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Stately No More West Palm`s 64-year-old Dixie Court Hotel Is About To Be Torn Down To Make Room For A New Justice Center.

January 16, 1990|By FRED LOWERY, Staff Writer

After nearly 64 years of standing as a sentinel over the Palm Beach County Courthouse across the street, the Dixie Court Hotel soon will be retiring as a feature of the West Palm Beach skyline.

It is giving up its life for yet another element of downtown revitalization.

Along with the old Palm Beach County Jail and the Schooley Cadillac building, the once stately six-story Dixie Court, at 301 N. Dixie Highway, will be torn down later this month to make way for the county`s proposed $139 million Justice Center complex.

Plans for the complex include an 11-story courthouse, six-story Public Defender and State Attorney office building and central energy plant to be built on the 9 acres on the west side of Dixie Highway between First Street, soon to be renamed Banyan Boulevard, and Fourth Street.

In a sense, the hotel will live on. The debris is scheduled to be used to form an artificial reef off Palm Beach after it is removed.

There won`t be any explosives used in the demolition, project manager Ben Cunningham said. ``That`s a bit dramatic and terribly expensive.``

Demolition crews, he explained, will enter each buildings, gut the interiors, then take them down from the top.

It will be an unceremonious end to a building  that has stood as a witness to good times and bad, boom and depression in the city`s downtown.``More politics were handled in the (hotel) coffee shop than in the courthouse,`` reminisced one former city employee who used to lunch there.

``They call (demolition and replacement) progress, but I don`t know,`` said retired newsman Charlie Cabaniss, who spent 15 years in residence there.

The Dixie Court Hotel (shown here around 1930) opened in 1926 and was 7 stories high with 132 rooms, a restaurant, and shops. It was razed in 1990 to make way for the county courthouse complex.

The seven-story Dixie Court Hotel, which welcomed its first guest on April 25, 1926, shared architectural DNA with the Palm Beach Town Hall, the Comeau Building on Clematis Street and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Flagler Drive.

All were designed by local Architects  Henry Stephen Harvey and L. Phillips Clarke.

And the Dixie Court was apparently a sight to see. Each of its 117 rooms boasted a private bath, and its lobby had a high, pecky-cypress ceiling, a tile floor and brass-and-wrought-iron chandeliers.

1931 ad for the Dixie Court read: “Complete in every respect — quiet, comfortable bedrooms — alert, gracious service — a most tempting menu — all the niceties of appointment and attention so characteristic of the Florida-Collier Coast Hotels.”

When this photo was shot of the Dixie Court’s lobby in 1984, the front desk clerks were still taking reservations. (Quincy Studios)

Beginning in the 1960s, retirees moved into many of the Dixie Court’s rooms. In later years, the hotel provided shelter for clients served by county and state social pro-grams.

In 1984, the hotel hung up all its room keys, although a bank  and  legal offices  rented  space  on  the  ground floor.

Placed on the national list in 1986, the hotel was level-ed four years later, along with the nearby First Street jail and the Schooley Cadillac buildings.

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