Published by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County
Vol. 10 No. 1 SPRING 2019
H. Irwin Levy
Community Builder, Philanthropist, Visionary
From the Editor Dear Reader, We are excited to share some of Floridaâ€™s history in this issue of Tustenegee. While working through archival materials this spring, we found a wonderful article written by Eva Crane. This insightful piece entitled "Our First Families" cleverly tells of botanic families that migrated to Palm Beach County. This past fall at Archival Evening we celebrated the lifelong work of H. Irwin Levy, founder of the Century Village Communities. His vision transformed Palm Beach County by introducing a new lifestyle. As you read the oral history of Anna Fremd Hadley, look forward to enjoying that of her daughter, Jane Hadley Caruso, in an upcoming issue. Tustenegee is a journal about Palm Beach County and Florida history and is published online twice a year by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. The Historical Society of Palm Beach County is a non-profit organization whose mission is to collect, preserve, and share the rich history and cultural heritage of Palm Beach County. Historical Society of Palm Beach County 300 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 Phone: (561) 832-4164 www.hspbc.org & www.pbchistoryonline.org Mailing Address: Historical Society of Palm Beach County PO Box 4364 West Palm Beach, FL 33402-4364 The contents of Tustenegee are copyrighted by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. All rights are reserved. Reprint of material is encouraged; however, written permission from the Historical Society is required. The Historical Society disclaims any responsibility for errors in factual material or statements of opinion expressed by contributors. The contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the editors, board, or staff of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
On the cover: H. Irwin Levy, founder and developer of the Century Village communities.
We hope this issue of Tustenegee inspires you to look at Palm Beach County in a new light as we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the City of West Palm Beach. Learn more at our annual exhibit in the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum, opening September 3. Sincerely,
Editor-in-Chief: Debi Murray Editor: Rose E. Guerrero Copy Editor: Lise M. Steinhauer Graphics and Layout: Caroline Frazier Printing: Kustom Print Design
Table of Contents
Clarence Percival Dietsch: Sculpting Palm Beach by Deborah Pollack
H. Irwin Levy Community Builder, Philanthropist, Visionary by Lise Steinhauer
Anna Fremd Hadley An Oral History
Our First Families by Eva Crane
Become a Member
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Clarence Percival Dietsch Sculpting Palm Beach by Deborah Pollack
he studio of Clarence Percival Dietsch, one of Palm Beach’s superlative artists, was once tucked away amid a garden on a Peruvian Avenue path backing Addison Mizner’s home and studio. Recent discoveries have prompted a new look at this talented winter resident, who portrayed the essence of Florida in several of his works. Born on May 23, 1881, in New York City, the tall and slender Dietsch was the son of the Americanborn Morris and Clara Dietsch. He studied art domestically with sculptor Attilio Piccirilli and painters that included James Carroll Beckwith and William Merritt Chase. Winning the Peabody Institute’s Rinehart Scholarship in sculpture led to Dietsch’s tutelage at the American Academy in Rome. Sailing to Italy on November 18, 1905, he found the school the perfect atmosphere for learning and won a prize in 1906. Except for a few brief side trips, he remained in Rome and was named a fellow of the academy in 1909. He then traveled around Europe to such places as Venice, Paris, and Holland, returning to New York City by November that year. After moving into a new studio at 147 W. 23rd Street, in April 1910 he became an associate member of the American Numismatic Society. Dietsch exhibited at such prestigious U.S. art halls as the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1911, the Architectural League of New York 4
C. Percival Dietsch, Destiny, from Architectural League of New York, Catalogue of the Twenty-fifth Annual Exhibition, 1910.
C. Percival Dietsch, Vision: Ponce de León and others see the rejuvenation of youth by the famous fountain. Driftwood Resort, Vero Beach. Photograph by author, illustrated in Palm Beach Visual Arts, 42.
elected him a member. However, by the end of that year Dietsch acquired an avocation—working with sculptor/author Winifred Holt at the New York Association for the Blind that she founded (also known as the Lighthouse). A director of its museum, Dietsch would model a bronze bust of Holt for the organization. In 1915 Dietsch earned an honorable mention at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific Exposition for his outdoor, life-size plaster sculpture, Destiny, which he had completed while at the American Academy in Rome. A striking image, it depicts a muscular nude male who reaches behind him to lead a subservient, bare-breasted woman in Orientalist costume. Juliet Helena Lumbard James, who wrote a descriptive catalogue on the Panama Pacific sculpture, noted a distinct feminist meaning to the piece: “Does Destiny decree that man shall lead, while woman meekly follows, as she did in ancient Egyptian days?” The U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, and on September 12, 1918, Dietsch registered for the draft. Shortly thereafter he sailed for Europe, and again under the direction of Winifred Holt, he provided instruction for soldiers who had lost their vision in battle. This magnanimous achievement led to the French government awarding Dietsch a medal. In the meantime, Dietsch’s older brother, William, had been visiting Palm Beach since 1893. Initially employed to help paint the Hotel
Royal Poinciana, he was named the hotel’s yacht club steward, but then changed his course. Transacting his first Palm Beach property deal in 1913, he subsequently became a millionaire real estate mogul. After Clarence Percival Dietsch completed his service for blind war veterans, he emulated his brother by spending winters in Palm Beach to improve his health. Known in town familiarly as “Percy,” he was a member of the Everglades Club and by 1920 lived on Main Street. However, the artist later moved to at least one temporary apartment/studio and finally to 330 Peruvian Avenue. On April 18, 1923, the Palm Beach Post reported that Addison Mizner had purchased “a ten foot strip of land . . . at the rear from Percival Dietsch, fronting on Peruvian Avenue. Mr. Dietsch . . . bought a fifty foot lot on Peruvian directly back of Mr. Mizner’s new building where [Dietsch] will erect a studio and where he expects to be engaged on very important work in … sculpture which will be used on some of the new Spanish houses to be built by Mr. Mizner, including fountains and bas reliefs.” By the end of 1923, Dietsch had moved into his new studio, but he had been creating sculpture for Mizner well before that. Working closely together, the two men shared the same kind of aesthetic and had formed a productive collaboration. The sculptor would later create many designs for artisans to copy at Mizner Industries. SPRING 2019
C. Percival Dietsch, Peter Martyr. Driftwood Resort, Vero Beach. Photograph by author.
One of Dietsch’s most remarkable projects for Mizner was the series of bas, mid, and high relief sculpture for Playa Riente, the oceanfront mansion he built for Nell and Joshua Cosden. Dietsch’s panels, which caused a sensation in 1923, depict the famous legend of Juan Ponce de LeÓn’s search for the Fountain of Youth, thereby discovering Florida, and are now at the Driftwood Resort in Vero Beach. Mizner could not have selected a better sculptor for this project as Dietsch was deeply interested in Spanish architecture and immersed himself in Spain’s history with Florida. In fact, according to a Palm Beach Post article by Lillian Holley, “C. Percival Dietsch, Sculptor Invites Many to Tea,” March 27, 1928, Dietsch said that the Ponce de León story held a “very human significance” and that he felt strongly about the explorer’s “vision,” compelling him to leave a loved one and search for the famed fountain across the sea. Fittingly, Playa Riente architectural renderings acquired by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County in 2015 reveal that a draftsman wrote “Vision” on the designated spot above the grand staircase where Dietsch’s panel of a rejuvenated man emerging from the fountain of youth would be placed. According to at least five articles, including the one by Holley, in 1928 and 1929 Dietsch exhibited other portrayals of the fountain of youth myth in polychrome panels highlighted with gold and silver leaf for wall fountains. He spoke to Holley about the 1928 season’s work, and she reported that the type of polychrome Dietsch used would not only accent Palm Beach patios with color but 6
C. Percival Dietsch, polychrome relief sculpture, collection of Mark and Hildie Tripson, exhibited at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s “Building Paradise: Addison Mizner's Legacy.”
