Travels & Traditions with Burt Wolf
The Palm Beaches
Season 14 Episode 6
For information about visiting The Palm Beaches contact these tourism agencies:
This is a photograph of me and my uncle Maxwell and my grandmother’s chicken soup. Most people have never seen me without a beard. I’m the one on the right. Each winter, as school was about to close for the Christmas Holidays, my uncle would take me to The Palm Beaches. Time on the beach here was awesome.
I loved those vacations and to honor that memory, I thought I’d introduce my youngest son Nicholas to a collection of cities and towns in South Florida known as The Palm Beaches.
We would make the trip here on a train called The Silver Meteor. It was the first diesel-powered streamliner to run between New York and Florida. Introduced in 1939, it took about 25 hours to make the trip. The train is still being run. These days, however, it’s operated by AMTRAK and takes two hours longer.
Henry Morrison Flagler was born in 1830 and became wealthy beyond my wildest dreams as one of the founders of Standard Oil. He was also responsible for much of the development of Florida’s east coast. Starting in the late 1880s, Flagler began to build what he called “The American Riviera.” He put together a railroad that ran along the entire east coast of Florida. He also began building hotels, including the Palm Beach Inn, which in 1901 was renamed “The Breakers”. Flagler was also involved in some ground braking legislation. For five years, his wife had been institutionalized for mental illness. In 1901, he persuaded the Florida Legislature to pass a law that made incurable insanity grounds for divorce.
Now, just in case you think you are married to some whose elevator doesn’t go to the top floor, and you’d like to learn more about the Florida law… forget it. Flagler was the only person divorced under the law, which was soon repealed.
After being granted the divorce, he remarried and with his new wife moved into his newly built home, known as Whitehall. These days Whitehall is the Flagler Museum. It’s a 75-room mansion that’s considered a National Historic Landmark and open to the public.
John Blades - Executive Director
"The grand hall of Whitehall is about five thousand square feet. It's the largest single room of any home of this period. This was really built to evoke a sense of a temple to Apollo.
The drawing room is really the room that Flagler probably put more of himself into than any other room in Whitehall because it was going to be a room that his wife used most often.
The museum built the Flagler Kenan Pavilion a few years ago in order to house the rail car. The rail car is even older than Whitehall. It was built in 1886 for Flagler. It's one of his private rail cars and rail cars were a big deal back then. Railroads were a big deal. They were the biggest industry in the country at the time and it's one of the two cars he took down to Key West to celebrate the opening of the overseas railroad. At the completion of the overseas railroad in 1912. 10,000 people turned out to welcome Flagler when he arrived in Key West. He basically said he could die happy at that point. He'd accomplished everything he had hoped to accomplish.
Well this was the most luxurious form of travel back in those days. The sitting room is where he could entertain his guests. It also doubled as a bit of an office or a study. There's a fold down desk here.
It's amazing it survived. It's great to see."
Ralph Norton was the head of the Acme Steel Company of Chicago, which at the beginning of the 20th century was one of America’s largest industrial corporations.
He had a sizable collection of art and when he retired and moved to The Palm Beaches in 1941, he decided to share his collection with the public. The result is The Norton Museum of Art, with over 7,000 works that concentrate on European, American and Chinese art.
During the 1920s, Addison Mizner was America’s best-known architect.
He specialized in resort buildings that had a Mediterranean and Spanish Revival look and his favorite locations were in South Florida.
His buildings were well suited to the Florida climate and he soon became the favorite architect of the neighborhoods rich and not so famous. He even built his own factory to produce the tiles, stones, columns and wrought iron for his structures. Eventually he even manufactured the furniture for his buildings.
One of his classic structures is the Boca Raton Resort and Beach Club.
It still has the feeling of a Mizner resort but it’s been updated to meet 21st century taste.
There are private docks, so you can tie up and stay as quests of the hotel either in the hotel rooms or on your yacht.
There are 11 different places to eat.
MORIMOTO is their Japanese restaurant.
LUCCA is the Italian Restaurant and the chef is Adam Pile.
