Monday, April 25, 2011

Florida History: Paris Singer and his South Florida Coney Island

By Jane Feehan             

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Paris Singer (d. 1932), of the sewing machine family and fortune, was a key player in the early days of Palm Beach. He and friend Addison Mizner collaborated on the Everglades Club in 1918.   Boom times eventually beckoned both to separate projects. Mizner’s next phase awaited him in Boca Raton. Singer set his eyes on a piece of land north of Palm Beach – known to us today as Singer Island.

Singer, once paramour of American dancer Isadora Duncan, had big plans for his new development. “He was destined to make the north end of Palm Beach another Coney Island,” newspaper accounts claimed in 1925. “Eventually he will present to Palm Beach and the world a popular playground where the common folk may enjoy the advantages offered by Coney Island, Brighton Beach and other watering places throughout the country.”

Work began on a $4 million hotel, the Blue Heron. It was half-finished when the bottom dropped out of the land market in the late 1920s.  A skeleton of a developer’s dream-turned-nightmare, the Blue Heron stood as mournful reminder of the collapse until it was finally demolished during World War II.

A bridge from the mainland to Singer Island was completed in 1926. A second one replaced it in 1949. By 1976, the Blue Heron Bridge, named for the long-gone Singer hotel, opened. A taller, grander one than its predecessors, this bridge (and boulevard of the same name) serves as a salute to Singer Island, a somewhat different version of the original Paris Singer dream.
Tuckwood, Jan, ed. Palm Beach County at 100.  Jupiter: Palm Beach Post, 2009.

Tags: history of Florida, Palm Beach County history, Singer Island history

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