would be sufficient to protect the fountain from the elements. Although Dietsch showed “several” polychrome relief sculptures in the 1928 exhibition of “new” and uncompleted work—five years after the untinted Playa Riente works had been created— two of his polychrome Ponce de León-themed panels displayed at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s excellent 2018–2019 “Building Paradise: Addison Mizner's Legacy” are said to have been models for the Playa Riente sculptures. (If so, perhaps Dietsch planned to use the existing polychrome models in his Ponce de León wall fountains.) Clearly, upon seeing these smaller reliefs and from reported descriptions of the other colored panels, there are many similarities to the Playa Riente panels. Dietsch’s Playa Riente relief of the bearded man with a ship, globe, and scrolls was titled Peter Martyr. This no doubt refers to Peter Martyr d'Anghiera (1457–1526), cited as the first to spread the tale of the fountain of youth. An important Italian-born historian who settled in Spain, d'Anghiera taught in the royal household and chronicled Spanish discoveries in the New World. In the book Palm Beach Visual Arts (Pelican Publishing Company, 2016), the author describes one of the Playa Riente reliefs as depicting a mortally wounded Ponce de León lying on the ground (he would soon die in Cuba) while a female spirit rises in the air. According to Holley, that spirit represents Ponce de León’s bride of death, who appears to him in a dream. Dietsch incorporated this polychrome “death of Ponce de
León” panel into one of the fountains exhibited on his patio (as reported in “Noted Sculptor Gives Studio Tea,” Palm Beach Daily News, March 16, 1929). The bride in the tinted panel reportedly carries lilies, and in the corresponding Playa Riente version she holds a sunflower. In both examples Dietsch excelled at portraying Florida’s sea grape tree and was credited by Holley as the “first to notice the beauty of its gnarled and twisted stems and solid glossy leaves.” Ironically, the name “Inspiration” marked the designated space for the Playa Riente panel. Perhaps it meant that even though Ponce de León was ultimately destroyed by his vision of the fountain of youth’s discovery, he inspired others to pursue their visions and explore new worlds. Dietsch designed many other fountains in Palm Beach, including one at Mr. and Mrs. Irving Hall Chase’s oceanfront house, El Palmar. Aside from being well known for much of the town’s garden sculpture as well as artwork adorning houses, he reportedly provided work for the current Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. A popular society figure, Dietsch’s tea receptions at his studio could attract 60 to 150 people. Amy Phipps Guest and Mrs. Hugh Dillman provided patronage for at least one exhibition, as did other Palm Beach notables, including Addison Mizner.
In the 1920s Dietsch created a relief bust of Mizner for Preston Pope Satterwhite and his wife. However, Dietsch admired Mizner so much that after his death in 1933, the sculptor exhibited “for the first time” a memorial relief portrait of the great architect during a well-attended tea at the Peruvian Avenue studio. Other exhibitions at Dietsch’s studio included a portrait bust of opera singer Marcia Van Dresser, who performed in Palm Beach, and sculpture portraying such wintering socialites as Veronese Beatty, Helena Woolworth McCann (Mrs. Winston) Guest, and Maria Kane Lawrence Wetherill (the companion of Countess Denise Dolfin). Dietsch also sculpted a marble of a Virgin and Child for his studio’s loggia and carved another marble of the same subject for Countess Dolfin for her patio at Thatchcote, an English cottage-style home. As a tribute to her name, Dietsch also designed a fountain depicting two dolphins for the countess. Dietsch was also a talented painter, as one can see from his coastal view of Palm Beach. In 1923 the widow of Palm Beach artist Ben Austrian exhibited Dietsch’s Palm Beach, Venetian, and New England paintings at Austrian’s former Hotel Royal Poinciana studio, which she kept in memory of her late husband. Dietsch’s 1925 mural in the music room at Balbrook South, the Palm Beach home of Mrs. Edward Balbach
C. Percival Dietsch, Palm Beach, signed, oil on board, 5 ¼ by 10 inches. Courtesy Alfred Frankel.
and her daughter, Mrs. Edward Randolph, was a noted accomplishment. Mr. and Mrs. Leland Cofer exhibited Dietschâ€™s paintings and sculpture at their home, Capricho, on Barton Avenue in 1932. A member of the Palm Beach Art League, Dietsch was also on the jury of the Palm Beach Art Center and a founding member of The Society of the Four Arts. He exhibited at the latter often, taught at its studio school, and served as one of its vice presidents. In 1938 he won its John Elliott Memorial Award for the poetic sculpture Mourning Woman. That year he joined the Florida selection committee for the Southern States Preview Exhibition of Contemporary Arts, a preliminary show that led to one of the most
comprehensive exhibitions of current art in the U.S., at the 1939 New York Worldâ€™s Fair. Clarence Percival Dietsch was a fellow of the National Sculpture Society, which awarded his memorial prize from 1968 until 2014, when the funds became depleted. His notable sculptures include The Athlete (depicting a male nude) at the Peabody Institute, the Besso Memorial Monument in Rome, and bas-relief work at Rice University. He died on February 22, 1961, in a West Palm Beach hospital and left a legacy gift to the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.
The author thanks Nicholas Christodoulides for his information about Playa Riente architecture.
Window detail with Mizner's bust on Casa Florencia, home of Preston Pope Satterwhite. Courtesy HSPBC.
Deborah C. Pollack is a Palm Beach art dealer, author, and speaker. She graduated with honors from Temple University with a degree in art history. During the 1970s Deborah was an actress (as Deborah Courtney), appearing in commercials and the television soap opera Love of Life. Deborah and her husband, Edward, own a gallery on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Her books include Visual Art and the Urban Evolution of the New South (University of South Carolina Press); Felix De Crano: Forgotten Artist of the Flagler Colony (Lightner Museum); Palm Beach Visual Arts (Pelican Publishing Company), Bad Scarlett: The Extraordinary Life of the Notorious Southern Beauty Marie Boozer (Peppertree Press), and Vintage Miami Beach Glamour: Celebrities & Socialites in the Heyday of Chic (The History Press); Orville Bulman: An Enchanted Life and Fantastic Legacy (Blue Heron Press), and Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach (Blue Heron Press with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County), which earned a women’s history award from Florida Memorial University. Deborah is a contributor to the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi and University of North Carolina Press), and her articles have appeared in American Art Review, Tequesta, Antiques and Art Around Florida, and other periodicals. Her short stories and poems have been published in two editions of Healthy Stories (Miami Health Department) and she has written a blog for the Smithsonian Institution. Detail, Mizner firm architectural drawing, area over door above Playa Riente's grand staircase labeled “Bas Relief. Ponce de León, Vision." Courtesy HSPBC.
H. Irwin Levy Community Builder, Philanthropist, Visionary by Lise M. Steinhauer
The lifelong work ethic and dedication to the Jewish community that underlies the accomplishments of H. Irwin Levy began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born on June 23, 1926, to Jacob and Mary Feuerman Levy. Throughout his youth, Irwin loved working at his fatherâ€™s side at the wholesale shoe business started by his immigrant grandfather Benjamin Levy. Here he absorbed business acumen. Irwin, along with his four brothers, also learned from his father a deep concern for all elements of the Jewish community, lessons that would shape his life.
Above: Levy the visionary at work.
Below: Century Village West Palm Beach.
The home of B. Levy and Son, a wholesale shoe business started by Irwin’s grandfather after immigrating in 1883. The Levy family operated the business for over 100 years.
Graduating from high school during World War II, Irwin served in the Army Air Corps in Florida, where his skill with a slide rule made him invaluable in calculating safe cargo loads. After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University while working part-time. At his mother’s suggestion, he attended Cornell Law School for two years, then married Jeanne Siskin of Elmira, New York. Honeymooning in Miami, Irwin was smitten with Florida and finished his Juris Doctor at the University of Miami.
the Johnson History Museum. With the influx of a growing population, Irwin became known for introducing clients who wanted to buy or sell real estate, in creative win-win deals. The couple had two children: daughter Lynn Peseckis, is a geophysicist, and son Mark, is an attorney who has enjoyed working alongside his father for 31 years. Happily, both of his children live locally and each has provided him with two grandchildren to whom Irwin has passed on the valuable lessons learned from his family.
