Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Florida History: Mizner's Cloister Inn at "I am the Greatest Resort in the World"

Mizner Development Corp., National Register
of Historic Places
From City of Boca Raton 
By Jane Feehan
(To find more "Florida history" use search box at right)
Addison Mizner (1872-1933) set his sights on Boca Raton in 1925 after eight years in Palm Beach – years in which he significantly influenced the architecture of that resort community.  Boca promised artistic freedoms he could only dream of while designing for the wealthy.

The 1920s were roaring, promising opportunities to those ready to seize them. Mizner and his brother Wilson formed the Mizner Development Corporation in 1925 to promote Boca Raton, a town newly incorporated (August, 1924). With 17,500 acres in their grasp, they raised $26 million in the first six weeks of land sales. Lots jumped in value from a few hundred dollars to $100,000. "I am the Greatest Resort in the World," ads for the town proclaimed.

The centerpiece of their new resort town was the 100-room, $1.25 million Cloister Inn.  Whatever Mizner couldn’t import to decorate and design with, he made in his terra cotta factory in West Palm Beach. Some pieces, many aged artificially by Mizner himself, remain at today’s Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Cloister Inn opened Feb. 6, 1926. Some say it was the most expensive hotel ever built. Operated by Ritz-Carlton management, the rambling, red tile-roofed hotel drew notables such as the duPonts, Vanderbilts, Elizabeth Arden, composer Irving Berlin and a roster of Wall Street moguls.

The Boca Raton dream began to crack before the hotel opened. Florida’s decline was quietly predicted by a Wall Street wizard January, 1926. By year’s end, the boom went bust.  The hotel closed and Addison Mizner returned to Palm Beach where he died in 1933. His brother Wilson scrambled to Hollywood, California to operate a restaurant and to start a new career as screenwriter. He died a few weeks after Addison.

The Mizner dream ended but its influence did not; Boca Raton’s architecture and exclusivity are vestiges of the Mizner vision. The Cloister Inn is the nucleus of Waldorf Astoria's Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Kinney, Henry. Once Upon a Time: The Legend of the Boca Raton and Club. Boca Raton. Arvida Corporation, 1966.
Johnson, Stanley. Once Upon a Time: The story of Boca Raton.  Boca Raton: Arvida Corporation, 1974.

Tags: Boca Raton Resort and Club, Addison Mizner, Boca Raton history, Florida history, Florida in the 1900s

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