Readers: Last week we told you about the ultimately incorrect connection between downtown West Palm Beach’s Phillips Point and early 20th-century journalist Amy Lyman Phillips. Let’s visit her life.
Although read worldwide for a half-century, she was a longtime resident of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.
“Known for her wit and keen sense of humor, Miss Phillips brightened the society pages of many major newspapers when she filed stories on Palm Beach during its period of burgeoning elegance that began in the ‘Gay Nineties” and extended into the 1930s,” The Palm Beach Post reported after she died at age 86 on June 29, 1962.
Born around 1877 in New Hampshire, Amy had started writing around 1894 when she was just 17, putting out publicity tomes for New England resorts. That, of course, is a magic year; Henry Flagler opened his Royal Poinciana and changed Palm Beach overnight from a wilderness to “America’s Riviera.” And soon Flagler would hire Amy to do for Palm Beach what she did for New Hampshire.
In 1910, Amy set up shop in the Royal Poinciana, in Palm Beach. She later spent winters at The Breakers and at homes in Palm Beach.
She became an arbiter who, in the harsh rules of society, could make or break someone with a well-placed story or snub. Colleague Frank Cerabino wrote in 2016 for The Post’s centennial that Phillips created an alter ego, “The Mistress Samuel Pepys,” and wrote a rambling column in The Post about life in Palm Beach.
It was a different era ethically that allowed someone to simultaneously write for a newspaper and churn out publicity for hotels. And while not soliciting gifts and money, Amy did accept them. According to another 1962 obituary, this in the old Fort Lauderdale News, a benefactor gave her a cottage in Palm Beach that she parlayed into a larger home, which she then lost after she overextended herself.
That story also indelicately revealed that she wrestled with weight issues, sometimes topping 200 lbs. She threatened for decades to write a memoir, but apparently never did.
In December 1957, she broke her hip in New Hampshire. For the first time in 55 years, she would not cover the Palm Beach winter season.
“I have nothing but delightful memories of my life in those hotels,” she said at the time.
Never married, she died at the home she shared with her sister, Gertrude, at 437 Okeechobee Blvd., next to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks and South Dixie Highway. Which would put it about two blocks west of Phillips Point. Uh-oh. We’re back to the beginning.
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