The Levys settled in West Palm Beach, where Irwin opened a law office in 1951 in the Citizens Building on Clematis Street. He was in and out of the same courthouse that was later restored to its 1916 form and became home to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and
Meanwhile, Irwin applied his father’s lessons in the growing local Jewish community. Beginning in the 1960s, the Levys were key in establishing Temple Israel and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, Jewish Community Day School, Jewish Community Center, Joseph L. Morse
Irwin Levy and his son, Mark (left), circa 1970.
Geriatric Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, and the Jeanne and Irwin Levy Day Care Center in Israel. Seeing another kind of need—and opportunity— in the growing Jewish community, Irwin decided to invest his own money in real estate development. He knew land values would only rise with the growing popularity of South Florida real estate. Having grown up a hundred miles from the Catskills, Irwin also knew that many retired people spent the warmest months enjoying the cool mountain air at resorts with entertainment. He would create the same setting in South Florida in a place to live year-round, with recreation, entertainment, and services the Jewish community needed. He would call this new kind of lifestyle Century Village. The marketing was as creative as the product itself. Irwin hired comedian Red Buttons, a Catskills favorite, to draw crowds. He opened a sales office in Miami Beach and bused people to West Palm Beach, opening a Holiday Inn at the Turnpike exchange for their comfort. The first Century Village units sold at $9,000 to $13,000, but they would quickly gain value.
Levy with U.S. President Gerald Ford (left), 1970s.
Irwin was a hands-on developer, from designing the project to seeking residents’ feedback over lunch or in the on-site auditorium. He paid his children minimum wage to help out in the summer, passing on his work ethic. Great success in West Palm Beach led to Century Villages in Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and Pembroke Pines, and the purchase of an existing project in Coconut Creek that Irwin renamed Wynmoor Village. His Cenvill Communities became the largest builder of condominiums in the U.S. with 1,500 employees in 1980. Although he sold Cenvill in 1985, Irwin returned in 1992 when he saw his legacy in decline. He sold the Century Village name five years later, but Cenvill Recreation still operates the recreational facilities and quasimunicipal operations. Since removing his developer hat, Irwin has been generous with both leadership and finances for the Jewish community and cultural organizations. He helped found the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Among the many honors he has received, he might be most proud of the Scopus Award from Hebrew University, which recognized the $1.5 billion in U.S. grants that
Levy (center) with Alvin Wilensky (left), a relative, CPA, and officer in the Century Village businesses.
Remodel of the WPB Club lobby, 1990.
Irwin secured to relocate Russian and Ethiopian Jews to Israel as chair of United Israel Appeal’s Government Relations Committee. Mutual friends David and Sondra Mack introduced Irwin and Ellen Zavell Schwartz. According to Irwin, “there was chemistry there.” They were married on August 25, 1994, at the St. Regis in New York. They honeymooned in Sardinia and continue to travel far and wide, sometimes with their entire blended family.
All photographs courtesy H. Irwin Levy and Mark Levy. Construction of Century Village of West Palm Beach.
Lapidary at Century Village, one of many activities for residents. Aerial showing Century Village West Palm Beach east and north of Okeechobee Blvd.
The use of pre-poured walls, then a new construction technique, made for fast construction.
About the Author Lise M. Steinhauer joined the staff of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County in 2015 as Membership Coordinator, and has since added Grant Writer and Museum Store Manager to her roles. Under her company History Speaks, she has conducted oral histories for the HSPBC since 2004, provided the original content for Palm Beach County History Online (www.pbchistoryonline.com), and created the Docent Manual for the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum, among many projects. Among her published works are Alexander W. Dreyfoos: Passion & Purpose and A Photographic Odyssey: Around the World with Alexander W. Dreyfoos. Lise Steinhauer holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Arts.
Judge James R. Knott Award Established in 1989, this annual award recognizes the achievements of an individual or organization that has contributed to the preservation, promotion, or enrichment of Palm Beach County history. The award honors and is named for the late Honorable Judge James R. Knott, who served as president of HSPBC from 1957 to 1969. Judge Knott is fondly remembered as a dedicated historian and frequent author of the "Brown Wrapper" newspaper series, from which articles were compiled into three books on the history of our area. Among his numerous accomplishments, Judge Knott spearheaded the effort to restore the historic name of Cape Canaveral and helped establish the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. Judge Knott was instrumental in obtaining much of the Historical Society’s treasured archive.
The Fannie James Award We are proud to honor him.
Established in 2003, this annual award recognizes the achievements of individuals or organizations that have significantly contributed to preserving and sharing the history of Palm Beach County’s pioneering days. The award is named for the late Fannie James, an African American who served as the first postmistress of the Jewell Post Office (now Lake Worth), which was open from 1889 until 1903. The inaugural Fannie James Award was presented to Laurita Collie Sharpp, daughter of West Palm Beach’s first African American dentist and renowned community leader, Dr. Warren Hale Collie.
Please send nominations to email@example.com or call 561-832-4164 for more information.
Thank you. SPRING 2019
Anna Fremd Hadley An Oral History
L to R Three generations: William Fremd, Anna Hadley, and Jane Hadley. Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso.
Please note: An oral history cannot be depended on for complete accuracy, as it is based on (1) the fascinating and complex human memory, and (2) communication of that memory, which varies due to genetics, social experience, gender, and education. While oral history is a valuable tool in the study of history, its content is not guaranteed to be correct. Because the interviews are from different eras, they may contain offensive language. Anna Fremd was born in 1888 in Mamaroneck, New York, on the estate of Henry Morrison Flagler. Her father was in charge of Flaglerâ€™s landscaping there and then in Palm Beach, where Anna married Percy Hadley. This interview was one of thirty completed in 1962 by broadcaster Rush Hughes for the Historical Society, which hired Lise M. Steinhauer to transcribe them in 2006. A future issue of Tustenegee will feature the HSPBC 2018 oral history of Annaâ€™s youngest child, Jane Hadley Caruso. 18
(Edited for publication) HUGHES: HADLEY: HUGHES:
Oh, where they backed them across the bridge.
Mrs. Hadley, how long have you HADLEY: That’s right. And went up to The been here in Palm Beach? Breakers and unloaded and then came on back. Since ‘94. HUGHES: Well, let’s see, you arrived here just Since 1894. And your father and about the same time as the railroad mother came here, hmm? then. Wasn’t it finished in ’94?
Yes, and my dad came down here HADLEY: with Mr. Flagler.
Oh, and who was your dad?
No, no. We came down partway, Dad said, by boat, which I don’t remember, but he said we went first to St. Augustine. He was here, but we were up in St. Augustine to get acclimated to Florida, see, coming from the North.
HUGHES: And he came as part of Mr. Flagler’s Percy Samuel and Anna Hadley. Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso. operation? HADLEY: He was with Mr. Flagler before he got married. HUGHES:
And what did he do here?
He laid out all the grounds: the Whitehall and the [Royal] Poinciana and The Breakers.
That was quite a job, wasn’t it?
HADLEY: Well, when he came here, of course, this was nothing but wilderness. HUGHES: HADLEY:
How did they transform it? Everything was done with mules. Mules and carts—and colored help, of course, and he had quite a gang of those. And—I’m telling you all that I can remember him telling me, because I was little, and I didn’t understand it all. You know the shingled house as you come over the bridge? Well, that’s where we lived.
But see, that was a railroad back of us. And the station was there that brought the guests in for the hotels. SPRING 2019
But he came down. The Poinciana wasn’t finished when he came down here. HUGHES: Well, this must’ve been a pretty exciting thing for a young girl to come to. HADLEY: Well, I was a child. I don’t think they realize, do you, when they’re transferred? HUGHES:
HADLEY: But my mother was terribly unhappy. HUGHES:
Was she really? Didn’t like it at all?
