Historic Sea Gull Cottage, built in 1886, was known throughout the late 1880s and the 1890s as the “showplace along the shores” of Lake Worth. Built by R.R. McCormick, a Denver railroad and land developer, the house, a shingle style cottage typical of Palm Beach’s earliest architecture, stood approximately three hundred yards to the north of today’s Henry M. Flagler Museum.
Local residents in the pre-Flagler era remarked on the four distinctive features of Sea Gull Cottage known then as McCormick’s Cottage: its sparkling stained glass, its magnificent mahogany staircase constructed from lumber salvaged from a local shipwreck, its cool Georgian marble entry-way floors, and its commanding third story tower.
After seeing pictures of McCormick’s beautiful home in 1893, Flagler decided to purchase the lake-to-ocean tract and the house from McCormick for $75,000. Sea Gull, then known as Croton Cottage became Flagler’s winter residence until the completion of his adjacent mansion, Whitehall, in 1902.
In 1913, Flagler moved Sea Gull Cottage from lakeside to the oceanfront. It became one of the Breakers Hotel rental cottages. It was on Breakers Row that it acquired the name Sea Gull Cottage.
When the aging and weathered structure was threatened with demolition in 1984, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach rescued and had it relocated again across the island and restored near its original lakefront location on land provided by the Royal Poinciana Chapel.
Today as the oldest existing house in Palm Beach, the Sea Gull Cottage serves the Chapel and the community of Palm Beach in varied and valuable ways.
In 2006 when initiatives in moving and restoring Sea Gull Cottage to Bradley Park were stalled, the Chapel Board of Directors determined that a retrofitted and expanded cottage would serve the Chapel’s needs for anticipated educational and community programs.
A working partnership with Preservation Foundation was reestablished. Architectural drawings were made by Jacqueline Albarran and SKA Associates.
The Chapel embarked upon a capital campaign to restore and expand Sea Gull Cottage and to do necessary exterior and interior refurbishments that include fully replacing its aged and antiquated HVAC system. A new garden design will enhance the overall landscape including the area between the Chapel and the lake and surrounding the Chapel’s columbarium.
The project was launched in 2007 with much enthusiastic support from town officials and leaders, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, Chapel neighbors and friends. The entire community is invited to attend and join in the celebration and anticipation and the beginning of a new day for the Sea Gull Cottage as a well suited and highly utilized showplace along the shores.