One of his favorite dishes is Sweet Potato Gnocchi apples and onions.
BLUE identifies itself as having elevated American cuisine. Which makes perfect sense. The restaurant is on the 23rd floor.
501 East is a restaurant devoted to burgers, salads, steaks and a great brunch.
The hotels spa is often rated by publications like Conde Nast as number one.
There trademark procedure is called the ritual baths.
My son Nicholas was particularly fascinated by the FlowRider, where he was given has first class in surfing.
I figured if it was so much fun for Nico, I’d give it a try.
The original property is on the intracostal water, but the hotel has a second half, which is on the beach. And you can travel between the two by boat.
1492, when Columbus arrived in the Americas, there where no horses. The first horses to arrive in what is now the United State where brought to Florida by Spanish explorers. They had an extraordinary impact on the local culture and they still do.
Each year, The Palm Beaches host an International Equestrian Festival.
Show jumping, and dressage demonstrated by the best riders in each class.
It’s a 12-week event that takes place on 140 acres of specially built facilities.
It looks like polo got started in China or Persia about 2,000 years ago. The game was originally used to train cavalry. By the 1500s, it was being played throughout the eastern world. The British first saw it in India and Burma and in 1862, founded the first polo club. Private clubs have always been a big thing with the English. British officers and tea planters introduced the sport to the west.
"We go every Sunday but we play other days of the week. Sunday’s game is the day with all the pomp and circumstance. So, we start out at the beginning of January and we go until the end of April."
The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. There are two goalposts one at either end of the field and there are two teams. There are four players on each team, and each player rides one horse at a time. If a player is riding two horses at the same time it’s considered cheating.
The actual game is a lot like soccer. The objective is to drive the ball down field and between the opponents goalposts. The game is divided into 6 seven and a half minute play periods called “chukkers.” When the ball passes between the goalpost a point is scored and the team switches to opposite end of the field.
If the team you are rooting for scores a point, you may have a glass of champagne. If you are not affiliated with either team, which is my case, you could have a glass of champagne no matter who scores.
The Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida is named after the man who opened the first automobile mega-dealership in Florida. His namesake stadium is the only stadium in Florida to host two Major League Baseball teams for their annual spring training: the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the years, I’ve noted that many of our famous sports teams are named after animals.
Cardinals, Marlins, Bulls, Bears, Lions, Eagles, Dolphins, Seahawks.
And in many cases these teams have earned the right to be named after these intelligent and sometimes aggressive creatures.
Though in some cases, the more appropriate name would be “ The Turkeys.” I leave it to you to designate the deserving organizations.
Phil Foster was one of the earliest residents of The Palm Beaches and one of the first to build a tourist court. For those unfamiliar with the term “tourist court” it refers to a facility similar to a motel and is in no way associated with the federal, state or local judicial system.
Foster lived for here for 32 years until he died in 1917. The park was opened in 1953 and dedicated to his memory.
You can rent kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear. And more important, especially for me, you can also rent guides who will show you how to use the kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear.
Actually, I’m a certified SCUBA diver. However, my wife has warned me that if I continue to dive in open waters, she is going to have me re -certified as a nutcase. And sadly it’s only one of many reasons she could use for my re-certification.
The parks Blue Heron Bridge area is recognized internationally by scientists, scuba divers, underwater photographers, and snorkelers for its unique marine life. There is a snorkeling trail of limestone boulders and prefabricated reefs that run for two acres in a zone where the water is only 6 to 10 feet deep.
"A lot of folks consider this the premier shore dive not just in the United States but possibly the world. Part of it is ease of access… you have relatively shallow water but you have an incredible bio-diversity here. And then along that snorkel trail you have a lot of stuff that’s just basically come in here and developed a home… and it acts as a nursery of some sort for some of the other species of fish. Things like angel fish, rays, you’ll see eels down there as well. A lot of folks here come here specifically for sea horses. We also have a lot of aero crabs, we have the yellow rays that are very common in this area. And the bat fish here are also very popular, some you don’t see very commonly out in the reefs. This is one of the best places in the world to dive… but for folks who want ease of access, great bio-diversity, Palm Beach County has a lot of that."