O-o-o-h, well, imagine coming from the North, where it was so beautiful, had lovely homes and everything. The homes here were terrible at that time [laughs] They were nothing but shacks. So, she wrote a letter and she made my daddy sign it, saying that he’d take her back when the year was up, but we never did.
Oh? Never went back, uh?
HADLEY: N-o-o-o. HUGHES:
She got used to it, eh?
20 house. | TUSTENEGEE William Fremd He had the right to live in the Flagler built home until his death. Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso.
Yes, this must’ve been quite a change.
Cause she liked theaters and stuff like that, she was accustomed to— oh, it was awful. Lamplights we had to—so it was really—
The lamplighter went around and turned them on at night, eh?
[laughs] No, we didn’t even have a street light or nothing!
No! There was alligators and everything around here! We children come along, why, [Mother] wouldn’t let any of us out for fear we’d get—
[laughs] Where’d you go to school?
We didn’t—till afterwards, then there was that little schoolhouse; I think you heard about it. Mr. Maddock tried to have it moved, or they asked to have it moved here, about two years ago? They wanted the property. But that was our first schoolhouse, and there were nothing but just young people that were teaching at that time.
Just a one-room schoolhouse?
Fremd Family circa 1917-18. Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso.
That’s right. And about three or four grades in there.
Did you have desks?
Yes, yes, we did.
HUGHES: How did your mother fight mosquitoes? That must’ve been something.
HUGHES: And you were supposed to be quiet. HADLEY:
We lived way down the Poinciana, and the school was up there—you know where the Maddocks live?
HUGHES: Yes. HADLEY:
Well, it was up in that section.
How’d you get back and forth?
HADLEY: My daddy had his colored man row us up in a boat, and then he’d come for us [after school]. There was a little path where you could go, but we were too small, Dad thought, to ride a bicycle, so we had the man row us up there. Then as we got older, I left and went to St. Augustine to the convent. HUGHES: Did you take your lunch with you to school? HADLEY:
Yes, we had to, because they didn’t have any means of taking us back and forth.
HUGHES: What did children do to entertain themselves? HADLEY:
Well, I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. There weren’t too many children here. There were the Brelsfords and the Hoods— Dr. Hood was our doctor—and Helen Hood, that’s Fredericka Brelsford—or Dunkel’s—cousin. And Spencer Lainhart, Frank Dimick, and all the McKennas. Now if I missed anybody—oh, there were Hillhouses. There were a lot of children, but just one or
two in a family that were going to school at that time.
Oh! It was terrible. Of course, the houses were screened. Mr. Flagler had our house screened securely, but even so. The gnats were so bad, too, and they could come right through your screen. They used to have what they called “mosquito powder” that they burned to keep em out. Very offensive, but we had to use that.
Do you remember what kind of stove she had? Did she have a wood stove or a gasoline stove?
HADLEY: We had a wood stove, and we could have coal. We used to get coal from the hotel, because they used it there for the cooking in the [Royal] Poinciana and Breakers. HUGHES:
That hotel, I believe somebody told me, is the largest wooden hotel in the world.
It was, the [Royal] Poinciana was. We lived near the end of it, and we walked from there over to the chapel when we were little, because my daddy was usher there and also had charge of the money—you know, to take it up.
Yes. You can look at that clock there, that was given to him. His name is on it, and why he got it for loyal service for thirty years.
HUGHES: Gee. Would you say that Mr. Flagler was— HADLEY: He was a wonderful person. SPRING 2019
FEC Railroad bridge to Palm Beach. Hotel Royal Poinciana and Whitehall, circa 1902-03. Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso.
our house with a gate, always kept locked because they’d come right in your home. We children were scared to death of them, you know, and we’d stand over on the side and they’d throw this meat on the table and carve it. [laughs]
HUGHES: He revolutionized this area, didn’t he? HADLEY:
Oh, definitely, definitely! He loved it here. And he was a wonderful person to talk to.
HUGHES: Quite a background for that man. And of course, he built himself a perpetual memorial here, didn’t he?
What did they charge for venison, or was it just whatever you wanted to give them?
Yes. You see, he came from Mamaroneck, New York, and his place was called “On The Neck.” I was born on his place.
HADLEY: I don’t know, whatever my daddy gave them. HUGHES:
Did they talk English?
Oh, were you really?
I don’t remember. I think my dad had an awful time talking to em to make them understand, but all he’d say was, “That was enough,” you know. He’d say, “Stop,” like this to them when they would start, cause they wanted to sell us the whole works. But you see, we didn’t have conditions to keep meat in those days.
Oh, no refrigeration.
N-o-o-o. We had an old ice box, and we had to go across the lake to get the ice.
Oh? Where’d it come from?
They had a little ice factory, and he went over in a boat and got it.
HADLEY: Mm-hm. They used to always call me “the first original baby of the place.” And his son got married, Harry, which Mrs. Gonzalez is the daughter. HUGHES: As you look back on those years, what would you say is your most vivid memory? HADLEY: [pause] Well . . . oh . . . I don’t know. HUGHES: Do you remember the Indians at all? HADLEY:
Oh yes, they used to come to sell us venison. We had a big, high fence built all the way around
I suppose the [Royal] Poinciana was stocked from Jacksonville?
HADLEY: From the north somewhere, yes. The train used to come over, you know, and it was a big trestle, and it went to the back of the Poinciana. They’d unload everything from there into the hotel. HUGHES:
Did they have a special supply train, or did it come with the regular passenger train?
HADLEY: This was a special train that came over just carrying, like, flour and meat and stuff, cause they had huge refrigerators to keep things cold. HUGHES: Oh, they did? They were iced, though. HADLEY:
Yes, and at the end of the season, if there was anything left over, they sold it to the people on the place. Like sugar and flour and bacon and stuff like that.
I guess a lot of people that came down to that hotel—and I believe it housed something like 1,800 guests—a lot of them were inspired to move down here, weren’t they?
FEC Railroad Station, Palm Beach. circa 1910s. Courtesy HSPBC.
O-o-h, the Studebaker people were—they came down every year. Mrs. Studebaker was very fond of my mother, so she used to come over quite often and visit with her, and even invited us all up to their home in the summer. Then there was—oh, I can’t tell you the number of people, I can’t think of their names. I’m terrible with names. [laughs] Now Joseph Jefferson was here, too.
Oh? What was he doing here?
He had a cottage up at The Breakers. But that was when the hotel—I mean, things were in better condition. And he painted that picture over there and gave it to my mother.
HUGHES: Oh, really. Did he perform here at all? HADLEY:
No, he was going to perform in Jacksonville, and he gave Mother and Father tickets to go to Jacksonville to see it, but he passed away before it happened. So, my dad went up as far as Jacksonville with the body in a private car.
How long did he live around here?
Oh, he lived here quite a while. Every year he’d come down. He loved it here.
HUGHES: What was the season of The Breakers? HADLEY:
They usually closed around the first of April.
Around Easter time.
HADLEY: Yes. HUGHES:
And when did they open?
It was, I think, in December.
HUGHES: Did they staff it from local residents, or did they bring them all in? HADLEY:
They brought them all in. There might be a few that they had here, but most everybody, the waiters— they had colored waiters in those days—and chambermaids and chefs—they were all brought in.
Now, where’d they go? What happened to them in the summertime? Did Mr. Flagler have a hotel [for them]?
No, they’d go to their summer places like they do now. I think most of the hotel people, that’s what they do. They have a summer
place and a winter place, like Maine and what-have-you. HUGHES:
Did they import the darkies that push the [wheelchairs]?
Oh, they got them here.
There must’ve been a lot of those wheelchairs, weren’t there?
HADLEY: O-o-h y-e-e-s, yes. I have several pictures of my father riding the wheelchair. HUGHES:
Now, how far did the pathway for the wheelchairs extend? All up and down Palm Beach? Could you go anywheres in them?
