One of the prettiest skylines on the east coast of Florida, West Palm Beach at dusk. The Flagler Bridge over Okeechobee Blvd. is lit, the lights reflecting in the wet sand and brackish water of the intracoastal waterway at low tide...
The area that was to become West Palm Beach was settled in the late 1870s and 1880s by a few hundred settlers who called the vicinity "Lake Worth Country." These settlers included founding families such at the Potters and the Lainharts, who would go on to become leading members of the business community in the fledgling city. At the time, most were engaged in the growing of tropical fruits and vegetables for shipment back to the north via Lake Worth and the Indian River. By 1890, the U.S. Census counted over 200 people settled along Lake Worth in the vicinity of what would become West Palm Beach. The area at this time also boasted a hotel, the "Cocoanut House", a church, and a post office. The city was platted by Henry Flagler as a community to house the servants working in the two grand hotels on the neighboring island of Palm Beach, across Lake Worth in 1893, coinciding with the arrival of the Florida East Coast railroad. Flagler paid two area settlers, Captain Porter and Louie Hillhouse, a combined sum of $45,000 for the original townsite, stretching from Clear Lake to Lake Worth.
The original spelling of the city was "Westpalmbeach", but it was feared that the 13-letter word would be an ominous omen for the fledgling community. On November 5, 1894, 78 people met at the "Calaboose" (the first jail and police station located at Clematis St. and Poinsettia, now Dixie Hwy.) and passed the motion to incorporate the Town of West Palm Beach in what was then Dade County (now Miami-Dade County). This made West Palm Beach the first incorporated municipality in Dade County and in South Florida. The town council quickly addressed the building codes and the tents and shanties were replaced by brick, brick veneer, and stone buildings. The city grew steadily during the 1890s and the first two decades of the 20th century, most residents were engaged in the tourist industry and related services or winter vegetable market and tropical fruit trade. In 1909, Palm Beach County was formed by the Florida State Legislature and West Palm Beach became the county seat. In 1916, a new neo-classical courthouse was opened, which has been painstakingly restored back to its original condition, and is now used as the local history museum.
The city grew rapidly in the 1920s as part of the Florida land boom. Many of the city's landmark structures and preserved neighborhoods were constructed during this period. Originally, Flagler intended for his Florida East Coast Railway to have its terminus in West Palm but after the area experienced a deep freeze, he chose to extend the railroad to Miami instead.
December 9th, 2012
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