Land Before Time

Royal Poinciana, Laura Woodward

Henry Flagler is often credited as the founding father of Palm Beach, but he wasn’t the first advocate for our little slice of paradise. That distinction goes to artist Laura Woodward, who pushed Flagler to extend his railroad farther south and establish the Royal Poinciana Hotel. Originally from upstate New York, Woodward honed her skills as a member of the Hudson River and White Mountain schools, painting the glorious landscapes of the upper East Coast. In the 1880s, she began summering at Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel but was disappointed in St. Augustine’s lack of tropical foliage. She then meandered down to Jupiter and Palm Beach, where she found inspiration in the rugged swamplands and lush jungles full of exotic wildlife like panthers and alligators. Intoxicated by this natural beauty, Woodward shared her oil paintings and watercolors with Flagler, who agreed to expand to the area. The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens explores Woodward’s lasting legacy in a new exhibition, “Behold, A New Eden: Laura Woodward and the Creation of Palm Beach.” On display beginning February 10, this collection depicts spots between Jupiter and Miami, offering a retrospective look at South Florida in all its unspoiled splendor. West Palm Beach (561-832-5328) 

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