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     Located on the site of the Biltmore Condominiums

The Palm Beach Hotel Fire

As The Breakers burned for the second time in 1925, Palm Beach resident Stafford Beach watched from the ocean pier as embers floated up through the air, across the island, and landed on the 400-room Palm Beach Hotel. Its 160 guests, who had been watching The Breakersfire, barely reached their own rooms in time to save small articles; the frame building burned down completely.

The hotel’s owner, Sidney Maddock, lamented: “The dear old Palm Beach Hotel is a total loss. … I was there at the time and held the hose like the rest but it blazed in seven places at once way up on the roof. It’s history now.”

His parents, Henry and Jeanie Elizabeth Smith Maddock, of Staffordshire, England, had made their home at Duck’s Nest on North Lake Way in 1891, which is still owned by their family. Sidney Maddock had married Lucy Lacoste and in 1902 built the Palm Beach Hotel on Lake Worth. After it burned down, Maddock left Palm Beach and never returned. His son, Paul Lacoste Maddock, moved to Palm Beach in 1939 and married Ruth Marian Quigley Moffett, a descendant of Charles Carroll, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

On the site of the Palm Beach Hotel, Maurice Heckscher built the $7 million Alba Hotel. Named for his polo-playing friend the Spanish Duke of Alba, the 12-story hotel opened in February 1926 with 550 rooms. The first party for 1,000 was hosted by Mrs. Edward T. Stotesbury, Mrs. Paris Singer, and other notable socialites. By May, the hotel was bankrupt, although it reopened the following year. By 1929, it became part of the Ambassador Hotel chain. The next owner, Colonel Henry Doherty, changed the name to the Biltmore in 1934. 

Palm Beach, FL Fire Destroys Two Hotels, Mar 1925

Submitted by Stu Beitler



By Associated Press.

Palm Beach, Fla., March 18 -- Fire which for a time threatened to wipe out an entire section of this famous winter pleasure resort, was brought under control Wednesday night after two big hotels, the Breakers and Palm Beach, had been reduced to piles of glowing ashes. Property damage was estimated in excess of $4,000,000.

Rumors that guests had perished in the Breakers and the Palm Beach hotels were current as the flames hurled blazing embers into the air and even across Lake Worth to West Palm Beach, but none had been confirmed late Wednesday night.

An elderly man and woman were reported burned to death in the Breakers, and two small children and their nurse were said to be missing from the same hotel. Parents of the children were searching frantically Wednesday night in the ruins, but neither would give their names.


Martial law in Palm Beach with troops guarding bridges between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, followed the seizure by police of two motor trucks and several automobiles filled with goods stolen during the fire. Eight negroes and one white man were arrested.

Fire fighting forces from Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Lake WOrth fought the flames and other firemen were on the way when the upper hand was gained by the men on the scene.

In addition to the two hotels the Poinclan barracks and a number of shops were burned. Bradley's Club, long noted as a playground for the rich, was saved, although for a time it was thought certain that this widely known resort would fall a victim of the flames.

No definite loss of life had been confirmed pending a check of the guests.

The fire started in an upper floor of the south wing of the Breakers Hotel, which had nearly 900 rooms and provided accommodations for nearly 2,000 persons. The cause was variously reported as a carelessly handled cigarette, a plumber's torch and a woman guest using an electrical appliance.

Flames broke through the roof and smoke almost immediately spread throughout the hotel. Guests hurriedly left the burning structure, many not waiting to save their personal belongings and loss of valuables of persons residing in the hotel is expected to be great.

When the Palm Beach Hotel, a 250 room structure, began to burn, the fire forces were divided. It became apparent at once, however, that the building was doomed and those assigned to this part of the battle concentrated successfully on saving adjacent buildings. Meanwhile, four cottages which were part of the Breakers property had been destroyed and the roof of the Royal Poinciana stated smouldering. The fire there, however, was stopped before it gained any headway.

The confusion and wildly flickering flames continued far into the night and no reasonably accurate survey of the loss was possible.

San Antonio Express Texas 1925-03-19

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