Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach at 40

Shortly after the formation of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach in 1980, founding Chairman Earl E. T. Smith gave an impassioned speech to the local governing body in which he explained the unique sense of place that the organization was formed to protect: “The Preservation Foundation believes that the physical environment of this town – the natural terrain, the town plan, the buildings, the landscape, and the island setting – makes ours the most beautiful and unique community in this country and that this environment is one of Palm Beach’s most precious resources.” The first project completed by the Preservation Foundation under Smith’s leadership—the relocation and restoration of Palm Beach’s oldest house—represented the organization’s steadfast belief in the importance of historic preservation.

First Dinner Dance Chairwoman Sue Whitmore, Founder and First Chairman Earl E.T. Smith, The Honorable Lesly S. Smith, Alice Willard, Founder and First President Le Baron Willard at the inaugural Dinner Dance in 1982.

Over the past 40 years, the Preservation Foundation has undertaken numerous projects throughout the island that protect the heritage and enhance the beauty of Palm Beach. Millions of dollars have been raised to preserve and restore historic resources like Sea Gull Cottage and Town Hall. Projects such as Pan’s Garden have fostered a deeper appreciation for the island’s botanical heritage. Most recently, the beautification project at Bradley Park transformed a 4.4-acre public park located on the town’s historic main street.

Along with special exhibitions and publications that advance scholarship on the history of Palm Beach, the Preservation Foundation offers educational programs that serve 6,000 students annually. Heritage Education outreach programs teach the concept of learning about the history and culture of the community through the medium of local architecture. Field trips to Pan’s Garden and the Little Red Schoolhouse create immersive experiences that engage the next generation of stewards.

The map included in the following pages provides an opportunity to celebrate some of the projects and programs of the Preservation Foundation and to quantify its impact on the community. These civic contributions would not have been possible without the vision of the organization’s founders and the generous support of Palm Beach residents.

Foundation Headquarters

Built in 2004, the Preservation Foundation’s Mediterranean Revival style headquarters is the location of the organization’s architectural archives and a locale for cultural events, lectures, and special exhibitions. Programming for the 2019 – 2020 season will highlight the leadership role the Preservation Foundation serves in the community.

Pan’s Garden

Established in 1994 by the Preservation Foundation, Pan’s Garden is a half-acre botanical garden showcasing Florida’s native plants. As a distinctive environmental concept featuring a wetlands and uplands area, the mission of Pan’s Garden – to protect and celebrate Florida’s indigenous plants and the wildlife they support – is a guiding example of landscape stewardship.

Sea Gull Cottage

When Sea Gull Cottage—the oldest existing house in Palm Beach—was threatened with demolition in 1984, the Preservation Foundation had it moved across the island to a location near its original lakefront location. The cottage was restored in the Victorian style of the late 1800s using original photographs. On land provided by the Royal Poinciana Chapel located along the historic Lake Trail, the cottage continues a useful life of service and serves as a nostalgic reminder of Palm Beach’s past.

The Palm Sale & Right Light

The origins of the Palm Sale began with the lethal-yellowing disease that destroyed some 25,000 trees in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. A campaign to “bring back the palms” was started in response. Replenishing palms along County Road and Ocean Boulevard, the Palm Sale continued for over 25 years to address blight and hurricane damage.

In 1999, the Preservation Foundation launched the Campaign for the Right Light. The $300,000 campaign allowed the organization to replace the modern street lights in the historic Town Square and nearby business areas with the original historical street lighting.

Town Hall

By the late eighties, Town Hall was a faded example of a municipal building. Designed in 1926 by Harvey and Clarke, it was one of the first structures landmarked in 1979. The exterior restoration in 1989 brought the historical details back to life, while the interior renovations in 2009 updated the building for use as a modern municipal building. The Foundation’s campaigns raised over $1,000,000 for the exterior and interior renovations.

Little Red Schoolhouse

The first schoolhouse in Dade County was a one-room frame vernacular structure built in 1886. In 1901, the county abandoned the schoolhouse and it became a toolshed on the John S. Phipps property. Today the schoolhouse, located at Phipps Ocean Park, serves as the setting for a fourth grade “living history” program started by the Preservation Foundation in 1990. Students from Palm Beach, Martin, and Broward counties visit each year to participate in a school day as it would have been in 1886.

Earl E.T. Smith Preservation Park

Since its dedication in 1989, Earl E.T. Smith Preservation Park has been a noteworthy illustration of the Preservation Foundation’s community-oriented goals. This privately-owned, public open space is located directly west of Town Hall in the Town Hall Historic District. Formerly the site of a gas station, the park is an integral part of the area’s historic charm and was recently restored for the organization’s 40th anniversary.

Bradley Park

Completed in December of 2017, the Preservation Foundation’s $2.7 million beautification project at Bradley Park was the result of a public-private partnership with the Garden Club of Palm Beach and Town of Palm Beach. The project transformed a 4.4-acre public park located on the town’s historic main street. Introducing a comprehensive landscape design, the project showcases the historic and natural features of the park.

Heritage Education

In 1987, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach introduced the Heritage Education Program as a pilot program at Palm Beach Day Academy. The program teaches the concept of learning about the history and culture of the community through the medium of local architecture. Today, the program is taught in four local schools in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. At the culmination of the program, students design, build, and landscape their own house using a Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, or Bungalow style house kit.