After a two-year delay due to COVID-19, the historic Colony hotel celebrated its landmark designation Thursday with a plaque unveiling and breakfast reception.
The event, which drew Town Council members, hotel co-owner and CEO Sarah Wetenhall, Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman René Silvin and other local dignitaries, was held outside the 75-year-old hotel at 155 Hammon Ave.
The hotel was granted landmarks designation by the Town Council in January 2020. General Manager Bruce Seigel greeted guests before yielding the speaker’s podium to Mayor Danielle Moore, council member Ted Cooney, Silvin and Wetenhall.
Wetenhall and her husband, Andrew, bought the hotel in 2016 from a previous generation of owners that included her father-in-law, Bob Wetenhall Sr.
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They initiated major improvements at the hotel, which include a renovated outdoor space, historic tour packages, an open dining room and the return of Swifty’s Palm Beach.
“Our pink paradise offers a special place in the hearts of Palm Beachers, having served as a backdrop for so many iconic moments, both personal and public, in this town,” Sarah Wetenhall said. “On behalf of my husband, Andrew, and myself, we are so pleased to celebrate what we already knew and what our family has known for over five decades: that The Colony is an important historical and cultural landmark in Palm Beach and must always be protected as such.”
The hotel was designed in the British Colonial style by the architectural firm of Simonson & Holley, and built in 1946-47, during the town’s second building boom.
The Colony is located on Hammon Avenue, which was named for the property’s original landowner, Hiram F. Hammon, one of the earliest pioneer settlers in Palm Beach. Hammon arrived in what would become Palm Beach in 1874, and was the first person to file a homestead on Lake Worth, which became part of Midtown Palm Beach, including Worth Avenue from the ocean to the lake.
In 1921, Hammon sold the property that would become the site of The Colony to William Waller Jr., and his wife, Lucia. Just months after buying the land from Hammon, the Wallers built a large Spanish villa named Casa Manana, which now houses The Colony’s Villas apartments at 152 Hammon Ave.
Following World War II, Florida experienced massive economic and demographic growth, ushering in Palm Beach’s greatest construction period.
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Tourists were flocking to Florida, and The Colony, trumpeted as “Palm Beach’s first post-war hotel,” was built by Golf View Hotel Inc. to fulfill a growing demand by winter visitors for resort hotels, according to the town.
The exterior of The Colony’s main hotel building remains largely unchanged from its original construction. One of the few additions is the “mushroom columns,” which are the distinctive inverted triangle pillars, added in the late 1950s, that support the ceiling of Swifty’s interior dining room.
Although they are modern restorations, the black terrazzo floor in the Living Room is identical to the lobby’s original floor, and the de Gournay wallpaper featured in the hotel is inspired by the famous original lobby mural of Palm Beach in the 1890s.
Other unique architectural elements include the original brass mailboxes on each floor and in the lobby, which are still in use. The Colony has 89 rooms, seven of which are villa apartments and two are penthouse suites.
The hotel closed in March 2020 at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and reopened seven months later. It is one of 351 landmarked properties, sites and vistas that are protected under the town’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.
“Every building that we landmark helps to save the historic nature of this town, so I want to thank Sarah Wetenhall and The Colony and everybody who made this possible,” Moore said Thursday. “It’s just another fabulous day for the town of Palm Beach.”
The hotel will mark its 75th anniversary in December.
Jodie Wagner is a USA TODAY Network of Florida journalist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.