Environmental Leadership Spring Break Trip

The Influential and Powerful: Updates from the Envrionmental Leadership Trip


Today, the non-divers group went on a boat tour of Palm Beach.  We learned that Singer Island was named after Paris Singer, who was the youngest of 22 children.  He built two hotels on the island, the Blue Heron Hotel and Singer Hotel.  The Blue Heron was ruined after a 1928 hurricane and was not demolished until 1940.  The inlet around Singer Island is actually the LakeworthLagoon, but it is frequently referred to as the Palm Beach Inlet by the wealthy who live in Palm Beach.  Some of the rich and famous who have lived in Palm Beach include Jimmy Buffet and Rod Stewart.  The two bodies of water that Palm Beach are on include the Atlantic IntercoastalWaterway and Lakeworth Lagoon.  It was originally freshwater, but now it is saltwater and contains all kinds of sea life.

Henry Flagler was another important figure in Palm Beach, because he built the first hotels – the Breakers.  The first two burnt down in fires and were never finished, but the third is still standing today.  Flagler was also known for co-founding Standard Oil.

Some of the property owners on the water include the Luetters family, who owns Smithfield Farm.  Their house defies the saying that “lightning never strikes the same place twice”, as their house has been hit two times by lightning.  The Wrights also own a house on the inlet, with the Peacock II yacht docked outside, named after the NBC symbol, where Wright was the former chairman.  One notable property was a large blue and white house built by a local builder for his parents, who rented it out at a rate of $60,000 a month for various corporations.

The Mizner House is known for its distinct Mediterranean style and lavish insides.  These Miznerstyle houses are some of the most valuable real estate in South Florida.  The tour guide also pointed out the Sailfish Club of Florida, started in 1914 to promote sport fishing.  The membership is extremely exclusive and the only way to have full membership is if you are a Palm Beach property owner.  Another famous family that owns property is the Merck family, who knocked down two houses on their lot to build a huge one.  The Kohl family also owns a house on the inlet, with a sculpture by Bolero.  Their house was formerly owned by Andre Agassi. Donald Trump also owns a house called the Maralago, which took four years to build and is 17 acres and 54,000 square feet.  It was later converted into a club. The tour guide also pointed out ‘push button landscaping’ where the shrubs are cut in a way that allows passerbys to see bits of their house when they are home and when the residents leave, a steel frame slides across the openings.

The PGA is headquarted in Palm Beach and the county has more golf courses than any county in America.  Some of the golf greats that live in Palm Beach are Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. Palm Beach County is the largest producer of raw sugar and home to the family that owns the sugar company, Domino.  Edward Bradley was a famous name in Palm Beach who opened up the Beach Club, which was the first casino to allow women as gamblers.  During the Prohibition he never refused anyone a cocktail.  The Rivavich Yachting Center built custom sporting boats and also has a US Customs Clearing station, so European yachts can enter the United States through Palm Beach.  The yachts they make are roughly 50-80 feet in length and go for about $5 million a boat.  There is currently a four year waiting list to have a boat made.

Boating in Florida is a $18 billion/year industry and Florida also leads the nation in boating injuries and fatalities for the past 28 years.  The Port of Palm Beach passes 3,000 boats a year and is the fourth biggest in state and the power plant is eventually going to be replaced with clean energy. They are currently trying to negotiate having another casino boat.  The last stop was the Command Center for Kennedy and the tour guide set the record straight, saying that it is not underground, Kennedy visited it once and it had nothing to do with the Cuban missile crisis because it was built in 1961.  It is also not a bunker or a bomb shelter.  Essentially, it was a great big ‘what if’, it would be easier for Kennedy to be at a military institute than at his parents’ house to make decisions.  Overall, the tour was really informative and also entertaining.