Colony Hotel & Cabana Club

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Discover Colony Hotel & Cabana Club, which represents the romantic Flagler era of Florida Mediterranean architecture.

Colony Hotel & Cabana Club, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1999, dates back to 1926.

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A member of Historic Hotels of America since 1999, The Colony Hotel & Cabana Club is among the most historic holiday destinations in all of Florida. Many have hailed this spectacular resort as a timeless masterpiece, often calling it “the best known landmark” in Delray Beach. The facility debuted as the “Alterep Hotel” in 1926, after a group of investors led by Albert T. Repp had spent some $350,000 to finance its construction. Repp and his colleagues had decided to build such a magnificent structure due to Delray Beach’s growth as a prestigious resort community during the Roaring Twenties. Florida itself was in the midst of a lively—yet short-lived—real estate boom, in which Americans from across the nation built countless residential and commercial structures as a means of escaping the harsh northern winters. Delray Beach was no different from any other coastal community in Florida at the time, as businesspeople like Repp developed its shoreline with new luxurious retreats. Designed by architect Martin Luther Hampton at the behest of Repp, The Alterep Hotel was perhaps the greatest structure built within the city in the 1920s. Standing three stories tall, its brilliant Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture brilliantly commemorated the state’s Hispanic heritage. The resort’s gorgeous stucco walls and iconic domed towers made it incredibly unique when compared to many of its fellow local destinations. Inside, a Spanish Galleon was carved into the lobby’s central mantle, highlighted in hues of gold and silver. Stunning terrazzo floor tiles proliferated throughout the space, as did wrought iron chandeliers and sumptuous antique floor lamps. An Otis & Company elevator ferried guests throughout the building to one of several dozen guestrooms located onsite. The contraption was absolutely beautiful, for it featured cut-glass panels, dark wood trim, and even a hand-closed metal gate. Fixx Reed wicker furniture filled every public space and guestroom, too, which Reep had acquired directly from the upscale John Wanamaker Store in Philadelphia.

Despite its grand, luxurious character, the Alterep Hotel struggled immensely to generate business during the first few years of its existence. Right when it seemed that Repp and his associates were about to turn a corner financially, the Great Depression struck with merciless fury. Businesses and property values collapsed all over Florida, spelling doom for entrepreneurs like Albert T. Repp. With no way to save the enterprise, Repp subsequently foreclosed on the Alterep Hotel. Fortunately, salvation arrived in the form of George and Agnes Boughton. The two were newlyweds who had stumbled into Delray Beach almost by accident. They initially wanted to drive straight down to Key West, where they would take a cruise to Havana. But social unrest in the Cuban capital caused the two to unexpectedly cancel their trip. George then contacted his father, Charlie, for help, as the latter was a veteran hotelier up in New Jersey. Finding new accommodations in Atlantic City, the couple started the long drive back to the northeast. Yet, when the two briefly stopped in Delray Beach, they immediately fell in love with the abandoned Alterep Hotel. George and Agnes eventually spoke with Charlie about the prospect of acquiring the bankrupted business. After much discussion, the Boughtons paid some $50,000 to buy the ailing resort in 1935. Renaming it as “The Colony Hotel,” the family’s subsequent stewardship saw the resort emerge as the hottest attraction in Delray Beach. They invested thoroughly into its revitalization, installing a wealth of new amenities and facilities throughout the structure. George even developed the famous “Cabana Club” on a 250-foot strip of land along the Atlantic Ocean. This fabulous venue contained a heated saltwater pool, authentic tropical fauna, and complimentary cabanas. The Colony Hotel and Cabana Club has since remained in the Boughton family to this very day. Much of the original architecture and décor remains the same, too! The resort even has 50 pieces of the historic Fixx Reed furniture that first arrived over a century ago. The Colony Hotel and Cabana Club is thus one of Florida’s best historic destinations.

  • About the Location +

    For centuries, the area that currently constitutes present-day Delray Beach was nothing more than a tropical wilderness occasionally visited by the likes of the Jaega, the Tequesta, and the Seminole. The region remained a largely untouched even after Florida became a state in 1845. Yet, the first permanent structure to appear was a shelter for shipwrecked sailors known as the Orange Grove House of Refuge, which the U.S. Life Saving Service built in 1876. Around the same time, a group of African American families purchased several small plots of land near the refuge to use as farmland. The settlement had grown large enough that by the century’s end, the black community could establish an independent public school. Still, largescale settlement of the area remained spare until William S. Linton started buying gigantic swathes of land to the west of the Orange Grove House of Refuge. That particular area had been legally owned by the Gleason family since 1868, although they had done almost nothing with it since. A Republican congressmen from Michigan, Linton had learned of the sale alongside his friend and business associate, David Swinton. Together, the men acquired some 160 acres from Captain George Gleason. Linton subsequently convinced Swinton that they should form an organized farming town within their new landholdings. As such, the nascent little village came to be known as “Linton.” Linton and Swinton returned to Michigan, where they eagerly started advertising the Town of Linton as a wonderful haven for those frustrated with the colder climate of the Midwest. They also marketed the town as being very modern for its age, as it contained a business district, a well-funded education system, and even a local race track.

