Singer Island is known for its picturesque beaches, luxury condos, and million-dollar views. But just over a hundred years ago, the island hadn't a single brick of infrastructure. Palm Beach County locals may recognize names like Mizner and MacArthur from community parks and theatres, but may not know is the historical impact of these public figures. Here's some history about the development of Singer Island.
The first recorded settlement was in 1906, consisting of fishermen and squatters from the Bahamas and Riviera Beach. The fishermen, who called the island "Inlet City," stayed there and stretched their large nets out to dry. They were fishing the Gulf Stream; a warm Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, wraps around the tip of Florida, and stretches up the east coast all the way to Newfoundland, Canada, before branching out across the ocean. The Gulf Stream is closer to Singer Island than anywhere else on the North American Eastern Seaboard, and it was the perfect place for the men to settle.
Paris Eugene Singer, developer of Palm Beach and son of the sewing machine proprietor Isaac Singer, used to go on picnics with friends to the rather barren island. In 1920, he decided to hire an architecht named Addison Mizner to work on building up the island in anticipation of a real estate boom. Singer paid Mizner $6,000 a year for life (close to $80,000/yr in today's dollars) to keep his work confined to Palm Beach County. The two planned to build the Singer Island Hotel on the south end of the island, the Blue Heron Hotel at the north end, and a 36-hole golf course in-between. Singer's plan to finance the project was to sell land lots throughout the state, however, the land boom had already slowed by 1925. Development was also hindered by a hurricane in 1928 and then a year later the stock market crashed, and the Blue Heron Hotel was left unfinished for 14 years.
The economy started to pick back up in the 40s and the shell of the Blue Heron Hotel was transformed into the Hilton Hotel that stands there today. The City of Riviera, as it was called, made plans to revamp. The City of Riviera bought 1,000 feet of beach for $40,000 (half a million in today's money) and was renamed Riviera Beach. This brought tourism growth and eventually led to Singer Island's incorporation of more land on the north side. Railroad and hotel magnate, A. O. Edwards, came to the area and laid out plans for Singer Island with parks, walkways, and roads. In the late 40s and early 50s Edwards built the Colonnades Hotel and replaced the wooden bridge to get on the island with a concrete and steel drawbridge, which allowed passage through the Intracoastal.
When Edwards died in 1960, his estate was sold to the Colonnades and John D. MacArthur. MacArthur was born into poverty, but became one of the wealthiest men of his time by building an insurance and finance company in Chicago. When he purchased more than 100,000 acres in Palm Beach County, he became the largest land owner in the area. MacArthur ran his billion-dollar empire from a booth at the cafe inside the Colonnades Hotel. In 1976, he had a stroke and died just over a year later inside the hotel at the age of 80.
MacArthur owned a lot of land at the north end of Singer Island, which he donated for a state park. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park was opened in the late 80s. The Colonnades Hotel was razed in 1990 and the Marriott Corporation built the Marriott's Ocean Pointe, a time share resort.
2000 & Today
Since then, Singer Island has grown much more, attracting high-net-worth individuals with luxury venues like condos, restaurants, and hotels. The island now even has its own turtle patrol, Police Department, and Fire Department with a ladies' auxiliary. More development is planned for the island in the years to come, including an upscale ocean-front mall.