Skip to Content

On Worth Avenue, you’ll find gossip and gorgeous scenes in Palm Beach walking tour

Even people who can’t afford to shop there love to wander the flower and fountain-filled courtyards and lanes of Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, a historic, luxury shopping district designed by Addison Mizner.

Its architecture and history are so important in South Florida that there are weekly tours of Worth Avenue that sell out every winter, even at $25 per person.

Via Amore on Worth Avenue is full of flowers, statues, fountains and beauty. It's where the Worth Avenue Historic Walking Tour gathers every Wednesday morning during the winter season for a tour. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Via Amore on Worth Avenue is full of flowers, statues, fountains and beauty. It’s where the Worth Avenue Historic Walking Tour gathers every Wednesday morning during the winter season for a tour. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

It’s a fascinating tour and author Rick Rose is an entertaining and informative guide. It’s full of gossipy stories of wealthy and famous people over the years as well as the importance of Worth Avenue to fashion and architecture. I was surprised how much I learned. (See more on how to take the tour below.)

The story behind the Worth Avenue style

If you visit it now, you’ll see immediately that Worth Avenue has a handsome patina of age and the look of fine craftsmanship.

That makes sense, since it’s more than 100 years old.

But when it was built in 1918, it already looked a hundred years old — and that is all by design.

Each of the vias off Lake Worth is worth exploring. They are full of orchids, decorative ceramic tile, fountains, sculptures, gardens and beautiful specimens of tropical trees. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Each of the vias off Lake Worth is worth exploring. They are full of orchids, decorative ceramic tile, fountains, sculptures, gardens and beautiful specimens of tropical trees. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Architect Addison Mizner wanted it to look like a Mediterranean village, where different styles and era of buildings are added over centuries. He used motifs from several countries and time periods. People loved it so much that Mediterranean Revival became the signature look of South Florida in the 1920s. Of course, people still love it.

A good example of Mizner making things look old is how he popularized pecky cypress.

The wood of Florida’s magnificent bald cypress trees is prized as a strong and beautiful building material. Pecky cypress is rarer, coming from one out of 10 cypress trees that have a fungal infection that attacks the heartwood of the cypress tree, creating distinctive small tunnels and “pecks.” You see it all over Worth Avenue beams and trim. Mizner liked it because it looked distressed and old.

Tour guide Rick Rose in front of Mizner's home, which has a five-story tower. Inside, there is 15th century carved wooden paneling that he was given in Spain when he was honored there. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Tour guide Rick Rose in front of Mizner’s home, which has a five-story tower. Inside, there is a 15th century carved wooden paneling that he was given in Spain when he was honored there. It’s a private residence; you can’t tour it. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Flamboyant rich people gathered here

Call it the Jazz Age, the Roaring ‘20s, the Gilded Age or Florida’s boom years, the period during which Worth Avenue was established saw rich people flocking to Palm Beach in the winter.

Tour guide Rick Rose explained how the Riviera, the previous gathering place for Europe’s elite, was impacted by World War I, and Palm Beach stepped up to be the new place for all the world’s wealthy people to party in winter.

Addison Mizner and a good buddy, Paris Singer, came to Palm Beach and together they developed Worth Avenue, which became THE place to be in winter.

Both Mizner and Singer were bona fide characters.

There are wonderful details if you look closely on Worth Avenue. Top left: A mural of an unidentified scowling man in Via Amore. Top right: On Worth Avenue, the Maus and Hoffman store was originally a car dealership and the windows have logos of the brands carved into them. That's La Salle. Bottom left: A window on the eclectic Everglade Club, where there is said to be 22 window styles. Bottom right: An image of a money is on the gate of Mizner's apartment. (Photo: David Blasco)
There are wonderful details if you look closely on Worth Avenue. Top left: A mural of an unidentified scowling man peaking from behind vegetation in Via Amore. Top right: On Worth Avenue, the Maus and Hoffman store was originally a car dealership and the windows have logos of the brands carved into them. That’s the La Salle logo. Bottom left: A window on the eclectic Everglades Club, where there is said to be 22 window styles. Bottom right: An image of a monkey is on the gate of Mizner’s apartment. (Photo: David Blasco)

Mizner grew up in Guatemala, where his father was U.S. Minister to Central America. He was 6 foot 2, had a cocktail party every night he was home on Worth Avenue, and kept a menagerie of animals. These included parrots he carried on his shoulder and a spider monkey Johnnie Brown, a constant companion, who was buried in a historic Worth Avenue courtyard.

Paris Singer was the son of sewing machine magnate Isaac Singer, who had multiple wives, mistresses and children. Paris was his 22nd of 26 children! Somehow there was still enough money to make Paris Singer very rich.

Orchids and flowers bloom along the vias off Worth Avenue. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Orchids and flowers bloom along the vias off Worth Avenue. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Cocktails parties = fashion and shopping

The social life that revolved around Worth Avenue required rich people to buy clothes, and retailers were happy to help. Saks Fifth Avenue came to Worth Avenue in 1926 with its first store outside New York City. The Everglades Club, Mizner’s social club, still located on Worth Avenue, held weekly fashion shows that launched the careers of many designers.

Some designers began showing clothes and bringing staff for the winter season. One of the “vias,” the fascinating courtyard pedestrian passageways along Worth Avenue, was nicknamed Via Gucci because Gucci brought his designers to Palm Beach in the winter to work and show their wares and they occupied the buildings all around this courtyard. (Of course, Gucci still has a store on Worth Avenue.)

