When Henry Morrison Flagler first discovered Palm Beach in March 1878, a place he called “a veritable paradise”, he knew he had discovered the perfect winter retreat for America's most socially prominent families from the northeast. Flagler built a home and two lavish hotels, the Palm Beach Inn (later named the Breakers) and the Royal Poinciana, and Palm Beach quickly became the winter destination for aristocrats from all over the world.
With the influx of wealthy and well-known Americans, came Paris Singer, the heir to Singer Sewing Machines in 1918 with his friend, the architect Addison Mizner. During World War I only war related buildings could be commissioned, and so Singer wanted to build a hospital in Palm Beach with Mizner as the architect. As the war began to wind down, a hospital was no longer necessary, and a private club was envisioned. At the end of a then dirt road, Singer and Mizner erected the stately Everglades Club.
The club opened on 25 January 1919, and in 1920 Mizner supervised the construction of a nine-hole golf and built an addition to the club on Worth Avenue with eleven apartments and sixteen shops. Quickly, Worth Avenue gained recognition all along the Eastern seaboard for its high-quality, exclusive merchandise, and in 1926, Saks Fifth Avenue opened its first store outside of New York along the acclaimed street.
Over the decades, the avenue grew to three blocks, spanning from the Everglades Club to the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Well-known designers, including Cartier, Chanel, Gucci and Hermès, continued to open their doors along this strip. Tucked into Mizner’s enchanting "vias," were more shops, many of which are still here today.
Kassatly's, the fine linens and lingerie boutiquethe, was the first store to open on Worth Avenue in 1923, and whose doors remain open today. Other local staples have been open for many decades as well, such as Sherry Frankel's who opened in 1979 and Betteridge (formerly Greenleaf & Crosby) is a fourth-generation, family-owned jewelry business, first opened its doors on Worth Avenue since the 1930s. Maus & Hoffman opened its first store outside of Michigan in Fort Lauderdale in 1939, followed by Palm Beach in 1961, and of course Ta-Boo, the beloved restaurant on the 200 block of Worth Avenue, first opened its doors in 1941.
Today, the legendary avenue boasts a mix of more than 200 shops, offering everything from designer jewelry, to clothing and shoes, world-class paintings and antiques, fine and casual dining restaurants, and much more. Home to locally owned and internationally recognized brands, Worth Avenue is more than the premier shopping district of Palm Beach. It’s rich history, dating several years before the development of Los Angeles’ famed Rodeo Drive, is the epitome for all who live on the Island.
If you would like to learn more about Worth Avenue and its intriguing history, take a historical walking tour of Worth Avenue with Rick Rose. The tours are offered about once every two weeks November through April. Tours begin at 11 a.m. at the Gucci Courtyard, 256 Worth Avenue. Cost is $10 a person. Call 561-659-6909 or visit worth-avenue.com.