Readers: A South Florida resident recently wrote to say her “significant other” had attended Graham-Eckes, a private boarding school in Palm Beach and asked about the school’s history.
Graham-Eckes, one of Florida’s oldest private schools, was founded in 1926 in Daytona Beach by Inez Graham and her half-sister, Evelyn Eckes, as a college preparatory school for kids from kindergarten through high school.
In 1941, it moved to 690 N. County Road, to “Oheka,” the 3.5-acre lake-to-ocean Palm Beach estate formerly owned by financier and philanthropist Otto Kahn, and operated in a mansion designed by famed architect Maurice Fatio.
The school later added dormitories and tennis courts.
Graham-Eckes, the town’s only high school, was “Palm Beach” down to the silverware. Its 300 or so students wore immaculate summer and winter uniforms, broke for afternoon tea, had formal dinners every day and cotillions every week and learned strict codes of social graces and honor. Many went on to Ivy League schools.
After Inez Graham died in the late 1960s, enrollment dropped. In 1971, it changed its name to “Graham-Eckes Palm Beach Academy.” Two years later, it stopped boarding and switched to a day school for grades seven to 12. It then sold off two large pieces of its campus for $1.15 million.
Over the ensuing decade, enrollment dropped to fewer than 120. By 1989, it was down to 60, and a plan to move across the lake to West Palm Beach dissolved. At the end of that school year, the academy, in business for six decades, closed its doors.
“As a member of the class of 1950, for which I was the class poet, I have fond memories of my five years there and continue to enjoy the enduring bond shared by my schoolmates, exemplified in the school’s motto, ‘Ne Oublie’ or ‘Never Forget,’” Nancy Maury Miller said in a June 2011 essay for The Palm Beach Daily News, the “Shiny Sheet.”
“I will never forget how regal and imposing Inez Graham looked, impeccably dressed, leading the nightly procession into the dining room, where inspired dinner conversation was accompanied by good food on proper dinnerware, complete with finger bowls,’ she continued. “Students took turns serving in the dining room and assisting the cooks in food preparation.”
Miller wrote that the Palm Beach Academy Foundation “continues to award small annual grants benefiting children’s education. And those of us who attended Graham-Eckes continue to cherish our memories of a special, bygone era.”
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