The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Historian, 95, brings Palm Beach landmark to life
Jim Ponce stands in one of the dining room at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla. as he leads a tour of the old hotel. No place in this storied playground of the rich evokes as much history as The Breakers and no one knows the sprawling resort's story better than Ponce. Sixty years after first coming to work as a front-desk clerk at the hotel, 95-year-old Ponce still serves as the in-house historian, showing up every Tuesday to offer a tour to guests. He dresses in period clothes, this day most notable for a red blazer, Panama hat and brass-handled ebony walking stick. And from the frescoed ceilings to the terrazzo floors, the 15th-century tapestries to the Roman arches, he guides visitors through one of America's most celebrated hotels. He's spent so much time here, he admits it's as if his own history is entwined with that of the property. "It certainly isn't just a hotel to me," he said. AP Photo/J Pat Carter.

By: Matt Sedensky, Associated Press


PALM BEACH (AP).- — No place in this storied playground of the rich evokes as much history as The Breakers and no one knows the sprawling resort's story better than Jim Ponce.

Sixty years after first coming to work as a front-desk clerk at the hotel, 95-year-old Ponce still serves as the in-house historian, showing up every Tuesday to offer a tour to guests.

He dresses in period clothes, this day most notable for a red blazer, Panama hat and brass-handled ebony walking stick. And from the frescoed ceilings to the terrazzo floors, the 15th-century tapestries to the Roman arches, he guides visitors through one of America's most celebrated hotels. He's spent so much time here, he admits it's as if his own history is entwined with that of the property.

"It certainly isn't just a hotel to me," he said.

As he guides several dozen guests through the ballrooms, parlors and hallways of The Breakers, Ponce offers more than just staid commentary on gilded ceilings, Venetian chandeliers and other tokens of excess. He tells of the gasp he heard when Princess Diana and Prince Charles entered the Mediterranean Ballroom for a dance in 1985, brushes with everyone from Bette Davis to Eleanor Roosevelt, even splitting a bottle of Moet & Chandon with Phyllis Diller.

"We love to drop names," Ponce said.

The Breakers was first opened under a different name in 1896 by Henry Flagler, the oil and rail tycoon who developed much of Florida's eastern coast. Flagler's name is invoked throughout the tour and Ponce pays a quiet tribute as he passes his portrait.

"The man himself," he says softly, with a wisp of Southern drawl.

The Breakers twice burned to the ground, in 1903 and 1925. Ponce tells his roughly 30 visitors this day that the latter fire was blamed on the wife of the then-mayor of Chicago, who left a curling iron plugged in at the resort.

"Chicago girls are noted for that sort of thing," he says to laughter.

Ponce tells of hearing the heartbreaking news of the fire as a boy, but The Breakers was rebuilt in stunning fashion, in just under a year. His own history at the hotel began in 1952, after finishing World War II service in the Navy.

He held various jobs at The Breakers and hotels around Palm Beach until returning in 1977 as an assistant manager. He retired in 1982, but never really left. He vows to keep coming as long as his health allows.

"He has perspective that none of us have," said Kirk Bell, the hotel's manager. "He has a history of the people that have come and gone — royalty, presidents, movie stars, people in all walks of life."

Ask Ponce any question and he musters an answer. But ask him his favorite spot on the property's 140 acres, and he has trouble picking.

"It's so classically beautiful that it's hard to say," he said.

He knows what budget hotels are like; he spent some time as a Holiday Inn manager. And he knows luxury, too, rattling off the names of The Jefferson, The Greenbrier, The Homestead and other resorts of the well-heeled at which he has stayed. They're all very beautiful, he admits, but he wouldn't trade them for anything.

"They just don't touch The Breakers," he said.

Ponce has his tour down to a science — the laugh lines, the gestures with his walking stick, the minute details on shades of paint and numbers of rooms and historical dates. With him at the helm, the Magnolia Room isn't just another oceanfront parlor, it's a glimpse of Old Florida life of afternoon teas and letter-writing by a crackling fire. That space above the Circle Dining Room isn't just for intimate meals, it was a Prohibition-era hideaway for those craving a cocktail at dinner. He has no ghost stories to share, but tells of the hotel's stint as an Army hospital, points out hidden features of a painting and gives a history of an elaborate gold ceiling.

Around each new corner, Ponce has another anecdote. And even as the tour concludes outside the Italian Renaissance landmark, he can't help but think of one more.

"You got time for just a short story?" he asks.

And filled with delight, the guests lean in for more.



Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.






Today's News

September 30, 2012

No day without night: Stadel Museum opens a show on Dark Romanticism in Autumn

Archaeologists, anthropologists and other experts meet: Mayas prophesized, but not end of world

Large-scale pigment images from William Eggleston's Los Alamos series on view at Gagosian Gallery

Sotheby's Paris to offer the Marsel & Zaira Mis Collection of Modern & Contemporary Art

SFMOMA Presents Alessandro Pessoli's first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast

First comprehensive exhibition of the work by Thomas Scheibitz opens at MMK Museum fr Moderne Kunst

Exhibition at the National Library in Bucharest shows Romanian artists resisted regime

Gesellschaft fr Aktuelle Kunst hopes to initiate a rediscovery of the work by Vlassis Caniaris

Buddhist statue found by Nazis shortly before World War II is made from meteorite

Hammer Museum presents first retrospective of Indian-born American artist Zarina

Election-year exhibition looks at founding ideals and a wide range of artists' views of American society

Long overdue Giuseppe Capogrossi retrospective opens at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

"All His Sons: The Brueghel Dynasty" exhibition on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Irish famine museum opening at Connecticut university

Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna presents works works from the private collection of Ernesto Esposito

Jen Stark's first solo exhibition in Los Angeles opens at Martha Otero Gallery

Jeremy Deller's first mid-career survey on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia

Historian, 95, brings Palm Beach landmark to life

New York public libraries announce initiative to connect schools citywide to millions of books

Joseph Goebbels love letters fail to sell in Connecticut

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival

2.- To be unveiled at Sotheby's: One of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled

3.- Bender Gallery features paintings by up and coming Chicago artist Michael Hedges

4.- Lvy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

5.- Artificial Intelligence as good as Mahler? Austrian orchestra performs symphony with twist

6.- Fascinating new exhibition explores enduring artistic bond between Scotland and Italy

7.- Exhibition explores the process of Japanese-style woodblock production

8.- Robert Frank, photographer of America's underbelly, dead at 94

9.- The truth behind the legend of patriot Paul Revere revealed in a new exhibition at New-York Historical Society

10.- Hitler bust found in cellar of French Senate



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful