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Book Review: Local historian Rick Rose uncovers Palm Beach’s hidden layers

Book Review: Local historian Rick Rose uncovers Palm Beach’s hidden layers

  • His book, “Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town,” published by Pineapple Press, is now in its second edition.
  • The revised manuscript digs deeper to uncover Palm Beach’s hidden layers.
Local historian Rick Rose

Very dapper-looking in his signature Panama hat from Maus & Hoffman on Worth Avenue, local historian, Rick Rose is another Palm Beach icon that fits right in with this luxury destination. His book, “Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town,” published by Pineapple Press, is now in its second edition. More than a typical city guide with “Must See & Must-Dos,” the revised manuscript digs deeper to uncover Palm Beach’s hidden layers.

Rose, a second-generation Floridian born and raised in the Palm Beach area, has filled his 208-page guidebook not only with the usual “places to go and things to do” spreads but with the witty narrative that hooks you. Though you can’t always tell before the sun sets down—Palm Beach it’s far from a sleepy town carved just for the rich and famous, celebrated socialites, and those residents who are, um, well into retirement age—he illustrates.

For a completely different perspective on this notoriously quirky and tight-lipped island, Rose guides you through local fun stuff like how to navigate through Worth Avenue—from Channel, Gucci, Tiffany, and Louis to smaller and more winsome shops like Raptis Rare Books, where they have a collection of “signed first editions” by elite authors like Edgar Allan Poe.

After the first chapter, which outlines all of Palm Beach’s historic factors—the arrivals of Henry Flagler, Paris Singer, and Addison Mizner to the scene in the 20s—he shows how Palm Beach evolved from a resort destination to a vibrant town. Then, he gets into some really fun stuff like Local Lingo. My favorite phrase is “OTB,” in other words, “over the bridge.”  Under the Palm Beach Attire section, you will find a quick reference to Palm Beach Chic. “Slightly less formal than cocktail attire, Palm Beach Chic usually means that cocktail attire should include bright Palm Beach colors (whites, pastels, pink, yellow, green, peach, and so on…) and lighter materials—linen, silk, cotton.” You know, Lilly Pulitzer styles fit the look here.

Local historian Rick Rose uncovers Palm Beach’s hidden layers
Cover of Rick Rose’s book

Other sections worth mentioning include the tips on “regional road trips, bike riding the 5.5-mile lake trail, and an islander’s favorite shopping sprees on Worth Avenue, as well as a, peek into mainstays like the five-historic hotels: The Colony Hotel, Brazilian Court, The White Elephant, Chesterfield, and The Breakers.

Chapter by chapter, Rose takes you on a road of discovery as you explore the town’s finest dining spots: Leopard Lounge, Buccan, Henry’s, and Cucina if you really want to experience the wild side of Palm Beach.

Throughout the book, Rose paints a pretty in pink picture of everything Palm Beach. “Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town,” captures the quintessence of Palm Beach by day and the sizzle of its nightlife. It’s all there—America’s first resort’s history, buzz, beauty, and eccentricities—all the whispered secrets, the beach scene surrounded by tropical foliage and a lush carpet of mown grass; Worth Avenue’s undisputed high-fashion storefronts; six-figure galas, and horse racing facts, billionaire and presidential retreats, and marked graves off Worth Avenue!

For a man who has all kinds of hats, 18 in all, from all around the world, with Panama hats being his favorite, “Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town,” represents his life’s best work.

How did it all start? With a simple B&B Inn over the Okeechobee Boulevard bridge, in West Palm Beach.

“I owned the Grandview Gardens B&B Inn with my business partner for 16 years. Over that time, as we welcomed thousands of guests, we put together a guest directory with all the kinds of things to see and do for them. And it just developed organically over the years,” explains Rose. Inadvertently, that became the bones of his guidebook. As he got involved with the Historical Association of Palm Beach County and the Preservation Foundation in Palm Beach, which led to other roles as the official historian for the Worth Avenue Association and as a board member of Discover the Palm Beaches, the content of the book evolved. But it was his friendship with local historian Jim Ponce back in the early 2000s that enhanced his appreciation for Palm Beach’s history—the heart of this project.

Rose explains how becoming Ponce’s understudy opened his eyes and led him to greater things. “He took me up to St. Augustine on a road trip one day and brought me down the coast, giving me that whole historical tour. We became pals right then and there, and after that, I started helping him with the scenic-walking tours in Palm Beach for five years.” When it was time for Ponce to retire, the Association recognized Rose as the next candidate as the official Palm Beach historian to continue with the Palm Beach scenic tours.

In 2015, the CEO of Rowman and Littlefield Publishers and his wife happened to be on one of those tours. He approached Rose and asked him if he was interested in writing a book based on the tour’s content. “Frankly, I didn’t have the time because I was opening our second company, Palm Beach Vacation Rentals, which we still have,” says Rose, who listened to the publisher’s offer that gave him a year to write the book.

Originally, it was planned to be an illustrated guide—a coffee table type of book. But, Rose knew there were dozens like that on the island and so, that didn’t appeal to him. What the island needed, he observed, was a comprehensive guide to Palm Beach, because there wasn’t one. Only small black and white ones with unattractive print style and design, but nothing like what “Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town” turned out to be. A handy, six-by-nine, full-color guide. The first edition was released in November 2017.

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Local historian Rick Rose uncovers Palm Beach’s hidden layers
Rick Rose during one of his tours

The book was received really well, as people saw that it was not just a guide of Palm Beach or a short history of Henry Flagler and all the things he did. With his second edition out, Rose has been invited to speak at different places, like at the Kravis Center last March. There, he talked about Palm Beach being America’s first resort destination and all that it entailed—the switch from not being just another rich man’s turf, but a place where young professionals are drawing to, most especially because of its convenient proximity to West Palm Beach— “OTB”— and of course, those late-night, high-brow hotspots.

With his marketing hat on, the man did work in sales and marketing for major international hotel groups for over 20 years before he returned to the Palm Beaches, Rose is looking to continue his scenic tours, promoting his book and his beloved island of Palm Beach.

“The whole way of life in Palm Beach is meant to be a very high-level resort destination. It offers a certain quality of life for those who can afford it, whether you stay at a hotel or at your private residence,” he says. He hopes this book provides two things: 1. For everyone in our community to learn the basics in terms of our local history. And 2. While he knows there are other Palm Beach guidebooks available, they are more like telephone books. What he’s created is a curated guide that contains the more popular and unique things special to this destination that you can’t necessarily find anywhere else.

“Palm Beach: The Essential Guide to America’s Legendary Resort Town” is available in both paperback ($23.95) and Kindle ($16.99) at Amazon.com.


To submit your titles for review consideration, please email: maritza@wpbmagazine.com. ’s hidden layers

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