The White Elephant Hotel Palm Beach opened in 1924 as the Bradley Park Hotel, which was a prestige destination in the roaring 1920s for aristocrats and the newly rich alike. Its architecture recalls the Mediterranean revival work of Addison Mizner. Because of its importance, restoration of the building needed to be accomplished while satisfying the historic criteria of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission as well as the National Park Service, both of which have purview over the property.
The designers avoided the temptation to replicate the old hotel exactly, preferring to celebrate its history while giving it a new, fresh tropical decor. The 32-key hotel reopened in 2020 and is owned by New England Development. With 13 rooms and 19 spacious suites, the reimagined property is residential in scale and feel, with inviting indoor and outdoor environments that are true to its Mediterranean heritage.
Like an elegant hacienda in Latin America, the hotel’s center courtyard is U-shaped and forms the social and architectural center of the property. This feature was deemed especially important by the landmarking authorities. Historic scalloped balcony railings were not designed to today’s building codes and a central air conditioning system had to replace individual window units. The central courtyard was enlarged to extend beyond its original footprint with a new outdoor pool located at the front of the hotel.
A new stucco finish was applied to the entire façade and original trim and details were restored. Elements introduced by designers include a new soft-white paint color which contrasts with black paint trim on the exterior; black-and-white striped awnings; and dark-stained floors and window frames. Original plantings making the courtyard greener and activate it with poolside lounging and outdoor dining. True to its Latin roots, the building’s façade and arches are heavily draped in bougainvillea and there is a manicured hedge—a Palm Beach signature—placed along the street front both for privacy and local context.
A museum-quality art collection adds the final touch of sophistication. Artists like Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Jennifer Bartlett, Joel Shapiro and Christopher Le Brun are represented to present a modern design stance in a venerable landmark.