Happy Birthday, Breakers!
The Breakers Palm Beach first opened its doors on January 16, 1896. Today, we celebrate 122 years.
In the late 1890s, just before the turn of the century, industry tycoons and elegant socialites began flocking to the pristine shores of a new destination—a long strip of an island called Palm Beach.
It was our founder Henry Morrison Flagler, one of America’s great industrialists, who started the trend of grand, gorgeous properties on the island. His first was The Royal Poinciana, a six-story Georgian beauty. Two years later, Flagler debuted his premier oceanfront hotel, which delighted guests with its proximity to the water and unique location—right at “the breakers,” where the waves crashed and sprayed.
After fires in both 1903 and 1925, the hotel reemerged more opulent each time. The second reconstruction of The Breakers was awarded to New York City-based designers Shultze and Weaver, the same minds who would later create many of Manhattan’s most coveted hotels: the Pierre, the Sherry-Netherland and Park Avenue’s Waldorf Astoria. Described by the duo as “the acme of perfection in design and magnificence,” The Breakers reopened in 1926, ushering in a higher degree of European influence and architectural flair.
Flagler’s newest iteration was modeled after the magnificent Villa Medici in Rome—an ambitious effort that called for 75 artisans brought in from Italy. Together they completed the intricate paintings, detailed across the ceilings of the 200-foot-long main lobby and first-floor public rooms, which remain on display today. It was a grand gesture that placed The Breakers in a class all its own.
Year by year, the resort’s reputation grew and word spread, beckoning the glitterati to vacation in Palm Beach year-round. At any given time, the guest register read like a “who’s who” of early 20th-century America: Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, vacationing alongside US presidents and European nobility.
Today, the story of The Breakers continues, holding fast to the ideals that put it on the map—unapologetic luxury, seaside glamour and world-class service—but also embracing the new. As a modern organization employing more than 2,000 people, our sense of social responsibility extends to our team, our environment and our community.
Happy 122 years, Breakers!