Originally established in 1936 to promote art, music, literature, and drama in Palm Beach, the Society of Four Arts quickly added landscape gardening to its mission with the establishment of seven demonstration gardens between 1936 and 1939. Oriented around a library designed by Maurice Fatio with murals painted by Albert Herter, the gardens were planned and funded by Four Arts members. They were intended to inspire Florida newcomers to create their own sub-tropical gardens while also demonstrating the relationship of gardens to Palm Beach’s eclectic architecture. Each garden was created in a different style, displaying ornamental tropical fruit production, fragrant night-blooming flowers in a pergola, diverse rose specimens, jungle plants with a wall fountain, and gardens inspired by those found in British, Spanish, and Chinese traditions. In 1956 Innocenti & Webel was commissioned to design a master plan that highlighted specimen plants, improved the garden architecture, and united the seven gardens. In 1965 the Four Arts acquired an adjacent vacant lot, slated for commercial development, and established the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden in honor of its founder and chief benefactor.
The gardens were drastically impacted by a hurricane in 2004 prompting Four Arts to commission Morgan Wheelock to develop a design. Working from Innocenti & Webel’s master plan, Wheelock united the original Four Arts gardens with the adjacent Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden and made improvements to irrigation, circulation, and accessibility. Maintained by the Garden Club of Palm Beach and the nonprofit Society of Four Arts, the gardens continue to provide a place of inspiration and quiet contemplation in Palm Beach.