Oh yes, yes, because, you see, we didn’t have horse-and-carriages or automobiles or anything like that. HUGHES: [You] had bicycles. HADLEY:
Bicycles and wheelchairs. And bicycle stands, they had them on the lakefront, they had em all over, where you could rent bicycles to ride.
HUGHES: Or you could rent a single or a double wheelchair and go anywhere, eh?
The Fremd sisters and their friends. R to L: Jennie, Anna, and Mae Fremd. Others are unidentified.
Courtesy Jane Hadley Caruso. | TUSTENEGEE
Any idea what it cost an hour to rent one of those?
I think it cost from seventy-five [cents] to a dollar an hour.
Were they comfortable to ride in?
Yes. Yes. We have some here now.
Oh, do you still have some?
I see, every now and then—I saw a man the other day. I had to kinda slow up our driving. He was right in front of me with his lantern hanging underneath.
HUGHES: Oh, for heaven’s sake. I haven’t seen one. HADLEY:
I’ve never seen one here. I’ve seen them in Atlantic City, you know.
Well, didn’t you see that in Look [magazine], where they had the wheelchair?
Yes, I believe I did. Yes, yes.
Well, that was one of the men that used to push the wheelchair. It was hard work.
I’ll bet it was. Somebody told me they used to have rickshaws here, too, at one time.
Yes, but that’s an awful long [time ago]. And then they had a little streetcar—a little street—from the Poinciana to The Breakers on a little track. You know, we had any amount of those pictures and do you know, I can’t find one? My dad always talked to the driver and it was driven by a mule. And they would take them from the Poinciana to The Breakers for the bathing hour, and then they’d
bring them back again. It was very small but very attractive. Everybody just loved to ride on it. HUGHES:
I wonder why Mr. Flagler built the Poinciana on the lakeside—first. I suppose it was easier to get materials there at that time.
HADLEY: Well, I don’t know if that was it, or whether it was just because he was able to buy that property at that time. HUGHES:
Of course, he had real tough luck with The Breakers.
HADLEY: Oh, he lost two hotels. They both burned down. HUGHES:
Didn’t he build the third one?
He was a stubborn man, wasn’t he? [laughs] Gonna have a Breakers there, by golly!
Well, see, he had one [hotel] in Ormond, and he had one in Miami and one in Key West, and then he had two in St. Augustine—the Alcazar and the Ponce de Leon.
Of course, he connected his hotels with the railroad. [laughs]
Yes, yes. That was his whole heart’s desire, to cross that bridge, and he got to do it before he had his accident—you know, when he broke his hip in Whitehall.
And he died up in one of the [Breakers] cottages. Fortunately, my daddy [William Fremd] was eighty-six when he passed away, but he was just as sturdy on his feet as he could be.
Well, it doesn’t look like the years have hurt you any. SPRING 2019
[laughs] Uh, thank you!
Do you remember anything else about those early times? Did you fish or hunt or swim or anything?
N-o-o. We kids used to go down by the lake and catch crabs and do things like that, but my dad, there was an awful lot of work to be done around here when he came here, to get everything in readiness. He laid out the golf course. See, he had everything. And he had all the flowers that went to the Whitehall and The Breakers and the Poinciana, a rose garden and all kinds of other flowers. And he really was a busy man. Dad was very good to his help, and he had quite a few of them.
How many did he have on the staff here, any idea?
No. And in the wintertime, they all had to wear white uniforms. That was the order. Mr. Flagler wanted them all in white. But those were white men. The colored men were off in another section. But he had white and colored men to work.
Well, that must’ve been quite a sight, to see them out there tending to the great horticultural display in their white uniforms.
Yes, it was. It was neat. I see across the town of Palm Beach here now, their people that run the trucks for the garbage and what-have- you; they’re all in white.
Oh, are they?
Uh-huh. Which I think makes it look neat, don’t you?
HUGHES: Yes. HADLEY: 26
I’ve been to all the places and I’ve tried so hard to make my mind up, after we were married, to live
here and there, but I think there’s something so beautiful about living here in Palm Beach. Have you been here long? HUGHES:
It’s a magnificent place. I’ve been in Florida twelve years.
HADLEY: I guess you’ve heard about the balls they used to have in the Poinciana. HUGHES:
I’ve heard just that they had them but not much of the detail.
My dad worked for two nights decorating the dining room because the ballroom was too small.
HUGHES: How many people would they have? HADLEY:
Oh! People would pay as much as $25—that is, our home people— just to see that ball, because it was beautiful, and they had two orchestras playing.
They had to import those too?
Well, the Poinciana had an orchestra and The Breakers had an orchestra. One would be on one side and one on the other. And the gowns were just, naturally, exquisite.
Where did women shop for those kind of gowns?
HADLEY: They had stores right there in the hotels. HUGHES:
Oh, they did? Real fancy.
Oh, yes. Like Greenleaf and Crosby, they were in there. And Madam Magabgab, she had one of the nicest shops. What was her name?
HADLEY: Magabgab. HUGHES:
Magabgab. [laughs] Where did she come from?
Of course, she was of foreign—I did hear one time where she came from. She wasn’t French. But that was a funny name, wasn’t it? She and her husband.
Yes, it was. All these people had shops elsewhere? Or just here?
Well, as we grew, then shops began to go out a little further. There was a shop in the section up there, and they had even a movie theater. You know where that new building has gone up on the corner of Seminole [Avenue] near the lake? Well, down in there.
Of course, Bradley’s [Beach Club] was there. That was quite a place.
Could anybody go to Bradley’s?
No, no residents.
No residents could go.
HADLEY: Nobody from West Palm Beach or Palm Beach that lived here. Only guests. In other words, you had to be wealthy or you couldn’t come in.
kind of friendly, he and Mr. Bradley. HUGHES: Now, I got the impression that Mr. Bradley had had a gambling place in St. Augustine before he came here. HADLEY:
Well if he did, that I don’t remember. I was in [Bradley’s], but I fortunately got in through Claude Reese’s father, Tipton Reese, T. T. Reese. Because the Dimicks were here. There were a lot of old-timers here.
What was it like inside that club? Was it very plush?
Oh, yes, it was very lovely.
Do you remember anything about the decorations or the furnishings?
N-o-o-o, I was in my teens at that time and I just couldn’t remember. I just thought it was so gorgeous.
Did they have a restaurant? Did they serve food?
Yes. A luncheon, they’d have, something like they do at The Breakers now. And then at night, they’d have dinner. But that was all separate from the other place, [which] you couldn’t get in unless a man said you could. You had to show your card and everything, who you were. Now you could go in the restaurant, I think, if you were in with a member of the club. You could be brought in for that. But you couldn’t get into the other part of it.
But if you lived here, you couldn’t go. Did that prevail always, all the time the club was in existence?
All the time it was in existence, because [E. R. Bradley] felt like some people would be spending money that shouldn’t be spending it. That was just a theory, and it was a good one.
He felt that if you could afford to go to the Poinciana or to The Breakers, you could afford to gamble.
I see. Mrs. Hadley, you’ve been delightful and I’m very grateful to you. I promise not to use your secret material.
That’s right, that’s right. Mr. Flagler, you know, he didn’t like the idea at first, but they became
Oh, that crazy stuff, pl-e-e-ease . . .
Tending a coconut grove. Courtesy HSPBC.
OUR FIRST FAMILIES by Eva Crane From the Archives: A 1935 typescript from the Horticulture Collection (unedited)
rom my title one might think I intend a thesis in genealogy. Oh no! While it is a most fascinating study I do not intend to discuss the genealogy of plants or men— only how our plants come to us—what our early gardens were like and who brought these beauties to our shores.
What did these sturdy Pioneers find here? I mean in the way of flowers, as I am not trying to give a history of these early settlers and their trials in their attempt to establish a new home in this tropical jungle. Their experiences would form the nucleus of a most exciting book, but we are interested only in tracing their connection with the flora.
