art&culture magazine spring/summer 2016 v10i3

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a&c Spring 2016_Inside Culture.qxp_Layout 1 6/3/16 11:34 AM Page 81

The Chesterfield Hotel

CULTURAL COMPENDIUM In Remembrance: James Ponce

Located in the heart of Palm Beach just steps from Worth Avenue, The Chesterfield features 52 53 beautiful beautiful guest guest features rooms and uniquely decorated suites, a library and a heated pool and hot tub spa.

©Lila Photo

The community bid a fond farewell to celebrated Palm Beach historian James Ponce, who passed away this winter at the age of 98. Ponce shared his passion for history – especially Palm Beach County’s history – with countless visitors and residents, bringing the past to life through his storytelling and charm. Ponce grew up in St. Augustine, where he was born on July 19, 1917. His father, who oversaw the interment of American tycoon Henry Flagler, owned R.A. Ponce Funeral Home. Later in his life, Ponce served as the official historian for The Breakers, the lavish Palm Beach resort founded by Flagler. It was there, following military service in World War II and the Korean War, that Ponce began his career in the hospitality industry, working first as a front desk clerk and eventually an assistant manager. Following his retirement, Ponce was able to devote himself wholeheartedly to his passion for

history. For more than 30 years, he dressed in period attire and charmed guests at The Breakers as he guided them through the historic property. Conjuring the spirit of Flagler himself, Ponce told tales about the island’s storied past as well as the history of the resort and some of its notable guests. As the official historian of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Ponce also led popular walking tours of Worth Avenue, which were infused with his enthusiasm for history and jovial personality. He was also the past president of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. A treasure trove of information, Ponce was declared a “two-legged historical landmark” by the Palm Beach Town Council in 1996. In 2011, he was awarded the Providencia Award by the Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau (now known as Discover The Palm Beaches) for his extraordinary contributions to the vitality and prosperity of The Palm Beaches as a tourist destination.

The world-famous Leopard Lounge and Restaurant offers breakfast, “Executive Lunch,” afternoon tea, dinner, dessert, and late menus every day, and dancing to live entertainment every night.

363 Cocoanut Row (561) 659-5800 • (Fax) 659-6707 Reservations (800) 243-7871 Email: or visit us online at