History of Singer Island

The first record of a settlement on Singer Island dates back to 1906 with Inlet City. Inlet City was a spontaneous community of fishermen and squatters, most of whom came from nearby Riviera Beach and the Bahamas. Fishermen were attracted to the island as a place to dry the cotton nets that they used in those days, and for its proximity to the fertile Gulf Stream (the waters of the Gulf Stream are closer to land on Singer Island than any other place in North America!).
Singer Island was named for Paris Eugene Singer, the famous developer of Palm Beach and 23rd child of Isaac Singer, the sewing machine magnate (Paris also fathered a son with legendary dancer Isadora Duncan in 1910*). In 1920, he visited Palm Beach and met Addison Mizner. He agreed to pay the architect a $6,000 a year retainer for life if his work was confined exclusively to the Palm Beach area. With Mizner, he created the Palm Beach we know today with its Spanish architecture, picturesque streets and exclusive shops. Singer often took his friends on picnics to the beautiful island directly north of Palm Beach. In anticipation of the Florida real estate boom, he and Mizner planned to develop a luxurious resort (the Paris Singer Hotel) on the south end of the island and a modest hotel (the Blue Heron) on the north end with a 36 hole golf course between the two structures.

The estimated price was four million dollars – a fantastic amount in those years. Mizner was to design the hotels, but it is said Singer was so eager to start, construction of the Blue Heron was begun before the drawings were started. The opening date was set for 1926. The hotel’s service wing was the first and the last to be completed. Singer’s original plan was to finance the building from the sale of lots throughout the island. The Florida land boom was already slowing down in 1925, and the combination of 1928 hurricane and 1929 stock market crash dealt a mortal blow to Singer’s finances. The shell of the Blue Heron remained for 14 years, until Paris Singer’s dream finally came to an end when the the abandoned, incomplete hotel was razed in 1940 (the Hilton Hotel stands there now).
In 1940, the City of Riviera purchased 1,000 feet of beach on the Island for $40,000. This led to the growth of tourism in Riviera and eventual incorporation of the island north of Palm Beach Shores. In 1941, the city of Riviera changed its name to Riviera Beach. The Town of Palm Beach Shores was developed in 1947 when A. O. Edwards, a railroad and hotel tycoon, bought 240 acres on Singer Island for $240,000 and invested $500,000 in improvements. He laid out a city plan with parks, walkways and roadways (Palm Beach Shores’ northern boundary originally extended 300 ft. north of Blue Heron Boulevard). In 1948 Edwards built the Inlet Court Hotel which was later renamed The Colonnades. A year later the wooden Sherman’s Point Bridge was replaced with a steel and concrete two lane structure with a drawbridge which permitted passage through the Intracoastal Waterway. The first Sebring style race was held on the island in 1950 and ended at the Colonnades. Edwards became the Singer Island’s first mayor in 1952. When he died in 1960, his estate sold the Colonnades Hotel to John D. MacArthur in 1963.

John D. MacArthur, born in poverty as the son of a preacher, became one of the greatest financiers of his day through the building of Chicago’s Banker’s Life and Casualty Insurance Company. By purchasing over 100,000 acres in this part of Palm Beach County, MacArthur became the largest landowner in the area. MacArthur ran his billion dollar empire from a booth in the Colonnades Hotel’s coffee shop. In 1976 he suffered a stroke and died 14 months later in the hotel. The hotel was razed in 1990 and the Marriott Corporation began construction of its time share resort, Marriott’s Ocean Pointe Resort, on the land.

MacArthur also owned many acres on the north end of Singer Island and he donated a large section of that land for a state park. The MacArthur Beach State Park opened in 1989 and his foundation provides funds to improve the facilities.

In the 1950’s Palm Beach County enjoyed tremendous growth and Singer Island evolved into a resort area of hotels and condominiums for winter residents. In 1952, Phil Foster Park was opened, named after one of Riviera Beach’s pioneer citizens. In 1976, to accommodate this growth and ease the access to the island, the two lane draw bridge was replaced with the current four lane Blue Heron Bridge. *Paris Singer’s son was killed in an automobile accident in 1913.

 

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