Let us start back in 1876 when there were no human families here, just three bachelors The trees were what we find now if we living in the area which has since become Palm leave the beaten path, but the flowers were few. Beach. Late in that year into the inlet sailed a When I asked Mrs. Dimick to tell me of her first schooner bringing a family to these shores—a garden here she replied “My first garden was large family, the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Moore composed entirely of sweet potatoes, and glad Dimick; two sons, Messrs. Elisha were we to get them, too.” We and Franklin with their wives and can easily imagine that food “My first garden was was their first thought and children; and a daughter, Mrs. Geer and Mr. Geer and son. As composed entirely of flowers a secondary considerboth Dimick sons had married but gardens follow the sweet potatoes, and ation, sisters of Mr. Geer this group establishment of homes as glad were we to get surely as night follows day, and might well be considered one family. On their schooner were very soon from their neighbors them, too.” loaded lumber for their new on Hypoluxo Island slips of homes in the wilderness, their the Hibiscus and leaves of the furniture, and food supplies Bryophyllum were obtained Mrs. Dimick which were supposed to last and our Pioneer gardens were them a year but failed to do so. started. These plants had been They had purchased from the government strips brought from Titusville by Mr. Pierce in ’74. From of land running from the Lake to the Ocean at a place just North of them near the site of the $1.25 per acre. Mr. Dimick, Sr. had a strip where first Bethesda they obtained other plants, for to the Railroad Station now stands - the daughter this spot during the early years of the Civil War came next with the present site of the Poinciana had come…a German Horticulturalist named - Mr. Franklin Dimick next with the present Lang from the Indian River section. They had Whitehall grounds and Mr. Elisha farthest South cleared about two acres of the jungle and planted with what was known to us for many years as the limes, lemons, oranges, guavas, and figs, and the Commodore Clarke Estate. very first Geiger tree ever brought here. He had SPRING 2019
Augustus Lang. Drawing by George Potter. Courtesy HSPBC.
built a … house and had a hedge of Oleanders. So, to Mr. Lang must go the credit of introducing these families, but to the later arrivals must go the credit of the increase. After the war was over Mr. and Mrs. Lang disappeared as they came, abandoning their home, but the flowers and trees lived on and multiplied as the number of settlers on the Lake increased. I think Mr. Lang must have brought the Plumbago as it is one of the earliest flowers the old settlers mention and no one seems to remember who brought it. Just prior to the Dimick arrival in 1876 a lone sailor walking the beach discovered the trail leading to the Lang cabin and took possession of the place, living there until his death years later. He it was who planted the first Cocoanuts before the wreck that brought the boat load ashore in 1878; and he it was who increased the Guava family by giving trees to all settlers. COCOANUTS You have doubtless all heard stories of the Cocoanut wreck, but as they vary, I am going to repeat it as I have it first hand from Mr. [Charlie] Pierce. The boat was a little Spanish barkentine 30
that had been to Trinidad, and loaded with nuts was returning to Cadiz. It came under full sail straight on to the beach. Being old and rotten, upon striking the shore the deck lifted and the cargo of nuts rose and floated ashore. Two of the early settlers, the very earliest in fact, Messrs. Lainhart and Hammon, claimed the captain gave them the boat and cargo. The day after the boat came ashore, Mr. Pierce, then a lad, and his father working in their garden on Hypoluxo Island, heard a boat give a long sharp blast. Hurrying to the beach they saw the sailors from the wreck rowing out to a steamer that was standing by waiting for them, saw the small boat hoisted aboard and the steamer sail away. Looking up the shore they spied the wreck and proceeded to walk up the beach to it. They found Messrs. Lainhart and Hammon in possession, and from them purchased several hundred nuts at 2-1/2¢ each which they planted at Hypoluxo and near what is now Boynton. The remainder were planted by the settlers farther North near Palm Beach and at Manalapan. So it seems our Pioneers purchased their Cocoanuts instead of receiving a gift from the old Atlantic, as tradition had passed it down to us. Can you visualize this place without its Cocoanut trees? Whether this wreck was accidental or premeditated, the effect is the same. Without it, this place [would] have remained … Lake Worth, as it was first was called. As news of this wonderful spot seeped out to other parts of the country more people came sailing in to find homes and enjoy the marvelous climate, but things remained decidedly primitive for several years. No butter for nine years after the Dimicks came, and when it did it was in cans— mail came once a month and other comforts still “castles in the air” or Hopes. GARDEN OF EDEN Among the first people to come as Tourists were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cragin, who came long before Mr. Flagler brought the railroad. So much in love with the place did they become they bought a large tract of land quite a distance North of the Dimick settlement and built the first really nice house and made the first real garden. They came here for the Winter climate, not to seek their fortune, as Mr. Cragin had already made that in Dobbin’s Soap, and he proceeded to spend it lavishly in making the Garden of Eden one of the loveliest spots ever seen here or anywhere. He brought us the double pink Hibiscus and many other varieties. His Cactus bed was famous the country over, for he spared
Cragin's Reve d'Ete. Courtesy HSPBC.
Painting by Kevin Hutchinson. Courtesy Tim Robinson.
neither trouble nor expense in importing rare specimens. They called their place Reve d’Ete or Dream of Summer—the rest of the people called it Garden of Eden, and for many years it was the garden of this vicinity. Mr. Cragin introduced the Frangipani family here, for from his original tree many were raised as he generously gave of his rare plants. An amusing thing about this tree was the fact that for years we called it the breadfruit tree. We loved its pure white blossoms and wondered why it didn’t fruit. Who started this error I know not, but we were credulous concerning this wonderful spot, so much so that had we been told that a scion of Eve’s original apple tree was growing there we’d have believed it and mounted our wheels for a trip up the trail to see if it resembled the apple trees back home.
The Albizzia Lebbek (Woman’s Tongue), the Tamarind, the Sapodilla and nearly all the large trees on the present Hotel grounds were brought then and planted by these early Pioneers. For fertilizer, they used the bodies of alligators that they had shot for their hides and teeth, and fish gathered from the shores of the Lake after a cold snap had chilled them and brought them ashore. These early settlers didn’t miss a trick, they utilized all at hand. In the Summer of ’86, the first Poinciana tree bloomed here. The Royal Palms were brought at this time and the first ones planted by the Elisha Dimicks are still standing on the Clarke Estate and their children are growing all around them.
Later, as we became more flower conscious, and acquired more books, we discovered our error and welcomed the Frangipani rubra that someone tried to foist on us as a Brazilian Rubber plant. The Cragins, the lovers and creators of this garden, left us some years ago and no one lives at Reve d’Ete but a colored caretaker. Last Summer I made a trip to this garden and tried to picture it as I saw it over a quarter of a century ago. I found many of the old inhabitants, but time, neglect and hurricanes have had their effects—the once famous cactus bed is a skeleton and I came away saddened by my visit.
In the early ’80s, Rev. E. Gale came to the Lake homesteading a tract of land in what is now Northwood. His house stood where 29th and Dixie now cross. From the government he obtained several Mango trees for testing here, among them was the Mulgoba which proved most popular. From this one tree has sprung a large family as buds were obtained from it and used to change common turpentine varieties to a more the more delicious Mulgoba. From this tree was also developed the new even more popular Hayden - a better Mango to ship. This tree as you all know was moved to Pioneer Park, a most fitting location for such a famous tree. But it failed to survive the change as it was in poor shape from storm damage and neglect.
POINCIANA Many have wondered how and when the first Poinciana tree came. In ’83 or ’84 some members of the Dimick family took a trip to the Bahamas seeking slips and tropical fruits. They brought back everything obtainable that would be edible and among their seeds were also those of the Poinciana and Ceiba or silk cotton.