    Over time, the nearby African American community was absorbed into Linton. All who lived in the town held high hopes that the promises made by Linton and Swinton would quickly bear fruit. Some felt that their faith was rewarded when the great railroad magnate Henry Flagler constructed an arm of his Florida East Coast Railway in Linton during the 1890s. Flagler himself was quite impressed with the settlement and formed a business partnership with Linton to develop the town even further. Many residents wound up working for Flagler, as such. Yet, hard times quickly affected the settlers. Poor soil and insect infestations undermined the local agriculture, while the inhospitable summer heat made working outside a difficult affair. Linton himself even defaulted on the loans he created to originally buy the land, forcing many residents to repurchase the plots they had received from him. Quite a few locals left financially ruined from the venture. But salvation arrived for those who remained in the early 20th century, when railroad traffic unexpectedly increased. Alongside the freight trains arrived a few passenger cars filled with people yearning to escape the frigid weather of the Northeast. Unlike the earlier settlers, the new visitors had no desire to exert themselves in Florida’s humid weather. Instead, they intended to merely relax in relative comfort, using whatever shelter they constructed as temporary, seasonal cottages. The population subsequently exploded, with the town formally charted in 1911. By this point, Linton had been renamed as “Delray” in honor of a neighborhood in Detroit that bore the same name. (Interestingly, the Delray in Michigan had been named after the Battle of Molino del Rey, which was fought during the Mexican-American War.)

    The movement of northern families south to Delray was part of a much larger phenomenon to impact nearly all of Florida at the turn of the century. With the mass production of the automobile at the end of World War I, people across the United States had started traveling at unprecedented rates. Furthermore, Americans had access to greater sums of capital, enabling them to afford homes and go on vacation. Florida became a popular destination, particularly among those in the Northeast. Communities all along the Floridian coastline subsequently endured a real estate boom that saw all sorts of beachside homes and luxurious hotels emerge in great numbers. Delray was no different. The town had attracted such a large quantity of people that a small portion of the community between the East Coast Canal and the Atlantic Ocean seceded to form the Town of Delray Beach. This transformation proved brief, though, as the towns of Delray and Delray Beach merged back again to create the City of Delray Beach in 1927. But an economic calamity had befall the reborn city, as the land boom had come to a crashing halt. Many land developers panicked over rumors of false real estate sales and started their cancelling contracts left and right. The market was also over saturated, making prices stagnate. As such, the economic bubble surrounding the Florida real estate market burst, causing a miniature depression throughout Florida. The financial troubles would affect many people beyond the Sunshine State and contributed greatly to the onset of the Great Depression a few years later.

    Nevertheless, Delray Beach still maintained its status as a prestigious resort community, even as the economic ravages of the Great Depression gripped at the nation. While many Americans still found the means for a trip to Delray Beach, a notable community of writers and illustrators started to emerge within the city. Many had sought out Delray Beach as an alternative vacation destination when the nearby community of Palm Beach had essentially turned them away. Establishing offices in the Arcade Building over the iconic Arcade Tap Room, the city became something of a second Hollywood during the winter months. Among the prolific intellectuals to both live and work in Delray Beach included, H.T. Webster, Fontaine Fox, Robert Bernstein, Denys Wortman, Nina Wilcox Putnam, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Soon enough, another—albeit smaller—land boom took off in Delray Beach, in which local developers sought to build a wealth of new facilities to accommodate the growing artist colony. But the gathering storm clouds of another global conflict tempered any real economic growth, as hostilities in Europe, Africa, and Asia became more serious in the late 1930s. And when America finally did go to war again in 1941, most of the construction work around the city switched to support the national war effort. New training facilities sprouted up around Delray Beach, as the locals manned various watch towers night and day to scan the coastline for German submarines. A steady stream of military personal stationed at the neighboring Boca Raton Army Airfield kept many of the local resorts and hotels in business throughout the conflict, however.

    Delray Beach underwent a true economic recovery once World War II had finally come to an end. Many of the servicemen and women who were stationed in the area during the conflict decided to own property in Florida, either as permanent homes or seasonal vacation bungalows. They also subsidized the hospitality industry, as they eagerly returned to relax in the city’s hotels and resorts year after year. Supplementing Delray Beach’s newfound prosperity was its transformation into a hotspot for surfing enthusiasts in the 1960s. Many surfers specifically started arriving in 1965, after Hurricane Betsy wrecked a massive ship off the coast of Singer Island. In spite of the tragedy, the wreck created a huge windbreak that formed all kinds of terrific waves. (Even though the ship is no longer in the ocean, surfers from across America still make the trip to Delray Beach.) Today, Delray Beach is among the most desirable holiday destinations in the entire United States. Its beaches are some of the best in the world with their unrivaled azure water and white sand. The city is also home to several outstanding cultural attractions, including the Cornell Art Museum at Old Square School and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Some of those fascinating locations are incredibly historic in nature, as well, such as the Marina Historic District and the Old School Square Historic District. The City of Delray Beach should thus be on the list of every avid traveler.


  • About the Architecture +

    When architect Martin Luther Hampton first designed the facility at the behest of Albert T. Repp, he chose Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture as the source for his inspiration. George and Agnes Boughton—as well as their descendants—subsequently continued this trend upon their acquisition of the destination in 1935. Also known as “Spanish Eclectic,” this architectural form is a representation of themes typically seen in early Spanish colonial settlements. Original Spanish colonial architecture borrowed its design principles from Moorish, Renaissance, and Byzantine forms, which made it incredibly decorative and ornate. The general layout of those structures called for a central courtyard, as well as thick stucco walls that could endure Latin America’s diverse climate. Among the most recognizable features within those colonial buildings involved heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. Architect Bertram Goodhue was the first to widely popularize Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, spawning a movement to incorporate the style more broadly in American culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Goodhue received a platform for his designs at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, in which Spanish Colonial architecture was exposed to a national audience for the first time. His push to preserve the form led to a revivalist movement that saw widespread use of Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the country, specifically in California and Florida. Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture reached its zenith during the early 1930s, although a few American businesspeople continued to embrace the form well into the late 20th century.


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