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Posts Tagged ‘West Palm Beach’

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Let’s go downtown! Downtown West Palm Beach, that is.

I’m a bit surprised it’s not a historic district, as there’s various old buildings scattered throughout. Quite a few are on the NRHP. There is one teeny historic district, but it’s only a block along Clematis Street. Rather like the one in LaBelle.

Most of the downtown NRHPs are office buildings, no surprise. There are a couple of delisted sites, thanks to me. When I was visiting, I couldn’t find the Hibiscus Apartments or the Dixie Court Hotel. When I got home after, I discovered both had been torn down. There’s a Macy’s where the apartments used to be, and the hotel lot is the site of the new county courthouse. Which is across from the old county courthouse. The tearing down of various old buildings like the hotel led to an awakened interest in historic preservation, which helped keep the old courthouse from being destroyed after the new one was built. It’s unfortunate that often it takes something drastic to motivate people, but at least it did motivate.

Empty parking spots are rare, so when you find one, grab it. Walk as much as you can, rather than spending lots of time driving around hunting for parking, that’s my advice. (see Google map)

The last part of downtown I’ll cover are two churches just north of Okeechobee Boulevard. Both were found eligible to be on the NRHP, but neither is one. Probably due to owner objection, which is odd, since usually the owners are the ones to seek NRHP status. But sometimes other people or groups submit the proposal, hoping to preserve the site. However, the owners still have to approve. Of the two, the Episcopal Church is prettier. The Church of Christ, Scientist is large and grey and could easily be mistaken for an old courthouse. (see Google map)

Crossing Okeechobee Boulevard down US 1, you’ll encounter the Norton Museum of Art on the left. Across from it is the huge Woodlawn
Cemetery. Established in 1905, it’s another place where white victims of the 1928 hurricane are buried. I didn’t go through it, partly since I didn’t know the history of it when I was there. Heck, I didn’t even know it was there. Plus it’s at least 4 blocks long. Whenever I get back down there, though, I think I’ll spend an hour or two (or maybe three) walking around it.

From here, only a few NRHP buildings are left to see in West Palm Beach. On the other hand, there are seven historic districts you can go through. Most are adjacent, but one (Vedado) is off to the west. There’s some variety in architectural styles, but they’re predominately Mediterranean Revival. It was very popular in the 1920s in Florida, and especially so in the Palm Beach area. I only vaguely knew about architectural styles before I started this roving undertaking, though it had always interested me. Now I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about Queen Anne and Mediterranean Revival and Prairie School styles, through sheer osmosis. Travel does broaden the mind, doncha know. (see Google map)

Before leaving West Palm Beach entirely, there are some museums and such, if those strike your fancy. I’ve not been to any of them, so I can’t tell you anything about them. Except the Yesteryear Village is close to the Turnpike, which is well to the west. I’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating. Check on museum hours before you go. Might want to contact them directly too, since there might be special events or altered hours not listed on their websites. (see Google map)

Next, Palm Beach. See you on the road!

Route length: miles

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I can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to enter the morass of metropolitan mania and malls that is south Florida. Southeast Florida, actually since southwest Florida isn’t nearly as kooky. I think Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry live down there because it’s such a font of inspiration for their work. More power to them.

Some previous posts have skirted the area. Going to the Keys, you can’t help but go through Dade County. Driving around Lake Okeechobee, you pass through a sliver of western Palm Beach County. But it’s completely unlike the east side along US 1 and A1A.

Which is where we’re starting. There’s a bunch of sites in this part of the county, from very ritzy to very not.

Just south of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, but still in Juno Beach, is the Florida Power & Light Historical Museum. I think. It must be in the FP&L offices, but they weren’t open when I visited, so I don’t know what it’s like. The kinds of museums that are in corporate offices don’t tend to be very extensive.

Further down is the North Palm Beach Country Club. It grew out of the Palm Beach Winter Club, but I couldn’t find any old buildings when I was there. After some research once I got home, I discovered they had been demolished. I wasn’t surprised, as I’d found several other places similarly gone on the way up. More on them when we get to West Palm Beach.

Somewhere that still is around and quite worth checking out is John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. I exceeded my half-hour rule, but partly couldn’t help that. The park entrance is off A1A, and the parking lot is separated from the beach by a wide strip of water. It might be part of the Intracoastal Waterway. There’s a boardwalk that’s a third of a mile long that connects the two halves of the park. You can walk it, or take a shuttle that runs between them. I chose the shuttle on the way over. Once you cross, there’s a lush stand of trees to go through before you get to the long stretch of beach. I hung out for a bit, taking in the Atlantic. On the way back, I walked some of the boardwalk, since the shuttle runs at intervals. I caught one before I got halfway across. Much as I’m not big on beaches, I rather liked this park. When next I’m down south, I hope I can revisit and spend some more time there. (see Google map)

Back on the shore, go down US 1 to Lake Park and take a right on Park Avenue. About half a mile later, you’ll reach the city hall. The Kelsey City City Hall, that is, which is what the town was originally called. It was Florida’s first planned community, created in the early 1920s by developer Harry Kelsey. Sadly, the 1928 hurricane ended his dream of a huge development. He left the area a few years later and the town changed its name to Lake Park. I wonder if there are any other remaining buildings around from that era?

South of Lake Park, A1A and US 1 merge, and remain coterminous until you get to West Palm Beach. There are 14 NRHP districts in Palm Beach County, and 11 of them are in West Palm Beach. You’ll be going through two of them next, Northboro Park and Old Northwood, which are butt-up against each other. Those are often tricky for me, because I need to make sure the pictures are separated so I can categorize them properly on Wikipedia. But I figured out an easy solution a while ago. If I’m taking pictures in adjacent historic districts, I take a blank picture on the digital camera when I leave on and enter the other. You know, cover the lens and turn off the flash, so there’s a black photo. It’s worked quite well, I must say.

You can check out Temple Beth El, one of the FL 100 buildings. It’s unique among them, since it’s the only one that was moved from its original location to where it is now. Nearby is the Palm Beach Maritime Museum. Or a Palm Beach Maritime Museum, since there’s supposedly another one further south. Not sure if both are open, or they relocated and one is the old address. (see Google map)

I mentioned the 1928 hurricane earlier. I talked about one of the places where many of the victims were buried, in Port Mayaca. The Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Burial Site is another. It’s been included in a nice park. I walked around some when I was there, thinking of all the lives so tragically lost over 80 years ago.

You’ll find other African American historical sites as you continue, in and around the Northwest Historic District. And just outside the district is an old railroad station, which Amtrak now runs. It’s in rather grand shape. (see Google map)

We’ll get into more of West Palm Beach in the next post. See you on the road!

Route length: miles

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Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Burial Site is in West Palm Beach, in the southeastern part of the state.

Hurricanes have not always been named. It wasn’t until 1950 that ones in the Atlantic were named. One of the most notable unnamed hurricanes in Florida’s history was the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. It struck the state in mid-September, crossing over Lake Okeechobee and affecting most of central Florida. The dike surrounded the lake was breached, causing much flooding. The bodies of over 600 black people were moved to West Palm Beach and buried in a mass grave. The effects of the hurricane in the area were the inspiration for Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. See more photos here.

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