A destination’s past cements its future in arts and culture
Can you imagine what industrialist, Florida East Coast Railway founder, and “father” of Palm Beach County, Henry Flagler, would say if he saw what was once his small resort town transformed into a booming cultural hub for visitors and locals alike? Other than remarking on how incredible the modern marvel of air conditioning is, he’d certainly be pleased with how much the area has evolved over the past century.
Below, we’ve collected the best places for history buffs to explore and take a look back at The Palm Beaches’ past. Get into the time machine and gain some insight into why this is the place for arts and culture!
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
What better place to start your journey than at the beginning? Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was built in 1860 and predates every other existing structure in Palm Beach County. Originally built as a military defense post, the lighthouse is still in operation and is also home to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. Here, visitors can learn about The Palm Beaches in a new light (pun intended) with its Hike through History tours, breathtaking Sunset Tours and on-site keeper’s house and grounds. When it comes to exploring the past, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is a natural start.
Spady Cultural Heritage Museum
Long before the lighthouse was ever scouted by the U.S. Army, the communities that populated Palm Beach County in its earliest days were African-American former slaves, or descendants of slaves, in addition to the number of Caribbean, Bahamian and Jamaican immigrants who moved to Florida. The history of these denizens are now championed and explored by Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach, named after Solomon D. Spady, a prominent African-American educator and community leader in Delray Beach from 1922 to 1957.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
Like a fine wine, Whitehall keeps getting better and more sophisticated every year. First constructed in 1902, the home was Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate on the island of Palm Beach—a glorious gift for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan. Now, the Beaux Arts mansion is home to the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, which is also credited the honor of being “Florida’s first museum.” Visitors take a trip through time the moment they walk in the doors and explore the lavish and elegant style of an era long past, but with the convenience of modern comfort. This is a no-brainer for any fan of history or the Gilded Age!
Historical Society of Palm Beach County
When it comes to finding older black-and-white photos and exploring the county’s archives from centuries past, there’s one place that’s first on everyone’s list—the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum, home to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. After forming in 1937, the organization has had many a home—Society of the Four Arts, Whitehall, Palm Beach County Library, the Paramount Building in Palm Beach—but finally, in 2008, the society found its new headquarters in the form of the newly-restored 1916 Palm Beach County courthouse in West Palm Beach, which has since been named the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum. Rotating annual exhibitions, permanent displays and a gift shop are just three out of many reasons to visit this historic organization.
Cultural Council for Palm Beach County
Back in 1940, a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 1,000-seat movie theater opened in Downtown Lake Worth with the film, “Little Old New York,” which starred Fred MacMurray and Alice Faye. The building, designed by Roy A. Benjamin in the Streamline Moderne style, has been through nearly 80 years of different personalities—a movie theatre, an Italian restaurant, a discotheque—but still stands today as the headquarters of the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County. Since 2012, when the Council renovated it as a gallery space, the newly-named Robert M. Montgomery, Jr. Building now functions as a gallery space, performance venue, and visitor center—in addition to selling a wide variety of local art, jewelry, and fashion in its Roe Green Uniquely Palm Beach Store. Stop by and visit and be sure to take the time to see the giant Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the building’s south exterior wall, painted by Eduardo Kobra in 2017.
Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum
Boca Raton is Palm Beach County’s southernmost hub of history and culture. This is the city that was, in the early part of the 20th century, an Army Air Corps base and a few decades later, home to one of the biggest IBM headquarters in the world. Of course, for an area so immersed and dedicated to its own traditions, the city needed its own organization, Boca Raton Historical Society, to keep everything well-preserved. Now, the organization is housed in Boca Raton’s original 1926 Town Hall, renamed The Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum, where it frequently leads tours of the building and other local historical sites including the former Boca Raton Resort & Club (designed by famous architect Addison Mizner) and the Florida East Coast Railway Station, built in 1930.
There’s plenty to enjoy in the past and present of The Palm Beaches, but we hope to see you in its future. Sign up for Insider Access today, and each month you’ll learn a little more about what makes this Florida’s Cultural Capital®.