By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
It was standing room only at Patricia Yost’s recent lecture at The Delray Beach Historical Society. Dozens of people packed into the 1926 bungalow to witness the former Vogue editor’s lecture on the famous Florida real estate boom on the 1920s.
Based on the book, “Late to the Party in the Roaring Twenties and That Tropical Paradise Called Florida,” which she penned with her late husband, Robert, Patricia Yost delivered a dynamic presentation on Florida during the jazz age and the innovative people who paved the way to turn the Sunshine State into the booming tourism destination it is today.
“This lecture is local history and I find it resonates because it’s personal,” said Yost, who lives in West Palm Beach and volunteers at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
After self-publishing the book first just for family, Yost was delighted when it was serendipitously picked up by a publisher.
“My husband spent years digging into this writing project, researching his family’s own move from New York City to South Florida and the land his father had purchased from Coral Gables to West Palm Beach,” she said. “After he died in 2010, I was going through boxes of old photos he had and it intrigued me.”
Yost decided to make her husband’s words the heart of the story and pepper the rest of the book with Florida’s unique history.
“If you don’t remember history, you’re bound to repeat it again,” Yost said. “By 1923, the great Florida land boom was in full sway. These people were full of wild dreams and high hopes. My husband’s family was in on the action, but then the economic collapse came from so many aspects. There were two hurricanes and human nature and mother nature affected it. It was a perfect storm.”
From Henry Morrison Flagler, Addison Mizner and Carl Fisher to John Styles Collins, George Edgar Merrick and Julia Tuttle, Yost’s lecture took listeners into a time machine back to the 20s when Delray’s charming cottages and bungalows were popping up and a room at the Breakers was just $4 a night and included lavish meals.
“The 1920’s land speculation brought hopes of prosperity to Delray,” Yost said. “The Seacrest Hotel opened in 1923 and Delray became a creative winter enclave for cartoonists such as H.T. Webster and Fontaine Fox. And American novelist, screenwriter and playwrightNina Wilcox Putnam was also a seasonal resident here alongside hat designer Lilly Daché.”
Following her lecture, Yost signed copies of her book, which is also available online at amazon.com.
“This lecture was in such high demand, we decided to offer it in January and again on Feb. 5,” said Delray Beach Historical Society President John Miller. “It’s part nostalgia-part learning from the past. Delray is very proud of its history and very protective of the history here. We’re always looking for new members. These lectures a great way to get people interested in our local history.”