Each winter, during what is officially know as “the season” Palm Beach holds an antique jewelry and art show at the Convention Center. The season is a reference to the period of time during which the famous, infamous and just us folks come to the area to enjoy the climate both meteorologically and socially.
The Antique Jewelry & Art Show fills the Convention Center with exhibitors who have something to sell and visitors looking for something to buy or just looking.
"Collectors, interior designers, art advisors, museum curators fly in from all over the world… all at one place all at one time, to be here in Palm Beach. Now what make’s it very special and really unlike any other event in the world is that we have a combination of wealth, the wealth that’s cultured, the wealth that collects, and wealth that you can basically walk from your front door to this convention center."
In 1906, at the age of 19, George Morikami emigrated from his native Japan to Palm Beach, Florida. He came here to join the Yamato Colony, which was an experimental Japanese farming community.
In exchange for the cost of his passage and a little spending money he had agreed to work for three years. At the end of which he was to receive $500 and a little bit of land. His plan was to sell the land take the money and head back to Japan. But, his sponsor died and he never got the land and he never got the money so he kept on working. Towards the end of the Second World War he was able to buy his own piece of land, which he farmed for 30 years.
In 1973, he donated his 200-acre farm to Palm Beach County, who turned it into a center for Japanese arts and culture. There are galleries with changing exhibits, a classic Japanese garden, a bonsai garden, a library, and a gift shop.
They also have an excellent Japanese restaurant.
This is a photograph that was taken many years ago when I first filmed here. It shows the chef and his wife. And they are still here. And their cooking is better than ever. We had two bento boxes --- a classic and a vegetarian. Baked mussels with an herbed mayonnaise. Yellow tail sashimi on a bed of seaweed salad. And Crab Cakes and Bang Bang shrimp. Awesome.
Depending on when you are visiting Palm Beaches, you might enjoy a free concert or Opera at the Meyer Amphitheater on the Intracoastal Waterway. Stretch out on a blanket, open your picnic basket, pop a cork and listen to some of the great operatic arias.
For the past few years I’ve been living in Switzerland. And when you say culture in Switzerland it is usually a reference to cheese because in fact they make some of the greatest cheeses in the world. But if you say culture in The Palm Beaches, it’s usually a reference to the Kravis Center For The Performing Arts.
Starting in the 1950s, the resident of this area became interested in building a facility for the performing arts. In 1985, after 35 years of unsuccessfully trying to raise the necessary funds, Alexander Dreyfoos began a private fundraising initiative with a gift of one million dollars from his company, the Photo Electronics Corporation/WPEC TV-12.
Much of Mr. Dreyfoos’s work has been in the area of photograph and television production. In fact his Video Color Negative Analyzer won an Academy Award and many of his inventions are on permanent display in Smithsonian.
Raymond F. Kravis was a prominent Oklahoma geologist who wintered in The Palm Beaches. Shortly after the Dryfoos gift, a group was formed to raise additional funds and name the center in honor of their friend Mr. Kravis.
"It was a community wide effort, it took the leadership of Mr. Dreyfoos and a very dedicated group of board members who really mobilized the community to fund this preforming art center."
Today, it is known as the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and it presents an extraordinarily wide selection material.
Originally built in the mid-1800s, it’s 153 feet above sea level and can be seen for 24 nautical miles.
That assumes that the weather is clear and you’re wearing your glasses with the new prescription. They chose this place because it looked like an ideal spot for military defense. And in fact that turned out to be the truth.
In 1940, a navy radio detection station was set up. It was a secret installation designed to intercept German U-boat radio messages and inform US forces as to where the enemy subs could be found and demolished. In May 1943, 30 German submarines were destroyed and in June another 37.
I heard, that if the installation was still in operation, it might have been able to detect the fraudulent and totally disgraceful emission system in the Volkswagen cars.
©2016 Burt Wolf Productions, LLC