Paying homage to the adventurous and pioneering spirit of a 19th century writer and socialite, The Ben in West Palm Beach is part luxury hotel and part fantasy land.

Pooldeck_2.jpgThe Ben, a 208-room hotel, features modern design reimagined to reflect the spirit of the Ben Trovato estate, one of West Palm Beach’s historic homes.

library_2.jpegEoA founder Malcolm Berg spearheaded the design of the lobby and the rest of The Ben

Imagine South Florida in the late 1800s. Then picture a place where guests were invited to wild parties in a Victorian mansion on the edge of the swamp. There were rumors about well-heeled socialites riding alligators through grand halls lit by glittering chandeliers. True or false? We may never know, and that is the beauty behind the design of The Ben, an Autograph Collection hotel located just steps away from buzzing Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.

Inspired by one of the area’s legendary and historic homes, the hotel pays homage to Byrd Spilman Dewey, the grandniece of President Zachary Taylor, who moved to the estate in 1887 with her husband, Fred Dewey. A focal point for society get-togethers, visitors flocked to the estate to partake in the Deweys’ glitzy yet eccentric hospitality. The estate put West Palm Beach on the cultural map, entertaining luminaries like Henry Phipps Jr., Woodrow Wilson and the Vanderbilts.

Spruzzo.jpgSpruzzo, the hotel’s rooftop bar, is a gathering place for West Palm Beach socialites

Today, The Ben channels its roots and brings them back to life. Dewey’s passion for entertaining, good food and the classic South Florida lifestyle is evident throughout the property. Pioneered by South Florida architecture firm EoA and its founder and design director, Malcolm Berg, the property’s design masterfully mixes vintage Florida with tropical-meets-modern elements. The artwork collection for the hotel is inspired by the name of the Deweys’ estate, Ben Trovato, a term loosely derived from an Italian phrase meaning “even if it isn’t true, it’s still a good story,” and literally translated as “well invented” or “well found.” Collaged archival photographs of the family sit next to whimsical paintings of animals in opulent Victorian spaces, inviting guests to form their own theories about which stories are true.

WF_TheBen_BookButler23.jpgKeeping with the design’s literary theme, the hotel offers a Book Butler program.

Echoing the untamed landscape and ambiance that enchanted Dewey, the interiors feature a combination of rich texture, earth tones, lush greenery and unique design elements from custom chandeliers to Clifford-sized gold dogs named aft er Dewey’s dog Bruno, strategically placed throughout the property in such a way that you just can’t resist a selfie with the statue. Storytelling and literary themes are found throughout the property, including secret sliding bookcases in guest rooms and the library display in the lobby, which is arranged to resemble a silhouette of Dewey’s face. A bestselling author and celebrated columnist in her own right, Dewey documented her love for the Florida tropics in her book, which is on display in guest rooms (and also called Bruno) and paints a vivid account of the 19th century era that helped shape the city. Taking the theme a step further, the hotel introduced a Book Butler program in partnership with The Palm Beach Book Store, where a butler hand-delivers a copy of a bestselling book to the room, accompanied by a tasseled bookmark.

Much like the Ben Trovato estate, The Ben is an unconventional hotel experience and a place for lively socialization. Evoking the socialite vibe that Dewey made famous, the hotel’s rooftop bar, Spruzzo, turns into a scene on weekend nights and boasts sweeping views of the Palm Harbor Marina and beyond. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Proper Grit, helmed by executive chef Jesse Pita, is a contemporary chophouse offering upscale dining in cozy, living room-style nooks. For elegant affairs in true Dewey fashion, The Ben features more than 8,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces, including The Studio, a creative space, with flexible design elements.

Perhaps the cornerstone of The Ben’s art collection is a custom-commissioned piece by Nikolina Petolas called “Wetlands.” With an emphasis on its otherworldliness, the 19th century estate is shown on a floating fantastical island surrounded by oversized flamingos. The painting begs the question—did the Ben Trovato actually exist? Was it real, or was it simply well invented? 251 N. Narcissus Ave., West Palm Beach