The Hotel Royal Poinciana, Henry Flagler’s first hotel in Palm Beach, was the largest wooden structure in the world when it opened in February 1894. With seven miles (yep, seven) of corridors and 1,150 rooms, the six story hotel was indeed a behemoth. Can you guess how the bellhops delivered messages and packages from the front desk to guest rooms?
2) Red bugs (buggies popular on the island)
3) Hoofin’ it on foot
4) Dumbwaiter stations and bellhops on each floor
The correct answer is #1. The bellhops rode the halls of the cavernous hotel on bicycles. Hopefully the bellhops’ bicycles had bells! Alas! They only had to deal with this unwieldy problem for forty years. The hotel experienced declining occupancy in the 1920s when tourists began to look for more modern accommodations. It suffered damage from the 1928 hurricane and then the Great Depression dealt the fatal blow. The lakefront lodging closed in 1934, supplanted by Flagler’s oceanfront pride and joy, The Breakers Hotel which afforded travelers luxuries not possible at the Victorian era Royal Poinciana.
Photo Hotel Royal Poinciana courtesy State Archives of Florida