THE ALBA

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. 

The Biltmore condominium’s west elevation seen from the Lake Trail at sunset. The Biltmore first opened as the Alba Hotel in February 1926, bankrupt just four months later, it then reopened as the Ambassador Hotel, part of the Ambassador Hotel chain. Later, it was rechristened the Biltmore, changing owners numerous times, among them, the Hilton chain, H. R. Weissberg, George MacDonald and A. C. Sonnabend. The last of the town’s great lakeside hotels, the Biltmore was converted into a naval training facility during WW II. In 1980 the building was completely gutted and transformed into a 128-unit condominium.

By Augustus Mayhew

In 1979 the Shah of Iran’s overthrow sparked a mini-boom for the Beverly Hills real estate market, and thirty years later, Pari-Sima Pahlavi, fka Mrs. Doreez (Peri) Dolats, nee Pari Sima Zand, is doing what she can to keep the Palm Beach market afloat, shelling out $2.5 million for her latest apartment at the Palm Beach Biltmore, according to court papers filed December 31st. Pahlavi bought a 7th-floor, 1,800-square-foot, 3-and-3 from Deena Freeman, aka Deena Morgan, who had paid $1.45 million for the unit in 2003. While some Pahlavi royals have their Vuitton Pegase packed and ready-to-roll back to the family’s imperial marble palace in Tehran, Mrs. Pahlavi previously deeded her 3,000-square-foot Biltmore penthouse into a trust for heirs, HIHs Kamyar and Sarvenaz Pahlavi, children from her marriage to the late HIH Prince Abdul Reza Pahlavi.

Island’s Biltmore Has Had Several Lives

April 25, 2007 Eliot Kleinberg's Post Time columns.

Longtime reader Roger St. Martin of suburban Lake Worth called recently to ask about the history of Palm Beach’s Biltmore Hotel.


The hotel, just north of the Flagler Memorial Bridge at 150 Bradley Place, opened in 1894 as the Palm Beach Hotel. It burned when The Breakers caught fire in March 1925. A new building was constructed in 1926 as the Spanish-themed Alba. It had been built for $5 million to $6 million, which, in 2007 dollars, is as much as $68 million. In January 1929, it was renamed the Ambassador. When the boom busted, it went into bankruptcy. In 1933, it was sold to an outfit that also owned the Biltmore in Coral Gables and was renamed the Palm Beach Biltmore.


In 1943 and 1944, the U.S. Coast Guard used it as a training base for the Spars, its women’s reserve. In 1945, it was the U.S. Navy Convalescent Hospital, with more than 700 patients. St. Martin recalls that, when he was about 11, he and others would put on boxing matches for GIs. St. Martin said he’d watch them relaxing on the sun deck, getting some rays and watching speedboat races in the Intracoastal Waterway.


In 1946, the Biltmore, then owned by the Hilton chain, returned to civilian service. The hotel closed in the 1970s and fell into disrepair, but was rescued from demolition by famed devel-oper John D. MacArthur. MacArthur sold it in 1977 for $5.3 million to investor Stanley J. Harte, who renovated it and reopened it in 1981 as the 128-unit Palm Beach Biltmore Condo-miniums.