Painted in ‘Flagler Yellow’ with white trim, green shutters, and a red mansard roof, Henry Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel, along with Flagler’s railroad, was for many years the reason for Miami’s existence. Originally containing 350 rooms when it opened on January 16th, 1897, with an additional 100 for servants, the six story hotel would grow another huge wing before the rambling wood structure was eventually deemed a fire hazard and demolished in 1930.
Almost as grand as Flagler’s Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach, the Royal Palm was fabulously posh and established the basic elements of the city’s identity that really have held up, more or less, until today. Just as the Royal Palm was, Miami is still a tourist mecca. As the Royal Palm was, Miami is still a playground of the rich. The Royal Palm, with its 578 foot long veranda, gardens, and location on the mouth of the Miami River, celebrated Miami’s natural environment, and the pleasure of being outdoors in the winter months. The Royal Palm established the winter months as Miami’s high season. The Royal Palm’s location became the center of Downtown Miami, on the north side of the river, right up against the bay. The hotel’s outdoor pool, rudimentary by today’s standards, was a hot amenity, featured in many postcards,
For many years after its demolition, the site sat empty as surface parking lots, its lush grounds turned over to Bayfront Park, its marina still in operation where the Related Group’s One Miami condo towers are today. The DuPont family built the DuPont Plaza Hotel on part of the site in 1957, and the InterContinental was built on another part in 1982, but much of the rest remained empty, leading a 1996 Miami Herald article to suggest some thought the site was haunted. But rampant construction since then has filled up practically all the empty land. The last remaining bits of the hotel, a few steps of a veranda staircase and some bricks for decades buried under concrete and asphalt, recently were discovered by archeologists but, after documentation, will soon be buried again under a new tower. Aside from the park, and a few preserved worker’s cottages, just like that the Royal Palm Hotel, the granddaddy of all Miami Hotels, will be gone again.