Resorts are built to provide people with delight. Some succeed solely on the strength of their setting, such as the ocean or a mountaintop. Others add to this an urban delight, for which people will pay a premium.
The sufficiently-rich will even stay for a good part of the year if a place is interesting enough, such as Palm Beach, Carmel or any of dozens of places on the French and Italian Rivieras. Here numerous beach resorts and mountaintop perched villages qualify as premium urban beauty spots. Cannes, Nice, St.Tropez, Portofino, St. Paul, Vence, Haut-de-Cagnes, Menton, San Remo, Monte Carlo: these places--in addition to being beachy or craggy--also offer an urban experience.
Some Florida resorts offer varying degrees of urbanity: St. Augustine, Key West, Seaside, South Miami Beach and Palm Beach.
Palm Beach was the inspiration of the brilliant Addison Mizner (1872-1933), architect and developer.
“Poets are born, not fed.”
In 1922, when Mizner arrived in Florida its architecture was mostly tin-roofed wooden vernacular with wraparound porches. Mizner thought something classier, palmy and…you know, European… would go down better with the rich he targeted. So he cooked up a style with red-tile roofs and stucco, and he called it Mediterranean.
In short order he foisted off this picturesque pastiche as Florida’s second signature architectural style. It has been that ever since in the public mind.
Palm Beach owes its present appearance to Addison Mizner. He had such an unerring eye for the atmospheric and the picturesque that he created a fantasy town that comes close to matching the scenographic beauty of parts of Seville. Needless to say, those who live there love it, and so do the many tourists. Palm Beach in season hosts some of the most plutocratic denizens of North America, including country club liberal, Edward Kennedy. It is home of the ultra-lavish Breakers Hotel, also designed by Mizner.
Mizner followed up by planning and developing Boca Raton, while Coral Gables-- though not actually by Mizner-- owes him its appearance. Mizner in turn drew some of his inspiration from a scrapbook of postcards, photographs, drawings and sketches he kept sorted by subjects. He browsed through the scrapbook whenever he needed an idea.
Striving to capture the diversity of periods and styles that comprise Spanish architecture, he criticized modern architects for "producing a characterless copybook effect." His ambition, he explained, was to "make a building look traditional and as though it had fought its way from a small unimportant structure to a great rambling house"—in other words, he sought to mimic the effects of time.
Mizner had a good eye, a romantic and witty nature tempered by bouts of depression, and an acute sense of the picturesque that surpassed even Carmel’s svengali, Hugh Comstock. He knew how to connect with the people he was trying to impress, and he knew how to make an urban place by starting with the form: