They paved Banyan Street and put up a Parking Lot

If you have visited downtown West Palm Beach, Florida to enjoy the Green Market, have dinner or shop, you probably have parked in the Banyan Street garage, which is on

Banyan Street

Banyan Street as it appears in 2011

the south side of Banyan Street from Olive Avenue to Narcissus Street. It’s a rather nondescript three-story building built in the 1970s, but in the early 20th century, it was the hot spot of West Palm Beach.

Most famous of all the businesses that were located on this block was George Zapf’s Seminole Hotel, first built in 1894 at the corner of Banyan and Narcissus. The Zapf family had bottling businesses in many Florida cities including Miami, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach. He was an alderman in the city, and certainly was one of the real characters in early West Palm Beach.

George Zapf

George Zapf at his home – he is second from the left

The original wood structure burned in the Great Fires of 1896. First, on January 2, 1896 a fire started from an overheated stove in Nicoli and Puckett’s “Midway Plaisance Saloon and Restaurant” and the entire Banyan block was burned. Then on February 20, 1896, the rest of Narcissus Street burned to the south when an oil lamp overturned in a tailor’s shop. Zapf immediately had the hotel rebuilt, and the new Seminole Hotel was then constructed of brick as a “fireproof” hotel.

The Seminole Hotel

The Seminole Hotel in about 1900

The Seminole Hotel’s street level shops offered many services and businesses such as a lunch room, a tailor and barber shop, billiards, several saloons, cigars and candy, clothing and a drug store. The rest of the Banyan block had restaurants, offices, a grocery store, a bottling works and a Chinese laundry. At the corner of Narcissus and Clematis was the Palms Hotel, where the original Anthony Brothers store was located.

Seminole Hotel

Ad from The Tropical Sun for the Seminole Hotel

Of course, it was the saloons on Banyan Street that were the big draw, being the only place in West Palm Beach that served liquor. Many Palm Beachers also came across the bridge to enjoy late night drinking on Banyan. Some even called the street “Whiskey Street” and it drew the ire of Carrie Nation, the crusading leader of the Woman’s Temperance Movement, who showed up with her hatchet to clean up the place. The map of the entire block exactly as it appeared in 1903 is part of the Sanborn Fire Map series for West Palm Beach. These maps were produced to estimate fire insurance rates. Buildings in yellow were wood frame construction, and buildings in red were brick or brick veneer. The types of businesses are noted on the map. Several different years are available online at the University of Florida library ( and the maps provide a glimpse of how the city grew from 1903 through 1920.

Banyan Street

Banyan Street as it appeared in 1903

Zapf eventually sold the hotel, and it was renamed the Lake Park Hotel. It was razed sometime before 1950, but the exact date of the razing was not indicated in Palm Beach Post articles on the hotel.

So next time you park in the Banyan Street garage, think of the people who shopped in the stores, imbibed in some spirits or stayed in the hotel and enjoyed the good times of days past. Perhaps their spirits still walk Banyan Street.

This article was researched through the Palm Beach Post Historic archives and the Photographic Collection of the Florida Archives.

Ever drive through a Ballroom? You probably have in Palm Beach.

For whatever reason, I like to know exactly where important buildings once stood – where its footprint was, for somehow I think it lingers and makes a permanent impression on the

The Hotel Royal Poinciana

area. For Palm Beach, no other structure could be as important as the Hotel Royal Poinciana (HRP) once was. Envisioned as the grand hotel on Lake Worth, Henry Flagler built the hotel in 1893, and expanded it many times until it became not only the largest wooden structure in the world, but the largest hotel in the world.

I knew that the HRP was near where the Flagler Museum is today, and that it was on the Lake Worth (Intracoastal Waterway) side of the island. A historical marker in the area indicates that today’s Palm Beach Tower condominiums are on the land where the HRP once stood. But I wondered, where exactly did the hotel stand? Maps of the time didn’t really provide a clue, because so much has changed in roadways; houses and cottages once there are gone too.

Then I stumbled across detailed maps of West Palm Beach the Sanborn Company prepared to estimate rates for fire insurance ( The University of Florida has scanned the pre-1923 Sanborn Maps of Florida cities and towns, and the maps provide a rich history of buildings that once stood in many Florida cities (


The Hotel Royal Poinciana

Included in the maps for West Palm Beach are the maps of Palm Beach, with incredibly detailed maps of the HRP, even listing how many night watchmen would be on duty and information on all buildings on the site. I took this map and overlaid it on a modern aerial photograph from Google maps. My only points of reference were the then Flagler residence with the small road in front, the shoreline of Lake Worth, and Royal Poinciana Way. These points allowed me to scale and place the hotel exactly on the modern landscape.

And then I saw it. Today’s Cocoanut Row roadway, just north of the Flagler Museum, cuts squarely through the ballroom of the Hotel Royal Poinciana! The ballroom is the small octogon shaped room on the picture above. Countless rich and famous people danced on that floor; the biggest event of every HRP season was the George Washington Ball, and the event would have had its grandest moments on that ballroom floor.

It is truly hard, if not impossible, for us today to imagine the grandeur, the elegance and prominence of the Hotel Royal Poinciana as a focal point for the Gilded Age. The construction of the immense place was an undertaking of its own, but to feed and pamper

Strolling at the HRP

thousands of guests among its 1,500 rooms at a level that wealthy persons would be satisfied with had to have been a monumental task! The local area supplied much of the fruits, vegetables and fish, but other meats and foodstuffs all had to arrive by train or steamer in an era with little or no refrigeration.

As time went by, many factors contributed to the HRP’s demise. It’s design was considered old-fashioned by the 1920s, the buildings were badly damaged in the 1928 hurricane, and the Great Depression all led to the hotel’s closing and demolition, completed by 1936.

Pat Crowley has a very informative blog on the HRP with great photographs and other ephemera – take a look at

The photographs and postcards are a part of the Florida State Archives, the University of Florida digital collection and the Library of Congress Archives.

Going Postal, 1920s Style – The Strange Case of Lena Clarke

This is another blog posting that found its way to me in mysterious ways. I was looking for information on the Clarke family that farmed the Lake Clarke area in the old Tropical Sun newspapers online. What I found instead was a story that belies belief. My timing in finding this story also showed it to be another Orlando Florida murder trial that ended as no one expected.

Lena Clarke

Maude Clarke (standing) and Lena Clarke, dressed for the Seminole Sun Dance Festival, 1916

Lena Marietta Thankful Clarke was by all accounts an outstanding, intelligent young woman, born in 1886. Her father, the Rev. Almon Taylor Clarke was a minister, and Lena devoted much of her time to the Red Cross, the Congregational Church and selling War Bonds during World War I. Her sister Maude was the City Librarian for West Palm Beach, and the whole family had moved to West Palm Beach and lived on Poinsettia Street (later Dixie Highway).

Lena seemed to be a very intelligent and precocious child, reportedly reading philosophy books at the age of 6, according to author Stuart McIver who told of this twisted tale in his book Murder in the Tropics. Lena had worked at the West Palm Beach post office for 10 years, where her brother John Paul Clarke had served as postmaster. He met a strange and untimely death on Christmas Day, 1920 when he died of a Coral snake bite. Paul was a taxidermist and snake charmer, and had left the post office in 1918. After the subsequent postmaster resigned, the postmaster’s job was open; Lena was named postmistress in 1920 with support of the community through a petition signed by local businessmen.

Here is where the story begins to turn. Post offices took in quite a bit of cash beyond stamp sales and mailing parcels, mostly for money orders and war bonds. On July 26, 1921 she sent what was supposed to have been $32,000 in cash in two registered mail sacks to the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank.

When the sacks arrived, they were filled with mail order catalogs cut to the size of currency. A postal inspector arrived and questioned Lena about the theft. On Sunday, August 1, Lena hired a driver (Baxter Patterson) to take her to Orlando. There she checked into room 87 of the San Juan Hotel in downtown Orlando under an assumed name. She met up with a former mail carrier with whom she had worked, Fred Miltimore, who had left his post office job in West Palm Beach and was now running the Arcade restaurant in Orlando.

Later that evening, she walked into the police station in Orlando and into Chief E.D. Vestal’s office. She told how officers needed to go the San Juan Hotel and arrest Miltimore for the theft of the $32,000 that he had stolen from the West Palm Beach post office. She


Newspaper headline from the New York Times

claimed to have drugged him with a morphine pill. Vestal confirmed with West Palm Beach that she was indeed the postmistress. He sent officers out to the hotel, but they did not find a drugged Mr. Miltimore – they found a dead Mr. Miltimore, having been shot in the chest, with a gun lying nearby.

With Lena still in his office, the officers relayed the information on Miltimore’s demise back to the chief. He immediately accused her of killing Miltimore. She initially denied it, but did confess that yes, she had shot him because Miltimore would blame the theft on her. Within days, she was indicted on charges of first degree murder in Orange County.

In the months before trial, her story became more sensational and her celebrity status rose. She received fan mail and flowers on many occasions, and she redecorated and repainted her jail cell. She even wrote an autobiography of sorts from her jail cell which was sold through local newspapers for 25 cents. She soon recanted her confession, and claimed to have no recollection of making it to Chief Vestal. She also took to writing poetry in her jail cell:

A Fool’s Wisdom
I told you the course you pursued was wrong
But you laughed and said women are poor, weak fools
So I hushed on my lips life’s merry song
To pray, while you all disregarded God’s rules
I knew how your castle would crash on your head,
How the flowers would turn in your hands to weeds;
I saw when you turned from the ruins and fled;
Do you think I can meet, now, your soul’s sorest needs?
You expect I will comfort you and show you how
To bring your mistakes to successes still.
You look to my cunning to save you now.
Weak fool of a woman, perhaps I will.
Of course, love will fill the bitter years;
Perhaps was too cruel of a word to say.
Angels, blot from your records my prayers and my tears.
Lest they hide them from God at the judgment day.


As the trial approached, she once again changed her story about the money. Now she claimed that the money had really been stolen in 1918, and that another man, Joseph B. Elwell, had loaned her $20,000 to cover the theft. Except there was a problem – Elwell was dead! He had been shot dead in New York in 1920 in a murder that remains unsolved. The $32,000 was recovered among her belongings and bank accounts.

Lena hired two law firms to defend her – an Orlando law firm and the West Palm Beach law firm of Chillingworth and Chillingworth. Both firms had settled on an insanity defense and Lena did much to support their case. She testified for several hours. Imagine this scene – gazing into the crystal ball she brought with her on the witness stand, telling of the twelve previous lives she had lived. She had lived in the Garden of Eden, had been the goddess Isis in Egypt, then Berenice, the last queen of the Jews, then King Herod’s wife, then she was eaten by lions. Now we jump forward many centuries and she is with William Shakespeare, and served as the role model for the Ophelia character. Throughout these scenes, she claims Miltimore was also there, and always persecuting her in various ways.

She proclaimed that she would be found innocent and that this would be the start of her national career, serving as vice president of the United States and then president as the president (Eugene V. Debs, head of the socialist party) would be assissinated.


Ad for booklet of Lena’s life

Several psychiatrists, or “alienists” as they were then called, testified as to her mental state. Two found her to be insane, while one thought the whole thing to be a clever ruse. The jury recessed and came back two and a half hours later with their verdict – not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge committed her to the Florida State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee. She was not happy about that, proclaiming she would have rather been sent to the gallows.

Alas, her stay was short at Chattahoochee, less than one year. She quietly returned to West Palm Beach and resumed her work with the church and the Red Cross. She lived in the house with her sister on Poinsettia Street, with neither woman ever marrying. The house, however, belonged to the Chillingworths; it was payment for their legal services. They trusted her enough to send her to England to research their family history. She shows up frequently in articles with her relief efforts through the 1940s and 1950s. She died in 1967, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach.

The echoes to an unexpected verdict from an Orange county jury after a short deliberation certainly brings to mind the Casey Anthony case. At the time, the Orlando Morning Sentinel relayed that more reporters were in town to cover the trial than at any other event that had occurred in Florida. That certainly can be said of the Anthony case as well.

Was Lena crazy? Perhaps…crazy like a fox!


Lena Clarke’s marker in Woodlawn Cemetery

This story was researched through the New York Times, the Tropical Sun and the Palm Beach Post archives, and the book by Stuart McIver, Murder in the Tropics.

Let there be light…and there was light!

Today as I watched the Riviera Beach FPL power plant implosion, I wondered when electricity first came to Palm Beach County. Electricity was a marvel in the late 1800s, and really centered around one thing – lights! The ability to light streets and provide light in homes and businesses was not only convenient, but much safer than lanterns, candles and gas light, all sources of combustion and fire in the mostly wooden structures of the time.

My search began in old issues of The Tropical Sun, the area’s first newspaper. The earliest articles first mentioned electricity as part of the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach. The hotel was opened in 1893, and it was planned from the beginning to have electricity. They had their own power plant on the island to provide for the hotel’s needs.

Article on Gas Lights in Boynton, 1899

Obviously, others in the county wanted power too. Many streets and homes around the nation had been lit for years with “gas light”, an intensely bright light that is produced with acetylene gas. Such “light” even was found in the fledgling Boynton at the Boynton Hotel as early as 1899, and The Tropical Sun proclaimed gas light as the “greatest of all modern inventions.”

Notice in the Tropical Sun for power plant bids

The first idea for electricity in the city was to simply run electric wires across Lake Worth from the power plant at the Royal Poinciana over to West Palm Beach. That did not happen, so in 1902 the City of West Palm Beach took out an ad in The Tropical Sun for a new electric power plant. The West Palm Beach Light and Power Company was formed, with A.R. Beaujohn in charge. I was not able to find a paper online with the exact date that the power plant was activated, but I do know that the franchise for the plant was won by none other than Joe Jefferson, one of the most famous actors of the 19th century. He was best known for portraying “Rip Van Winkle” on the stage. Mr. Jefferson was a fixture in Palm Beach, and did much to develop downtown West Palm Beach. He owned six houses in West Palm Beach, along with the Jefferson Hotel, and several stores. Reportedly he uttered the words “Let there be light” when the switch was flipped on the plant and electric began to flow in West Palm Beach.

Through the years, other towns and cities began to generate electricity, first through the small independent types of plants such as West Palm Beach had. For example, electricity came to downtown Boynton in the early 1920s, being wired by G. C. Meredith. As the land boom

Early FPL Plant

approached, American Power & Light began to purchase many of these independent plants and consolidate them under the Florida Power & Light name, which began in 1925. The first large scale plants were at Fort Lauderdale and Sanford. Consolidation continued, but a few cities remained as independent power producers; in Palm Beach County only Lake Worth has its own municipal power plant.

In some ways, I was sad to see those old smokestacks go down today. They were such a part of the landscape and a real landmark. I remember driving from Lake Worth back to Jupiter along Flagler Drive and US 1 as a child, and the power plant was always the point where Flagler ended and you had to get on US 1. I know many considered the smokestacks an “eyesore,” but it is another element of our landscape forever lost to history.

FPL Plant Implosion, Riviera Beach, June 19, 2011

This article was researched through The Tropical Sun and Palm Beach Post historic archives, and Pioneers in Paradise by Jan Tuckwood and Eliot Kleinberg.

How about a drive to Cuba – It was possible in the 1950s

Now more than 50 years after Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, it remains a mysterious, forbidden and foreign place. Few of us can picture a time when Cuba was a friendly neighbor of the United States, and a place for a quick weekend getaway. When Flagler’s train reached Key West in 1912, some of the trains were loaded onto 300 foot long barges to continue on to Havana for gambling and exotic rum drinks, especially after Prohibition took hold in 1920.

Cover of Havana Ferry Folder

Even up to the late 1950s though, a car ferry service ran from Key West, with a connection for freight in West Palm Beach (see this web page for a great history on freight to and from Cuba from the Port of Palm Beach – So you could saunter down to Key West in your car, drive to Stock Island and catch the ferry, which was operated by the West India Fruit and Steamship Company.

A map of the ferry route

The ferry left Key West Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00AM. The S.S. Havana could accommodate 500 passengers and 125 cars. Arrival in Havana was at 6:00 PM, so the crossing took about 7 hours. The fare was $13.50 one way, or $26.00 round trip (about $190.00 in 2010 dollars). The ship then left Havana for the trip back to Key West at 10:00AM, so you were back in Key West at 5:00 PM.

The ship was air-conditioned and offered snack bars, lounges, a gift shop, and small day cabins. As relations with Cuba eroded in 1959 with the trade embargo emerging in 1960, the ferry service ceased and the ships were sold in 1961.

Interior view of the S.S. Havana

Could we ever see such a service again in our lifetimes? It could be possible. The Tampa Port Authority has proposed a car ferry service to Havana from Tampa. Approvals would have to gained from both U.S. and Cuban authorities, plus the logistics of taking a car to Cuba…there would be no calling AAA for a tow, and it might be a bit hard to fill out a claim form for your insurance company and list the place of accident as “Havana, Cuba.”

Still, the prospect of visiting a place essentially hidden from Floridians for more than 50 years is quite inviting.

Images courtesy of the website,  from the collection of Björn Larsson.

The Real Boynton in Boynton Beach – 100 years later

I was browsing through old Miami Metropolis newspapers online when I came across the obituary of Major Nathan S. Boynton, founder of Boynton Beach. I had heard and read some about Major Boynton, but more research into his past revealed him to be a very interesting person. The date too on the obituary was intriguing – exactly 100 years ago this month!

Major Nathan S. Boynton

Major Nathan S. Boynton was born June 23, 1837 in Port Huron, Michigan. Boynton was a descendent of Sir Matthew Boynton, credited with introducing sheep and goats to America. Boynton attended high school in Waukegan, Illinois and married Miss Anna Fidelei in 1859; together they had six children. Boynton began his military career in 1862, rising to the rank of major during his service in the Civil War. After the war, Boynton returned to Michigan and resided in Marine City. There he became Postmaster, Tax Assessor and eventually Supervisor of the town. He also served in the Michigan state legislature and owned a local newspaper. A true Renaissance man, Major Boynton also invented several pieces of firefighter equipment including the Boynton fire escape, the Boynton hook and ladder truck and a system for ladder rope trussing. He also founded the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal society that had over 200,000 members nationwide at its peak. In addition to the social aspect of the fraternity, sick payments and a death benefit were paid to members. It eventually became a full-fledged insurance company.

One of Boynton's Patents

One of Boynton’s Patents

As he approached his 60s, a desire for new frontiers and warmer weather brought him south to Florida with his fellow Michiganite, William S. Linton. They traveled to the area in

The Boynton Hotel on the beach

1894, guided by Captain Frederick Voss, sailing down the Florida East Coast Canal (today’s Intracoastal Waterway). Boynton purchased 500 acres in the area along the ocean and on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway. In 1896, construction began on Boynton’s oceanfront hotel, primarily by Michigan families who had moved to the area. “The Boynton” opened in 1897, with a main building and small cottages. The hotel expanded several times, and remained popular with guests each winter season. A.E. Parker, who had married Boynton’s daughter Annie, served as hotel manager for several years.

Major Boynton spent each winter in his town until the year before his death in 1911 at the age of 74 in Port Huron. The Boynton Hotel continued on to 1925, when it was torn down so that a larger, more modern structure could be built. The 1926 hurricane and subsequent land bust put an end to those plans.

Boynon House

Major Boynton’s house in Port Huron

The families who had come to build the hotel stayed and began to farm the areas along the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway. The Town of Boynton continued its growth westward with citrus groves and dairies, which eventually became the manicured suburbs seen today. Today’s Boynton Beach has over 68,000 residents and is the third largest city in Palm Beach County.

So what would Major Boynton think of what has become of his tiny hamlet? Being a forward thinker, I don’t think he would be terribly surprised. He knew a good thing when he saw it.


Boynton Beach’s Most Wanted Man – Do you know him?

This week we have a guest blogger, Janet DeVries, archivist at the Boynton Beach City Library and author of four books on the history of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. She tells the story of a mysterious picture found at the library.

The distinguished gentleman stares out of the old photograph. The handsome fellow sports short, carefully combed hair, a clean shaven face, and extremely long sideburns. Who is

The Mystery Man of Boynton

he? His identity remains a mystery. A news reporter for WPTV News Channel 5 in West Palm Beach was so intrigued with the image the station ran a story about the mystery man. Since then, people all over the country have been trying to identify him.

Why all the fuss over a guy in a picture? What archive doesn’t have unidentified photographs? The provenance of the 14” by 18” crayon portrait (a charcoal enhanced photograph) is also a mystery. Even the way the portrait was discovered is something out of a Nancy Drew book.

A furniture refinisher discovered a hidden drawer underneath an old display cabinet in the Boynton Beach City Library. Perhaps it wasn’t really a “secret” drawer, but it was stuck closed and no one knew of its existence until the refinisher revealed to us the contents of the drawer. Most of the items were Boynton Beach Historical Society papers and old newspapers, along with two old Boynton post office ledgers from 1913 and 1921.

I put the portrait on display in a vintage camera and photographic exhibition in the library. A news reporter for WPTV saw the “suspect,” I mean the unusual man in the image, and inquired as to his identity. When I simply said “I don’t know,” that question was followed by “where did it come from?” After hearing the story, WPTV broadcast the mystery man’s face on television along with the caption “Most Wanted.” Due to the far-reaching power of the Internet and social media, the image has made its way around the world.

Since then people have been sending in clues. One of the most noteworthy tips came from Maureen Taylor, the internationally recognized photo identification and history expert. Taylor has written several books on the intersection of history, genealogy, and photography including the title Fashionable Folks Hairstyles 1840-1900. The Bostonian called with evidence to the photos age based on hairstyle, clothing and type of photographic image.

Taylor said the photograph dates from around 1880. She concurred that his notable hair were “Burnside” style sideburns, but noted that by 1880 they had become quite exaggerated. The photo detective said “The short hair combined with the facial hair confirms the date. His jacket and tie are also the style from the circa 1880 period. He really liked to show off!”

WPTV once again showed the story on television with some of the new clues. The furniture with the hidden drawer was traced to Mr. G.A. Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Feed & Seed. The old store was located next door to the Seaboard Railway, just west of present day I-95. The place closed years ago and Mr. Stevenson himself is gone.

A number of people are on the case, following leads and tracking down clues. The local Daughters of American Revolution chapter, historical societies and libraries locally and nationally, even postal history experts are conducting their own investigations. Meanwhile, the kindly looking gent in the photograph continues to patiently peer out of his frame as if looking for a relative.

80 Years Ago Today, a College was Born.

Imagine it is 1931 in Palm Beach County. The land bust has left many residents penniless and land speculators long gone. The Great Depression is in full swing, and just three years earlier, the worst hurricane in Florida history in terms of loss of life had occurred. So what to do to help the community prosper again? Propose something that was a radical concept at the time – establish a public two-year college so that local residents could achieve the dream of higher education for their children.

Joe A. Youngblood

This idea was quietly announced April 13, 1931 by the County Superintendent of Instruction at that time, Joe A. Youngblood. Youngblood hailed from Arkansas, and was elected in 1925 to the superintendent’s post after a successful career in insurance. Youngblood’s political advertisement from 1932 described him as “a college man”; Youngblood earned a Master of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University. On page 7 of the Palm Beach Post Youngblood told of the idea to offer college classes at the Palm Beach High School. Howell L. Watkins, the principal of Palm Beach High School, and Youngblood worked together to gain support for the idea. At that time, parents had to send their children to a private college, to the University of Florida at Gainesville, or the Florida State College in Tallahassee (later called Florida State University). Many parents simply could not afford room, board and tuition during the Depression, so Watkins and Youngblood thought of offering college classes at the high school so young adults could live at home and still attend college, at least for the first two years of college studies.

Howell L. Watkins

What we consider commonplace today in having a community college was not common at that time. There were a handful of what were then called “junior” colleges around the nation, but only one other one in Florida, St. Petersburg Junior College, which had opened in 1927 and was private. The University of Florida was a key player in helping the fledgling college design its curriculum and make sure that the faculty were ready and able to teach college-level classes. Classes started in 1933, with Watkins serving as Dean, and the entire class schedule was published in the Palm Beach Post (see below). That first semester, 41 students took classes in mathematics, science, music, education, foreign language and English. Mr. Youngblood’s wife Ethel was among the original faculty and taught German and Latin.

The University of Florida continued to supervise the curriculum, and the college continued to expand its classes and curriculum.The first graduating class in 1936 numbered 3 students – Charlotte Cross, Franklin Kamiya, and Virginia Cunningham. It is interesting to note that Franklin Kamiya (in the black cap and gown below) was born in West Palm Beach, and his family was part of the Yamato Colony of Japanese immigrants in the Boca Raton area, who arrived in the early 1900s. His uncle was George Morikami of the Morikami Museum and Gardens fame.

The College’s First Graduates in 1936

The first president of the college was John I. Leonard, who succeeded Youngblood as superintendent and guided the college from 1936 til 1958. Leonard and Watkins were also

John I. Leonard

instrumental for having the college accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which occurred in 1942. The college soon outgrew it’s Palm Beach High School home, and moved to a larger facility at Morrison Field in 1948. The mobilization of Morrison Field for the Korean War caused the college to move to the Lake Park town hall, until land was granted from the Palm Beach County Commission for the 114 acre Lake Worth site.

Junior colleges continued to spring up around the state; one of the college’s 1941 graduates, James L. Wattenbarger, went on to become the architect of Florida’s junior college system through his doctoral dissertation which presented the plan that was adopted in 1958. In the ensuing decades, Palm Beach Junior College became Palm Beach Community College in 1988, and finally Palm Beach State College in 2010. Additional campuses were added in Palm Beach Gardens, Belle Glade and Boca Raton to provide easy access to all citizens of Palm Beach County. The college also has the original historic building on the Palm Beach High School grounds among its facilities.

Dormitories at Morrison Field

I recently corresponded with a great niece of Mr. Youngbloods; she had no idea of his role in helping to form a college. In her mother’s garage she had discovered a few items he had on his desk. I am sure not even in his greatest imaginings could he have foreseen what the college is today. This May, Palm Beach State College will confer its first bachelor’s degrees;

1935 Biography of Joe Youngblood

the “little college that could” has become the big college that can. I am among the over 90,000 people who have graduated from the college over the years. It is amazing how one idea can transform a community and a state through education, the greatest emancipator ever known.

Complete Schedule – 1933

Lights! Camera! Action! Palm Beach’s First “Moving Pictures”

A few weeks ago the Academy Awards were held, and I wondered, what was the first movie ever filmed in Palm Beach County? The Palm Beach County Film Commission maintains a list of films shot in Palm Beach County, but it only goes back to the 1960s. Then I got a clue from the book “Loxahatchee Lament”, a collection of pioneer tales from

Dorothy Dalton

the Jupiter area. One of the articles in the book was based on excerpts from a scrapbook kept by Mrs. Frank Shuflin. In the scrapbook she clipped an article about a “moving picture”being filmed in the Jupiter area in 1923 starring Dorothy Dalton, a major star of the silent film era. In the movie being filmed, they needed a tropical swamp for a scene. The article describes how they could not find a suitable location in West Palm Beach, so they headed up to Jupiter for filming. They filmed at the Pennock Plantation and the Lainhart orange grove west of Jupiter.

The article did not mention the title of the film, but did mention the director, Irvin Willat.

Fog Bound Movie Poster

A bit of Internet searching revealed that the film was entitled “Fog Bound.” The AMG movie guide provides the following synposis: “Pretty Dorothy Dalton co-stars with the handsome but not as stellar David Powell in this action-packed Paramountdrama. The wealthy but idle Roger Wainright (Powell) finds himself falling in love with Gale Brenon (Dalton), a modern, independent young lady who manages several Florida orange groves. While Wainright is enjoying himself at a local gambling resort, the place is raided by revenuers and Sheriff Holmes (Jack Richardson) is killed in the ensuing gun fight. Wainright escapes and Gale hides him, later helping him to escape into the swamp. But the dead man is her father, and when she discovers that Wainright is suspected of being the one who discharged the fatal shot, she leads the posse to him. At the last moment, her love for him causes her to weaken, but he turns himself in anyway. A friend, Mabel Van Buren, reveals that she witnessed the killing, and that it was another officer, Deputy Brown (former matinee idol),who did the dirty deed. Evidence backs her up, and Wainright and Gale are reunited.”

The Heart Raider Still

The Heart Raider Movie Still

Further searching in the Palm Beach Post provided two more movies made in 1923. A comedy called “The Heart Raider” starring Agnes Ayres, was shot in Palm Beach.  Time Magazine provides a short summary of the film: “Agnes Ayres proceeds through this picture as a society siren against whose heart of gold other hearts, of lesser, masculine metal, shatter themselves by scores. Then one day in walks a misogynist. On board his yacht heart-of-gold meets heart-of-iron.The cast is pleasantly supplied with Mahlon Hamilton as the misogynist and Charles Ruggles as supplementary clown. All in all the results justify two hours expended in their inspection.”

The third film to shoot that spring was “The Exciters” starring Bebe Daniels. This comedy’s plot is as follows, from Moviefone “The Exciters is the old one about a footloose heiress who must marry by the age of 21 or forfeit her fortune. The girl (Bebe Daniels), an

The Exciters Lobby Card

inveterate thrill-seeker, chooses as her mate a handsome gangster (Antonio Moreno). Lots of thrills and laughs occur as a result of this shaky union. The gangster eventually reveals that he’s an undercover cop, and the girl finally agrees to curb her craving for excitement. Veteran scenarists Sonya Levienand John Colton adapted The Exciters from a novel by Martin Brown.” Bebe Daniels returned in 1926 to film “The Palm Beach Girl”, where many locals served as extras at a train station scene in the movie. Another scene with a train was shot in Jupiter, where a train rammed a prop car.