MR. BEACH Though he didn’t come here until later— in 1895—right here is a good place to mention another Pioneer, one of our best known and most able Horticulturists, John B. Beach, because of his work with the Mango. Mr. Beach was the first man in America to bud the Mango. In 1887 SPRING 2019
he showed the Director of Government Gardens in Jamaica the process. He was also much interested in Banana cultivation and was the first President of the Banana Growers Association. He discovered or rather invented a method of grafting the Avocado while it is young and tender instead of budding it as they formerly did after it had reached maturity. This method made a great change in the cultivation of the Avocado. While his most important work was with the citrus and tropical fruit trees, we have him to thank for many of our beautiful palms and ornamentals. AUSTRALIAN PINES In the late 80’s Mrs. Lyman living at Lantana obtained from the government some seeds of the Australian Pine and started what has become a very large family. She found after experimenting that the best method of propagation was to scatter her seeds on top of the soil and cover with wet gunny sacks. Quick germination followed this treatment and she soon had a goodly supply and sold to Mr. Flagler the trees that border the once famous walk from the Poinciana to the Breakers and for planting in our own Woodlawn Cemetery. For many years Mrs. Lyman was the only one to grow these trees commercially. Later the winds and the waves of Lake Worth scattered the seeds of this beautiful tree far and wide and Mother Nature seems to be a most successful gardener, and our visitor has become almost a native and takes nearly as important a place in our landscape as the Cocoanut. MR. MATTHAMS Experiments by early settlers proving that this sandy soil was good for raising Pineapples, newcomers migrated to Lake Worth’s shores to start this industry. Among the earliest to come was Mr. G. C. Matthams to manage a plantation for a Chicago Corporation. This plantation comprised what is now known as the Flamingo section, and a field of Pineapples extended from Dixie Highway westward over the ridge to Parker Avenue. This was a beautiful sight and was taken over and kept in existence by the F.E.C. long after the original company had failed to make it a success financially. As it was easily seen from all passing trains Mr. Flagler considered it good advertising. Mr. Matthams being a lover of flowers added his gifts to our gardens. On a trip to the Islands he brought back many plants new to this region. He gave us the Petrea, the Pachira (both pink and white) and a number of Jasmines. 32
He was undoubtedly the first to raise Orchids here and he counted that year a loss when he had no Orchid in bloom to give Mrs. Flagler for the famous Washington Ball. Mr. Matthams loved his trees and plants but his floral families did not grow fast during his life time owing to his desire to have unusual and rare plants. I think he parted with but three Petreas. After his death his original plant fell into other hands and spread rapidly until it is no longer rare, but just as beautiful. One of our members, Mrs. S., is in a way responsible for the increase in Mr. Matthams floral families. In the interests of conservation, she saved many of his valuable specimens from the lot cleaners axe and fire. She discovered and saved his Triphasia or Lime Berry and she accomplished the heretofore unknown feat, raised a Petrea from a cutting. OUR PARK When West Palm Beach was laid out, an irregular tract between Myrtle and Poinciana Streets was set aside by Mr. Flagler for a Park. This tract was used for some time as a baseball field by the merchants who had shops along Narcissus Street. Many a hot game was played there while the shopkeepers were waiting for customers. The usual method was for one man to act as sentry while the rest went for the game. If the unusual happened and a would-be shopper appeared it was an easy manner for the sentry to call in the special man needed. Finally Mr. George Idner decided it was time for the land to be used for a park, but how this feat was to be accomplished was the question, for even then the City Fathers had their money troubles and had not yet learned the purchasing power of scrip. So Mr. Idner, alone and unaided, started the work planting Cocoanuts, Crotons and anything else he could find, but just as he got started his business took him to Cuba for a few years and our Park was again a waif. Then Mrs. Leone Decker, the first woman to do Civic Beautification work here, took its care upon her shoulders and worked faithfully to beautify it. At the time of Mrs. Decker’s death, the Park had become a credit to any city of the size of West Palm Beach. Then the city took over its care, and from time to time it has been changed and improved until now I am afraid neither Mr. Idner nor Mrs. Decker would recognize their child.
PURPLE ALAMANDA Three plants of entirely different families have grown here bearing the name Purple Allamanda. One alone is entitled to it—Allamanda Purpurea. This original plant was brought to the shores of Lake Worth by a Mr. Henderson, one of the earlier English settlers, and planted on the East shore of Lake Worth, a short distance North of the Garden of Eden. Here it grew for many years, the only specimen of its kind in this section, and I believe in this country, as Mr. Henderson brought it with him from England. Mr. Matthams told me that this Mr. Henderson was the Horticulturalist for whom the Allamanda Hendersoni was named, and this doubtless is correct as Mr. Matthams was a man of careful statements. There had been very few plants propagated from this original plant until Mrs. Henderson, several years after her husband’s death, sold it to Mr. Delavan for the enormous sum of $5.00, and he proceeded to propagate it in a wholesome manner. While it is rather difficult to raise from cuttings, it is not as difficult as we were led to believe by the prices charged. The next one, the Bigonia Magnifica, a specimen of which has been growing on the house just South of Miramar Inn for a number of years and called by many Purple Allamanda, was originally brought to Munyon’s Island by Mr. and Mrs. Pitts, early owners of the Island. The original plant, parent of all these in this section, grew until the 1928 storm killed it - a magnificent specimen.
John Beach. Courtesy HSPBC.
Bougainvilla. Photo by Caroline Frazier..
The third much more universally called Purple Allamanda than the Bigonia is the Cryptostegia or Rubber Vine. This was introduced to this Country by Mr. Thomas Rickards I, and grew at Boca Raton for years before it was found by Clark and De Gettrau, landscape men, and brought here for planting in Prospect Park some fifteen or more years ago. Why this vine did not spread faster I cannot understand as it grew so easily and its seeds fly everywhere as it’s milkweed-like pods burst open. However, since its introduction it has spread rapidly until now the family is large and seems as much at home as the Periwinkle, which is an escapee from a pioneer garden and not a native wildflower as so many imagine. Some of the eldest settlers can even remember a day when the much detested sandspur was not here. It is believed to have come in hay imported after the advent of the horse, and has made itself very much at home, to say the least. SPRING 2019
PURPLE BOUGAINVILLEA If you know your West Palm Beach history, you know that our first Mayor was Mr. John Earman. Many of you remember his wonderful work with his roses during the last years of his life, but in 1893 and on for a few years he was more interested in Civic Affairs, and it was left to Mrs. Earman to attend to the home garden which she did most efficiently. She planted along the East side of the Earman House on Datura Street the Purple Bougainvillea. These were slips from the Cragin Estate. In 1906, when we came, they were wonderful. The worm that now preys on them had not then found its way to our shores. There are only a few of us who had the pleasure of knowing this quiet, generous little pioneer lady, but we knew that from her garden went slips, plants and bulbs that her neighbors might share her joys. She it was who had the first Eucharis Lily (only we called it a Cup and Saucer Lily then). There are children and grand children of this first plant growing here. My own is a descendant, but I have lost count of the generation. CRIMSON BOUGAINVILLEA In 1903 Mr. J. B. Donnelly, one of the most able gardeners, came to the Clarke Estate. He obtained many rare plants from the government for trial, among them the Crimson Bougainvillea. Knowing how well the Purple had adapted itself to conditions here, he had great expectations of the Crimson. He planted his specimen on the West side of the Louis Clarke house and it stood there. It neither died nor grew. What the trouble was Mr. Donnelly couldn’t seem to decide. Finally one day in disgust when he and Mr. Delavan were discussing it, he said, “Delevan, you take the damn thing and see what you can do with it.” Mr. Delevan transplanted it to his nursery and it immediately started to grow and proved very profitable to Mr. Delavan. The second plant was brought here by Sidney Smith, one of the original owners of El Cid, on his return from a trip to Mexico. This was a sickly little specimen and it too fell into Mr. Delavan’s hands and was nursed back to health by his negro helper, whom we always claimed had green fingers because he could make anything grow. From those two plants came most of our Crimson Bougainvilleas. GLORIOSA Our Gloriosa was brought here by Mr. Baum, who came to the Lake early in this Century, 1901 or 1902. By this time it was easier 34
to obtain plants, as the trains brought daily mail, and in each household you were sure to find two books, Sears Roebuck catalog and Reasoner’s, called respectively by the wags of that day—The Florida Bible and The New Testament. It was from Reasoner’s that Mr. Baum ordered the Gloriosa. A large number of our Gloriosa are children of this original bulb. It was Mr. Baum who, finding he had a little spare room in the car he had charted to bring his household goods here, filled six sugar barrels with Chicago soil and brought them South to add to his Florida real estate, making a rather unusual mixture. Whether this or his unceasing diligence accounted for his beautiful garden, I’m not inclined to say. SPATHODEA There may have been a Spathodea in Mr. Cragin’s or Mr. Clark’s collection of rare trees previously, but I believe the first one on this side of the Lake was planted in a yard on Florida Avenue corner of O Street. This tree with several others was obtained from the Department of Agriculture by an employee in the Post Office. As he had no place of his own on which to plant them, his friends the Nishpaughs. This was in 1916. This tree has children scattered about town, one on Gardenia Street in Mrs. Puckett’s yard, taller than her house, and many smaller ones among the Founders Circle members, thanks to Mrs. Earman’s generosity this Summer. Styles in gardens change as in everything else. Once Traveller’s Trees were all the rage, now they are seldom seen. In our early days here a Phyllanthus hedge was a necessity. You just could not belong to the 400 if you hadn’t somewhere in your yard a Phyllanthus border, but it finally had its enemy, a worm that killed many of the plants and a great deal of the growers’ enthusiasm. Now you rarely see it, and when you do, it is only in single plants. While the early gardens were beautiful, landscaping was an undiscovered art. Proximity to the pump was the chief consideration when planting. With the increase in the number of millionaire homes across the Lake came the landscape architects, and with the City Water System more pretentious gardens were possible. Clark and De Gottrau were among our first landscape men and they brought us the Pithecellobium, the Podocarpus. Pittosporum and several new Ficus, but it was our own Mrs. Burkhardt who brought us the Brazilian Pepper that has become so popular.