Many of the vias off Worth Avenue are home to restaurants and cafes. This Pizza Al Fresco in Via Mizner, an affordable and delicious choice for lunch or dinner. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Many of the vias off Worth Avenue are home to restaurants and cafes. This is Pizza Al Fresco in Via Mizner, an affordable and delicious choice for lunch or dinner. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Gorgeous flowers, trees and decorative arts

Via Gucci was actually named Via Amore, and it is a place of exceptional beauty. It is one of eight vias: Via Parigi, Via Mizner, Via Roma, Via Demario, Via Bice, Via Encantada and Via Mario. (Look for their names over their entrances off Worth Avenue.)

Each is worth exploring. They are full of orchids, decorative ceramic tile, fountains, sculptures, gardens and beautiful specimens of tropical trees.

Many of the vias are home to restaurants and cafes. The shops in the vias tend to be unique and quirkier than the major luxury brands you see on Worth Avenue itself.

If you just walk down Worth Avenue without strolling through the vias, you’ve missed much of its charm.

Two graves of beloved aniamls are side by side in Via Mizner: Johnnie Brown, AddisonMizner's spider monkey, and Laddie, the dog owned by the next owner of the apartment, who had to appeal to the town council to bury their dog here. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Two graves of beloved animals are side by side in Via Mizner: Johnnie Brown, Addison Mizner’s spider monkey, and Laddie, the dog owned by the next owner of the apartment, who had to appeal to the town council to bury the dog here. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

So many Worth Avenue stories

Guide Rick Rose tells stories about several famous visitors to Worth Avenue, from Judy Garland to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

I like two animal stories the best. Both involve Via Mizner, where Mizner’s home, complete with a five-story tower, was located and which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside Via Mizner, surrounded by tables at the restaurant Pizza Al Fresco (my favorite lunch spot), you’ll find the grave of Mizner’s beloved monkey, Johnnie Brown. What I didn’t know is the story behind the other grave adjacent to the monkey’s.

This grave is for “Our Laddie,” who died in 1959. Laddie’s owners were longtime residents of the Mizner apartment. (Mizner died in 1933, penniless after the great crash of 1929.)

When Laddie died, his family wanted to bury him in “their” courtyard, next to Johnnie Brown. The town council said no, so sympathetic residents campaigned for it to be allowed. During that winter season, it was the talk of the island, and the town council reversed itself, saying this would be the last grave ever dug on the island.

If you're lucky, you'll see Mona Lisa the miniature pig on a walk along Worth Avenue. Mona Lisa lives in the apartment where Addison Mizner originally lived. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
If you’re lucky, you’ll see Mona Lisa the miniature pig on a walk along Worth Avenue. Mona Lisa lives in the apartment where Addison Mizner originally lived. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The second story is about an animal that now lives in Mizner’s former apartment: Mona Lisa, the miniature pot-bellied pig. You can sometimes see Mona Lisa, “a service pig,” on her daily walks on Worth Avenue.

Mona Lisa has been the subject of many articles and social media photos. In one article, the pig’s owner said Mona Lisa is beloved on Palm Beach island. After all, she won the Worth Avenue Pet Parade twice. (OK, the owner pointed out, she was the only entry in the “pig” category.) Mona Lisa is house trained. (We know you were wondering.)

In Via Amore off Worth Avenue, there are many sculptures of children playing. They were created by Romanian Prince Monyo Mihailescu-Nasturel Herescu, who fled when Communists took over his country. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
In Via Amore off Worth Avenue, there are many sculptures of children playing. They were created by Romanian Prince Monyo Mihailescu-Nasturel Herescu, who fled when Communists took over his country. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Taking the Worth Avenue Historic Walking Tour in Palm Beach

You can buy your tickets for the 2024 tours here. Tickets were still available when I checked for tours during February through April.

Tours started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and are offered every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. until April 24, 2024.

Tours are about an hour and 15 minutes and involve about a half mile of walking.

If you’re visiting Palm Beach, be sure to see our story 10 ways to enjoy Palm Beach island history, beauty & recreation for more things to do on Palm Beach island, including the scenic Palm Beach Lake Trail and the nearby Pan’s Garden, a serene, hidden, one of a kind garden.

While you’re in the area, here are great things to do in West Palm Beach.

The Worth Avenue tours are offered through the Worth Avenue Association and profits this year go to the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation, which works to protect and celebrates the architectural, botanical, and cultural heritage of Palm Beach.

This clock marks the spot where Worth Avenue meets the Atlantic Ocean. The popular shopping area is only a block or two west of here. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
This clock marks the spot where Worth Avenue meets the Atlantic Ocean. While it looks like it is from the Addison Mizner era, it was added in 2010. It is at the location of the Palm Beach Pier, which was destroyed by a 1930 hurricane. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

All articles on FloridaRambler.com are original, produced exclusively for our readers and protected by U.S. Copyright law. Any use or re-publication without written permission is against the law. Read more: floridarambler.com/licensing

This page may contain affiliate links from which Florida Rambler may earn a small commission if a purchase is made. This revenue supports our mission to produce quality journalism about authentic Florida at no cost to our readers.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ron Bustoe

Sunday 21st of January 2024

Hello Bonnie. From1988-94 my wife Carol and I were with The Salvation Army when you coordinated the Sun Sentiel Santa. We now live in Apollo Beach just south of Tampa. We enjoy your articles on kayaking and travel in Florida. If you are ever in this area we would love to see you.

Bonnie Gross

Sunday 21st of January 2024

Ron, I think of you every time I stop for a milkshake at Robert Is Here, which is pretty much as often as I can get that way! When I visited Homestead after Hurricane Andrew to see relief efforts, you took me there and it was my first visit. Since then, I have not only visited many times, but I have taken many people there and written about the place. https://www.floridarambler.com/historic-florida-getaways/robert-is-here/ It is amazing to go to Homestead now and see the recovery after decades. Glad to hear you are doing well and thanks for the note!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.