I wish I could provide clips from these films, but only The Heart Raider exists in a private

The Palm Beach Girl Movie Poster

collection.  It is estimated that 60-80% of the silent movies filmed are no longer in existence ( Films of this era were made with a type of material called cellulose nitrate, which was extremely flammable. Old black and white movie film also contained quite a bit of silver, so thousands of movies were destroyed for their silver content. This kind of film is no longer used; it was replaced by “safety film” which was still stamped on film and negatives well into the late twentieth century. The George Eastman House has a Czech copy of The Heart Raider in its collection, and it would be interesting to see the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach of 1923.  I don’t know if indeed these are the oldest movies ever made here, but they certainly are among the earliest.

Palm Beach County’s Lost Towns – The Complete List

Back in November, I was at the Old Key Lime House in Lantana for lunch. On the wall near the front of the restaurant was a great old map that was labeled “New Sectional Map of Florida” and dated 1920. I looked at the map and traced down the east coast of Palm

Farm for sale in Ameron

Beach County. And then my finger just stopped. Right above Boynton was a town I had never heard of – Ameron. A bit of searching in the Tropical Sun, the area’s first newspaper, revealed it to be a farming community to the north of the present day Boynton Beach.

That got me to thinking – how many other towns or settlements have dissapeared or been renamed in Palm Beach County? I started a list back in November, and it has been growing ever since. The following list was compiled from many sources including the websites listed at the end of this blog posting, and the online Palm Beach Post and Tropical Sun historic archives. From the best that I can tell, this is the most complete listing of lost towns ever published for Palm Beach County. Is it 100% complete? No. I am sure I will come across more with continued research. This list does not include towns and cities that exist today. The ones listed below are either towns or settlements that have completely disappeared or been renamed, so the town’s original name appears here. If one of the entries below has dates, that indicates the years in which a post office operated. Each of these could really be a story on its own, and it provides a glimpse of the many broken dreams and abandoned places that could have been.

UPDATE – March 10, 2011 – Added four additional towns – two that were planned and became Lake Worth (Lucerne and Osborne), and two towns in the Glades area (Sand Cut and Fruitcrest).


Ameron (1900-1903) – Farming community of mostly tomatoes, pineapples and strawberries that was located between Hypoluxo and Boynton Beach along Lake Worth. Settlers include J.M. Carroll, Dan Smith, George Smith, S.W. Kratzer, John Griffith, Freeman Griffith, George Lyman, Frank Palmer, Charles Carroll, C. R. Baker, the Forrey Brothers and Joe Prescott.

Azucar (1930-1946) – Sugar-based town with housing for workers. Mentioned in an April 7, 1938 article from the Palm Beach Post about a barbecue held there. Later it was renamed Bryant in honor of Harold Bryant (See Lucerne entry).

Bacom Point (1918-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee. Established by William “Dad” Bacom as a vegetable and catfish farm.

Bare Beach (1920-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee near Lake Harbor. Lawrence E. Will in A Cracker History of Okeechobee relates: “This Bare Beach settlement, as I’ve said, was once an important place. It really got its start in 1916 when William C. Hooker from Arcadia, together with his brother Steve and the Alderman Brothers from Wauchula began to raise tomatoes there. The next year Isaac H. Stone, another Wauchula man, farmed, financed other farmers, and built a store. The winter of 1921-22 was the biggest and last season here, for after that the high water compelled everybody to leave, then later on the sugar company gobbled up the land so there was no place left to farm. Before it was drowned out, Bare Beach supported the stores of Charles G. Price, who had fished here in 1911, Charlie Hurd from Moore Haven, J. W. Putnam and Ferrell Revels, besides the drug store of Dr. Harbin, later run by Penick Suther, Bohannon’s garage, four tomato packing houses, a light plant, a post office, two church houses and a school. It even had a cemetery, too. “

Bean City (1936-1973) – Started by former Belle Glade mayor Arthur Wells in 1916, wiped out in 1928 hurricane, became a sugar cane area, a few buildings and residents remain. An extensive May 12, 1970 Palm Beach Post article tells the story of Bean City, which indeed, was mostly supported by green beans.

Bocaratone (1899-1923)– Original name of Boca Raton – one word with an “e”

Boynton (1896-1941)– Original name of Boynton Beach.

Bryant (1946-1959)– Second name for Azucar settlement. Bryant was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee near Pahokee. F.E. Bryant founded the Lake Worth Drainage District, and is for whom Bryant Part in the City of Lake Worth is named. Bryant started the Southern Sugar Company and the town was platted by the United States Sugar Corporation to house workers. All the streets and signs remain and the site can be visited today as a “ghost town”.

Ghost Town of Bryant

Ghost Town of Bryant

Chosen (1921-1955) – Founded by J.R. Leatherman, a preacher from Virginia. From the Biblical reference of being the ”chosen” land. Chosen was on the site of a Calusa Indian mound which was excavated in the 1930s by the Smithsonian Institute. It was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee and a few buildings remain. The town was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Connorsville/Connorstown – A September 7, 1947 article from the Palm Beach Post explained what happened to Connersville. W.J. Conners, from Buffalo, New York, bought over 12,000 acres of land in the Glades through many purchases. He built the Connors Highway toll road in the early 1920s at the cost of $2 million to the Glades, which the state bought in 1932 after Connor’s 1929 suicide. It was located on the south side of the West Palm Beach canal about three miles from the lake. Only thing left in 1947 was a well dug on the property.

Connors Highway Toll Gate in Canal Point

Deem City– Deem City is still listed on some maps as being on US 27 right at the Palm Beach-Broward county line. The sign said “Deem City – population 2.” There was a gas station there and a tiny house where the owner operated the Super Hamburger stand. Numerous code violations piled up and eventually the owner died. The buildings were demolished in 2008.

Delray (1898-1928)– Third name of Delray Beach.