Among the earliest plants here was the Clerodendrun Siphonantha or Turk’s Turban, So early, in fact I was unable to trace its origin, but you find it growing where history tells you a house once stood but all traces of which have been erased. It seems to be the one plant that can survive anything. The Crotons, too, are old settlers. Most people associate them with the Poinciana, but they were here prior to its arrival, being brought by a Mr. McCormick, who purchased the Geer property, later selling to Mr. Flagler. Some of you may remember his cottage, as it stood in the Poinciana Garden for many years—Croton Cottage—later being moved to the Breakers row of cottages on the ocean front. I might go on and tell of other floral families and how they came, but the later arrivals you know as well as I. You know of whom you think when you hear the name Gerbera - Mrs. Young. You all know what our gardens owe to Mrs. Baldwin, but I’m thinking that long after her rarer introductions are forgotten we’ll bless
her for starting the Tribulus family. I remember we had many a chuckle over the price of her first Tribulus plant, but it rivaled Jack’s bean stalk in growth and she gave away literally bushels of cuttings, and now we meet the jolly blossoms all around. I doubt if there were ever before as much sunshine scattered for the original outlay of a dollar. In closing I ask, let us not, as we are apt to do, take all this beauty about us as a matter of course, when it has been brought about by constant care and attention. While we give all credit to those who are doing the beautification work now, let’s not forget those who blazed the way. Written by Mrs. Frederick Crane. November 1935. Transcribed 04/16/2019 from typescript by Sharon Friedheim.
Growing pineapples. circa 1890s. Courtesy HSPBC.
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Historical Society of Palm Beach County 2019-2020 Officers Board Chair Thomas M. Kirchhoff First Vice Chair Ross W. W. Meltzer Second Vice Chair Mark Stevens Third Vice Chair Jeffrey P. Phipps Sr. Secretary Richard S. Johnson Jr. Treasurer Thomas Burns, CPA Member at Large Joseph Chase
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The Historical Society of Palm Beach County has established The James Augustine Ponce Endowment for Exhibition Development at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, in honor of the late James Augustine Ponce, Palm Beach's "two-legged, historical landmark." Through the Community Foundation’s Forever Nonprofit Endowment Challenge, HSPBC was selected to receive a $25,000 matching grant for setting up the permanent endowment. The growth from this investment will support the annual special exhibitions in the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum. Please contact us to learn how your investment can provide an opportunity to link our shared past to future generations at 561.832.4164 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corporate Membership with the HSPBC offers benefits for your employees and clients to fully experience and enjoy the Johnson History Museum and other Society programs year-round.
Benefits to all Corporate Members:
Admission to all lectures Professionally supported access to the archives and research library; amount varies by level Invitations by mail to all special events 20% discount for all employees in our Museum Store Opportunity to hold an event at the 1916 Historic Court House Listing in the Tustenegee journal; access by mail and electronically 10% discount on all use fees in the Research Department
Opportunity to hold a corporate event at the Museum with no administrative honorarium Exclusive, curator-led private tour of the Museum’s exhibitions and collections for up to 12 guests Complimentary admission to VIP events for six guests Up to two hours consultation with curator on how to set up archives. (4) 16” x 20” prints of a historical photograph(s) from the HSPBC Archives. Restrictions apply. Linked logo on the Historical Society’s website www.hspbc.org
Opportunity to host a corporate event at the Museum with 50% discount on administrative honorarium Private docent-led tour of the Museum’s exhibitions for up to 30 guests Complimentary admission to VIP events for four guests Up to two hours consultation with curator on how to set up archives. (3) 16” x 20” prints of a historical photograph(s) from the HSPBC Archives. Restrictions apply. Linked logo on the Historical Society website www.hspbc.org
Complimentary admission to VIP events for two guests (2) 16” x 20” prints of a historical photograph(s) from the HSPBC Archives. Restrictions apply. Linked logo on the Historical Society website www.hspbc.org
(1) 16” x 20” print of a historical photograph from the HSPBC Archives. Restrictions apply. Two professionally supported research in the HSPBC Archives /Library, by appointment Company name and logo at www.hspbc.org
1 hour professionally supported research in the HSPBC Archives /Library by appointment Company name and logo at www.hspbc.org
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From the Archives by Debi Murray
All photos courtesy HSPBC.
With all the scaffolding gone, Halsey & Griffith, Inc.â€™s building is the epitome of 1950 architecture.
A cement truck from another legendary local business, Rinker Materials, outside the H & G building.
Halsey & Griffith remained open for business during the buildingâ€™s expansion, circa 1950.
Moving day! Wilkinson Transfer & Storage delivering to the nearly completed building.
The office supply store also sold books.
Do you remember walking into Halsey & Griffith, Inc. and inhaling the rarified air of stationery, books, and office supplies? Sadly, the store at 319 Datura Street is gone, but a recent donation to the HSPBC archives by James Siemon of rare photographs of the interior of the hallowed institution included images of the business’s 1950 expansion. The archives already held a research folder on Halsey & Griffith, both the business and the men who founded it. The main manuscript in the folder is from the obituary collection of The Sun, a descendent newspaper of the Tropical Sun. In the mid-1930s, the paper would send out questionnaires to local businessmen and create rough drafts of their obits before they were needed. This time, they also wrote a draft detailing H&G’s history. According to the draft, the business started in 1920, “in a mere cubby hole, only twelve by fourteen feet in size, on Poinsettia Avenue.” Other write-ups place its start in 1921, with its incorporation in 1924. By the mid-1930s, the business occupied over 10,000 square feet on Datura Street and averaged annual sales of $200,000, with 20 employees. Not bad for the height of the Depression.
With the windows enclosed, this appears to be a pre-expansion view of the interior.
Check out the globes!
The completed building and surrounding businesses.
Halsey & Griffith also sold office equipment.
H & Gâ€™s Underwood display at what appears to be a trade show.
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