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach.


A few years later, the railway was extended east of the Royal Poinciana, then south, to The Breakers’ back porch. For a nickel, guests of the Royal Poinciana or Breakers could also cross the grounds between them on a mule-drawn trolley, which ran on a stretch of track between rows of Australian pine trees. It was sometimes driven, one Palm Beach resident wrote, “by diminutive boys or girls while the conductor smoked his pipe.”



The Florida East Coast mule train that
shuttled guests between the Royal Poinciana
Hotel and The Breakers. Courtesy HSPBC.

In 1911 the Royal Park Bridge was completed across Lake Worth, a wooden trestle reaching from Lakeview Avenue to Royal Palm Way. 





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© 2009 Historical Society of Palm Beach County  |  all photos courtesy HSPBC unless otherwise noted