Earman (1918-1923) – Earman was located near where Lake Park stands today. John Earman served as the first mayor of West Palm Beach. The family owned a hotel near West Palm Beach called The Earman House.

Figulus (1886-1891) – Estate on Palm Beach owned by the Charles Bingham family on the old Potter homestead land on Palm Beach, south of the present day town. Figulus is Latin for Potter.

Fort Jupiter (1855-1856) – Oldest post office and settlement in Palm Beach County by the lighthouse.

Fruitcrest – Another Thomas Will dream that ended up being a nightmare. The land could be purchased at $20 an acre, but the 1928 hurricane destroyed the town, which was southeast of Belle Glade. Today the land is sugar cane fields.

Sign advertising Fruitcrest

Geerworth – H.G. Geer and C.C. Chillingsworth bought 16,000 acres east of Belle Glade; much of the land was bought by British settlers. Continual flooding doomed the small community.

Gladecrest (1915-1917) – The Tropical Sun reported on February 4, 1915 of the new town site on the Hillsboro Canal south of Lake Okeechobee. The Holland & Butterworth Company sold land claiming that one acre could support a family; it couldn’t. The peak population was 72; the town was abandoned by 1921.

Golfview (1937-1997) – This small community was named due to its proximity to West Palm Beach’s first municipal golf course. That golf course eventually became a part of Palm Beach International Airport, and the municipal course moved to its present location on Forest Hill Boulevard. Airport noise caused the land and houses to be purchased by the Airport Authority. The town entry gates were moved to Yesteryear Village at the Palm Beach County Fairgrounds.

Hillsborough Canal Settlement – Original name for Belle Glade. A tourist remarked how the settlement was the “belle of the Glades” and that was chosen as the name of the new town.

Hongry Land – Not really a settlement, but the area of land west of Jupiter to Lake Okeechobee. Supposedly several Seminole Indians were starving in the area during the Seminole Wars.

Jewell (1889-1903)– Original name of Lake Worth, which was named to be the “Jewell” along Lake Worth. The town was changed to Lake Worth, and that has always led to the confusion between the City of Lake Worth and the body of water known as Lake Worth, which stretches from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach. Settled by Samuel and Fannie James, Mrs. James ran the post office while Mr. James was a carpenter and farmed. The other names she considered were “Deer Park” and “La Paz” but she settled on Jewell.

Juno (1890-1903) – Became Juno Beach. The town was located slightly south of present day Juno Beach. Terminal southern stop on the Celestial Railroad, the town was the county seat for Dade County from 1890-1899. Mostly pineapples were grown, and the town consisted of the courthouse, newspaper office where The Tropical Sun was published, and seven houses. The county seat was moved back to Fort Dallas (Miami) and the courthouse building was moved to Miami via a barge. The remainder of the town burned in 1899.

Pineapples in Juno

The Old Dade County Courthouse in Juno

Kelsey City (1921-1939) – Original name of Lake Park. Founded by Harry Kelsey, a Boston entrepreneur, who at one time owned 100,000 acres in Palm Beach County. Town was never built as originally planned due to the land bust in the late 1920s.

Kraemer (1918-1932) and Kreamer (1932-1936) – Agriculture and fishing community on a small island in Lake Okeechobee. Damaged in the hurricanes and pretty much flooded after the dikes were built around the lake.

Inlet – This reference came from a 1919 Tropical Sun article on a school census which listed children attending school at “Inlet.” My best guess is that this would become Riviera Beach, as it was called the “Inlet City”, but there may be a better answer somewhere.

Linton (1895-1898) – Second name of Delray Beach, named for pioneer William S. Linton, a Michigan Congressman who bought the land and laid out the town plat. Name was changed after Linton defaulted on loans.

Long Beach – Former name of Canal Point. First it was called New Town, then Long Beach, then Canalpoint as one word, then Nemaha, and finally Canal Point. See for a very informative history of Canal Point.

Lotus Cove – Several small articles were published in the Tropical Sun on Lotus Cove. Based on those descriptions, this is the cove north of Lantana point along the west side of Lake Worth between Lantana and Hypoluxo. Today it is considered Lantana. One of the first settlers was Edwin Bradley, who came to the area in 1877 from Chicago.

Lucerne – This was a planned townsite platted by the Bryant Brothers and William Greenwood. If you bought land out in the Glades through the Palm Beach Farms Company, you received a “free” 25 foot town lot in Lucerne. They held a land auction in 1912 and hundreds bought land at $250 for a five-acre plot. Of course, when they saw the land out west it was very much under water. When they went to register the name as a post office (renaming Jewel) the name Lucerne had already been taken in Florida so they settled on the name Lake Worth. The name “Lucerne Avenue” in Lake Worth is from this plan.

Mabry (1922-1923) – Mabry was the original name of the settlement on Ritta Island in Lake Okeechobee.

Mangonia (1894-1906) – Areas north of West Palm Beach, what would be called Northwood today. The name was derived from mango growing in the area.

Mosey – This was listed on a map as being north of the then Kelsey City (Lake Park). Nothing more is known.

Munyons Island (1903-1905)– Island that is now in the John D. MacArthur Park on Singer Isand. The island was originally called Nuctsachoo by the Seminoles, which means “Pelican Island” . The Pitts family bought the island in 1892, built a house and grew many types of fruit. They then sold the island in 1901 to Dr. James Munyon and he built the Hotel Hygeia. Named after the Greek goddess of Health, the five story, twenty-one room hotel followed trends of the time with having spa-like hotels for wealthy clients. The cure-all was “Dr. Munyon’s Paw-Paw Elixir”, which was a patent medicine consisting of fermented papaya juice, which he bottled on the island. The hotel burned to the ground in 1917. The landing can still be seen on one side of the island.

Nemaha – A platted “metropolis” as it was called in the Palm Beach Post that would have replaced Canal Point. L.M. Simons and G.A. Walker from Kansas named the city from their home county in Kansas. It was never built to their plans.

