BY BRIAN D. WHITE
The Colonial Warriors, that is! At the top of The Hereditary Society food chain, these Warriors know how to party. Traveling for annual events in New York, Palm Beach, Boston, Washington DC, Southampton, and Lake Forest, to name a few, this Social Register Set sets the bar as one of the most social and well-connected memberships in America.
Founded 126 years ago in New York with 4,500 members nationally, entry into this elusive membership requires ancestors dating back from 1607 (Jamestowne) to 1775 (just prior to the Revolutionary War). And even after that, it requires rigorous documentation approved at the New England Historic & Genealogical Society in Boston and selective sponsorship.
We’ve been going to Palm Beach for Colonial Warrior events for the past 7 or 8 years now, and it’s always a highlight of the year. Our little group of 3 or 4 couples has now grown to over 40 people from Chicago and once they attend, they are hooked. Priscilla Barlow, member of the National Society of Colonial Dames in America in the State of Illinois (NSCDA-IL) said it best when I told her the festivities in Palm Beach were “the hottest ticket in town”: first responding that I say that about everything I deal with, she continued, “You were right again!” She and her husband, Aaron A. Barlow (who is the current Illinois governor of the Warriors), have been attending ever since!
Most of us typically arrive that Wednesday or Thursday and stay either at the Chesterfield Hotel, Colony Hotel, or Brazilian Court. This year I arranged for a sumptuous Lobster Thermador dinner (my favorite meal!) at the very chic Club Colette, and they did not disappoint. Upon entering this jewel of a Palm Beach club, discretely tucked behind a hedge wall with tall urns welcoming guests, our Illinois contingent was greeted by dimmed lights, elegant live piano, and abundant flowers with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the club bar, afterwards seated for the most decadent Lobster Thermador dinner ending with the club specialty duo of chocolate and Grand Marnier soufflés. Many ended up at the Polo Lounge at the Colony Hotel for cocktails and live entertainment following dinner.
The following day was spent shopping along the famed Worth Avenue, touring the city, or just sitting by the beach or pool, followed by a private dinner dance held in Palm Beach. Although I can’t tell you who hosted it, who was involved, where it was held, or show any photos of the interior, I can tell you The Alex Donner Orchestra performed and they were amazing! Playing all the society music you love to dance to in between courses, followed by my favorite current hits, they kept the dance floor packed all night!
My favorite moment was when Alex himself stepped off the stage into the dancing crowd below while singing The Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction” as we were jumping around as if the dance floor were on fire with our hands in the air! Dressed in white tie, tearing it up on the dance floor, and letting your hair down in the most exquisite atmosphere imaginable with your best friends—that is what its all about!
Prominent Chicago guests joining us this year for the first time remarked, “Last night was the most elegant party we have ever been to. From the backdrop to the white tie and tails on all the gentlemen and women in their gorgeous gowns and long gloves, to Alex Donner playing the most fabulous music all night, it was perfection.” Need I say more!
We all then gathered at my favorite, the Leopard Lounge at the Chesterfield Hotel, to continue the dancing and fun before a few of us headed over to my other favorite Palm Beach haunt, Cucina, till around 2 am, making it a rather early night compared to some years!
The next day we had brunch at a nice place near the beach (too private to name), followed by shopping or whatever else people wanted to do. I always have to stop at my favorite shop in Palm Beach called Leta Austin Foster & Associates, Inc. (64 Via Mizner), conveniently across from Renato’s, for the most fabulous gifts, stationary, children’s items, and amazing décor—one of the best on the island, and the owner, Leta Foster (of course a Colonial Dame), is always so charming and lovely to chat with. Others like Suzette Brading and Todd Schwebel continued on to the Kips Bay Palm Beach Showhouse, where they saw standouts among the magical rooms by Danielle Rollins, Billy Ceglia, David Mitchell Brown, and Lee Robinson with Danielle’s being our favorite, of course!
That night we started out with cocktails at the Polo Lounge where we ran into Jessica Lagrange with some friends traveling in for a few days. No matter where we go, we seem to run into friends we had no idea would even be there, having cocktails or dinner at our same favorite places! After connecting with dear friends from Atlanta, we all continued over to Renato’s for dinner on their lovely outside terrace with tall coconut trees, pink bougainvillea, and starry skies above—and fabulous food that never disappoints. I had the shellfish trio to start followed by the Dover sole, which is amazing. The interiors are a dramatic blend of red walls and mirrors, and patterns and stripes, which equally set the tone for a glamorous evening.
Sunday rolled around, and Kipper Hendrick graciously organized 2 private bungalows at the Breakers Beach Club for 12 of our Illinois contingent. Gorgeous sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures were calling my name, so we headed out at 9:30 am to meet Kipper and Bud, immediately ordered the club pina colada (in the coconut, of course, with rum float), and ran down to the beach. Others relaxed at our bungalows while some jogged, took long walks along the beach, or sat by the pool reading a good book.
Without my knowing, a friend took my picture coming up from the surf on the beach and said it was my “Baywatch” moment, to which I laughed (but was proud of the great tan I had)! After spending the day outside, we changed in our bungalows and had dinner at the Breakers Seafood Bar, where we always end up watching the Super Bowl, which is fun. We always see the elegant Liz Stiffel dining there literally every year, same time, same day, every year—it’s always nice to see more familiar faces when traveling.
After returning home Monday night, I was looking through the books in our library and noticed Cleveland Amory’s book titled Who Killed Society? (1960), neatly copying the appearance of The Social Register, and I thought to myself that this guy obviously didn’t know any Colonial Warriors!
I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the various 100 registered hereditary societies in the United States like the Mayflower Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Jamestowne Society, Americans of Royal Descent, etc. to visit hereditary.us to learn more and more about the Colonial Warriors at colonialwarsil.org. For some of the finest genealogists in the country with the most comprehensive research at their fingertips, check out the New England Historic Genealogical Society to dig deeper into your roots. As I said for many years when I was membership chairman, “We all become more interested in genealogy after we lose a parent or have children, and it’s a journey worth taking to discover where you came from.”