Since opening its doors in late 2020, the White Elephant Palm Beach has become a modern classic. It’s not because of its hip vibe or design-forward aesthetic, but rather because it honors a significant part of Palm Beach heritage even as it reimagines it for a new era.
Before it was acquired by New England Development, the 1924-built property— originally a landmark hotel servicing Colonel E.R. Bradley’s gambling casino—was an aging architectural gem. NED chairman (and part-time Palm Beacher) Stephen Karp saw potential in its terraces, arcades, and outdoor staircases and immediately envisioned a sister hotel to NED’s White Elephant Nantucket. Elkus Manfredi Architects, specialists in restoring historic properties, transformed the original Mediterranean Revival structure into a 32-key boutique hotel with a residential feeling, down to the thoughtfully curated art.
Although the architecture is classic, it feels anything but dated thanks to a host of contemporary counterpoints. Elevated materials like metals, Carrara marble, and hardwood floors are interpreted with a fresh eye. Furnishings are sleek and modern. The highlight is the art collection, consisting of 120 original pieces of pop and modern art. The most monumental, a 7-foot white elephant statue by Santa Fe artist Fredrick Prescott, greets guests outside the main entry.
In the lobby, a 54-inch round acrylic painting by Orit Fuchs commands attention and draws the eye to the rest of the collection, which includes works by Japanese-American painter Kenzo Okada, New York artist Donald Baechler, legendary painter Robert Rauschenberg, and others. Of note are the powder room sketches by Doodle Boy, a 10-year-old British artist who created the drawings with marker, incorporating a hidden elephant in each.
The four-story hotel is arranged around a courtyard that houses the swimming pool and outdoor seating for the signature restaurant, LoLa 41. This is the heart of the property, and it buzzes with energy, especially at night when the dim lights create a magical atmosphere. Although the hotel is steps away from Royal Poinciana Way—the town’s original Main Street—the courtyard feels secluded thanks to clever landscaping and an eye-popping design that turns the focus inward.
Rooms and suites range in size from 510 to 3,000 square feet and are so tastefully appointed that you feel more like a guest in a private home. The most special spaces are the two penthouse suites, scaled for gracious entertaining or multigenerational gatherings. The terraces alone measure up to 1,200 square feet. From that aerie, the view encompasses the lush expanses of Bradley Park and Palm Beach’s famous terra-cotta-tiled rooftops. In all of Palm Beach, there is not a better venue than the Park Suite terrace for a private dinner under the stars.
When it’s time to step out, the White Elephant offers complimentary use of bicycles or chauffeured rides in BMW 7-Series sedans. Either is a good way to explore the recently reinvigorated Royal Poinciana Way and its charming businesses. Where to go? Shop the eclectic high-fashion boutiques of Royal Poinciana Plaza, cycle or walk along the Lake Trail, stop for a Butterscotch Bomb ice cream cone at Sprinkles, pick up a novel to read by the pool at Palm Beach Book Store, and duck into the new Via Flagler by The Breakers (don’t miss the mini doughnuts at Main Street café). Like the White Elephant, the evolution of the old Main Street is a perfect blend of tradition and modernity—and just the right way to experience today’s Palm Beach.