Neptune (1895-1908) The name of the post office at the Carlin Hotel and terminal north station of the Celestial Railroad. One item from the Tropical Sun mentions a wedding in the hotel at Neptune. The hotel closed after the railroad ceased operations. What is interesting too is that when the railroad was dismantled and sold, the right-of-way was purchased for $10.00. In subsequent years this prevented some development of the land along US 1 on the east side. The land now belongs to Palm Beach County.

The Celestial Railroad












The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today

The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today












Oak Lawn (1889-1893) – Hotel and resort located where the Port of Palm Beach is today. The hotel, built by Judge Allen Heyser, was situated on a very large Indian mound overlooking Lake Worth in what today is Riviera Beach. The large Indian mound was trucked away for road fill and never properly excavated.

The Oak Lawn House

Okeelanta (1915-1929)– Okeelanta was a planned community, started in 1913 by Thomas Will. The name was derived from combining “Okeechobee” and “Atlantic.” Pioneers included R.A. Little, S.A. Hughes, Herman Walker and Lawrence Will. Despite many problems by 1920 Okeelanta had 200 residents, a school and town hall. Potatoes, corn, beans, tomatoes, and eggplant were grown and shipped north via a packing house that was located at where Southern Boulevard and I-95 are today. Okeelanta was flooded and destroyed by the 1928 hurricane. Thomas Will attempted to rebuild the community, however due to lack of financial backing The Okeelanta Corporation declared bankruptcy.


Osborne – The Osborn family was the original owner of Lake Osborne and all the surrounding lands (somehow the “e” was added through time). They platted a townsite at where 12th Avenue South is today as part of Lake Worth. A few people still refer to that area as Osborne

Palm City (1887-1887) – Original name of Palm Beach – had to be renamed as there was already a Palm City. There is also a Palm City in Martin County that still exists.

Paso Robles (1920)  – This town to be was the brainchild of Marshall Hartman – at least that was the name this schemer used. He bought a tract of land north of Boynton west of the Federal Highway on a mortgage, sold lots at a big event, pocketed the money, and skipped town.

Pelican Lake (1939-1964) – Also called Pelican Bay, this little community on Lake Okeechobee had hundreds of deaths from the 1928 hurricane. Newspaper articles from the time speak of finding 200 bodies one day, and 200 more the next. In 1932 a farmer’s cooperative purchased 1,000 acres of land from the state under the name Pelican Lake Farms, Inc. Newspaper accounts tell of the boxcars full of beans grown in the area that was taken north to sell. I think most people who worked the farms lived in Pahokee.

Plumoses City – This was an off-shoot from Jupiter where in 1929 residents along Center Street resented the town’s taxes so they formed their own town. It was abolished in 1959 and again is a part of Jupiter. The name came from the ferns that were grown for the floral industry.

Prairie – This was a small community located where the RCA buildings are today on PGA boulevard. It was a saw mill and was listed in the 1919 school census.

Ritta (1912-1931) – An island at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. The Ritta Hotel was located there and owned by Richard Bolles, the Everglades land speculator who sold swamp land to thousands of unsuspecting people at his March 1911 land auction The island was covered by custard pond apple trees which were cleared for farming. All the buildings were destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Ritta Hotel

The Ritta Hotel on Ritta Island









Riviera (1919-1942) – Original Name of Riviera Beach.

Rood (1915-1934)– The Rood family moved from Wisconsin and bought a 20 acre tract in the Philo Farms district west of Jupiter. Mrs. Rood ran the small post office, and the family took mail all the way out to Indiantown along the old Jupiter Grade road. Edgar Philo had subdivided the land and ran a small hotel on the property.

Sand Cut – This tiny migrant village town was recently vacated to allow expansion of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. It was located on Connors Highway (US 98) north of Canal Point.

Scratchankle – Another Lake Okeechobee settlement founded by John Tyner in 1912, and sometimes called Tynersville.

Shawano Village – A small farming community that was southeast of Belle Glade, sometimes called “Brown’s Farm.” It was a large peanut farm founded by the Brown Paper Company of Portland, Maine in 1924. The company suffered through the Depression and the village was dissolved in 1931.

Torry Island (1917-1921) – One of three islands in southern Lake Okeechobee with Ritta and Kreamer. It was covered with the same Pond Apple trees which were cleared for farming. The Cromartie family were among the first pioneers. Ivey Cromartie went on to marry Frank Stranahan, the modern founder of Fort Lauderdale.

Tustenegee (1877-1879) – The earliest post office in Palm Beach, before there was a Palm Beach. In all likelihood a Seminole Indian word meaning warrior.

Utopia (1910-1917) – Small farming community on the north side of Lake Okeechobee. The community became a part of Okeechobee County in 1917 and vanished in the 1928 hurricane.

Venus – Stop on the Celestial Railroad. J.B. Wells and his three cats were the only residents by the loading platform – primarily a pineapple growing region. Town was platted in 1893, but no lots ever sold. Now part of preserved lands.

Villa Rica (1925) – This was to be the northern neighbor to Boca Raton, a grand community planned by developer George Harvey. It was platted just north of Yamato Road along Old Dixie Highway. The land bust did it in. The name can still be seen on the FEC Tracks on a train service facility.

Planned Villa Rica Train Station

Wyman (1902-1907) – The area north of Boca Raton had a post office. This same land became the Yamato Colony. Nearby Lake Wyman retains the name.

Yamato (1907-1925)– This colony of Japanese immigrants farmed pineapples and vegetables. Most of the settlers returned to Japan. One who stayed was George Morikami, who bought land west of Delray Beach and donated the land to the county. Much of the eastern lands became part of the Army Air Corp Base at Boca Raton.

Zion (1888-1892)– Original Name for Delray Beach – the Orange Grove House of refuge was manned by several keepers over the years. Annie Andrews served as post mistress and the post office had two patrons – Annie and her husband!

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Sources: – Great website for ghost town information.– Website that had a very comprehensive lists with dates of the former post offices in the county – thanks to Janet DeVries at the Boynton Beach Library for the link. – Google news archive with many newspapers including the Tropical Sun and Palm Beach Post – Lots of information on Palm Beach County history.

Thanks also to Janette Campbell, a native of the Glades, who helped out with some of the Lake Okeechobee entries.