Palm Beach History



St. Edward Church, Palm Beach, Florida began in 1924 as a mission parish. The Provincial of the Jesuit Order in the South, headquartered in New Orleans, sent the Reverend Felix J. Clarkson, S.J., to Palm Beach to provide services and take care of the spiritual needs of the Winter visitors.

Fr. Clarkson quickly purchased three lots on the corner of Sunrise and North County Road. On Easter Sunday, April 4, 1926, ground was broken for the new Spanish Colonial style church. And, nine months later, the first service-Midnight Mass. December 25, 1926, was celebrated in the newly completed edifice.

At the time, all seventy-one stained glass windows in the church were in place. On the ground floor, on the south side, seven windows depict Jesus' seven miracles; on the north side, seven windows depict parables from the Gospels.

The sixteen large clerestory windows featured in this photo above the smaller ground floor windows, feature the major events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Almost all the stained glass windows in the church are arch-shaped. All windows, constructed from handblown, painted, pot metal glass, are from the well-known studio of Franz Mayer and Company, Munich, Germany. From design to production, all work was completed in 1926.

These beautiful stained glass windows adhere to the mode of Munich pictorial realism, as composition is governed by the principles of Renaissance and Baroque easel painting. Major characters featured stand out for their rich colors and elaborate dress, while backgrounds are detailed, with much attention given to ornamentation. Likewise, there are strong contrasts throughout between light and shadow.

All stained glass windows in the church are architecturally placed to bathe the nave and the sanctuary with both direct and indirect light. The result is a genuine enhancement of the beauty and spiritual environment of the church.

by Rev. Dwight M. Stevens, M.D., D.Th.

"The Millionaires' Movie Theater" was Photoplay Magazine's 1927 headline on the Paramount Theatre: "In this famous resort where the wealthy gather during the winter months, movies have been invested with unwonted dignity....Beautiful women, exquisitely gowned and tastefully bejeweled..." implied a comparison to the Metropolitan Opera House of New York.

"Palm Beach has Diamond Horseshoe...that will glow with as much brilliance as that in any theatre..." is how the New York Times announced the opening of the Paramount, noting the $1,000 thirteen-week season price for the twenty-six balcony boxes.

The 1,236 seat Paramount Theatre opened January 9, 1927 with the silent film Beau Geste, starring Ronald Colman, the showed first-run movies long before the days of television. Annual fundraising benefits brought top stars of the stage, screen and radio, including Al Jolson, George Jessel, Sophie Tucker, W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Geraldine Farrar, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Hildegarde, Danny Kaye, Van Cliburn, Robert Merrill, Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Helen Hayes and Barbara Striesand.

In 1974 the Paramount was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; in 1982 it was designated a Town Landmark. In 1994 the Paramount Church began services in the area where the movie screen and the orchestra pit were once located, and in 1996 the church became the owner of the building.

Today the Paramount's tenants include many upscale retail shops, and numerous non-profit organizations, including The Palm Beach Civic Association, The Citizen's Association, The Palm Beach Fellowship for Christians and Jews, The Hospice Foundation and Hospice Resale Shop.

The 75th Diamond Jubilee Celebration was on January 9, 2002, commemorating the Paramount's long and distinguished history, complete with an historical photographic exhibit and appearances by famous people. (1933 photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Palm Beach County).

The present Breakers, as it appeared on opening day, December 29, 1926. It is really hard to believe that this very imposing structure was completed in just eleven months and fourteen days. It was constructed to replace the second Breakers that was destroyed by fire, March 18, 1925.






"Red Bug" racing, very popular in the early part of the last century, was one of the many "Things to Do" in Palm Beach in those days.








"Playa Riente" designed by Addison Mizner for Joshua A. Cosden in 1923. Later it was the home of Mrs. Horace Dodge. It was not only the largest but the grandest estate designed by Mizner.
This grand gothic entrance hall of "Playa Riente" greeted guests.

The open air courtyard of "Playa Riente" which was located on top of the dune line so as to take advantage of the sea breezes. "Playa Riente" was demolished in 1957.


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    Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce
    400 Royal Palm Way, Suite 106
    Palm Beach, FL 33480
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