By Jane Feehan
Honored as one of the state’s Great Floridians, E.R. Bradley (1859-1946) was a significant player in Palm Beach history.
Bradley, born in Pennsylvania, started out as a steelworker but went on to make his fortune through gambling and horse racing. He came to Palm Beach a few years after Henry M. Flagler brought the Florida East Coast Railway to the town.
Bradley and his brother, John, built the Beach Club in 1898. Attracting wealthy patrons from around the world (membership open only to non-Floridians), the club became the social nexus in Palm Beach. The Beach Club, which did not serve alcohol, was soon known as the “most exclusive casino in the world,” igniting the glamorous reputation of the island community.
A horse breeder who won the Kentucky Derby four times between 1921-1933, Bradley donated the Beach Club property to the Town of Palm Beach provided it would be demolished and the property be used as a park. Bradley Park lies east of the Lake Trail on the north side of Royal Poinciana Way. A wall of the Bradley house remains in the park. He was also one of the donors of the West Palm Beach Country Club to be used as a municipal course.
Bradley, who took on the title colonel, was a teetotaler who would not be comfortable with his name attached to today's E.R. Bradley’s Saloon, a popular restaurant and bar at the east end of Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. He would have been more impressed with the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap, a horse racing event held each January in Louisiana.
Palm Beach County Historical Society. Palm Beach, Then and Now. West Palm Beach: Lickle Publishing, 2004.
Palm Beach Post, April 11, 1929
Palm Beach Post, April 25, 1971
Tags: Palm Beach history, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach restaurants, Kentucky Derby history