Founded In 1894, West Palm Is Oldest City In Palm Beach County
On Nov. 5, 1894, 87 of the town’s 500 or so residents, gathered “atop the calaboose” (the jailhouse) at Poinsettia (now Dixie) and Banyan streets and voted 77-1 to incorporate “West Palm Beach.” The area had originally been called Westpalmbeach, a single word, then split into three words.
The historic buildings, structures, and sites within the boundaries of the City are listed by “neighborhoods.” The concept of historic neighborhoods was developed as a means of organizing areas within the community that have unique characteristics which set them apart from other areas. The boundaries of historic neighborhoods were established based on geography, topography, historic use, and types of buildings within the area.
Click here to view the West Palm Beach Historic Preservation Program.
Developed from 1925 to 1935 as a neighborhood for tradesmen and real estate salesmen who helped develop Palm Beach County, some of Belair was originally a pineapple plantation owned by Richard Hone.
Hones’s frame vernacular house, built around 1895, still stands at 211 Plymouth Road.
After Hone was murdered in 1902, his property was sold to George Currie, who created Currie Development Co. But before it was developed, the land was sold to William Ohlhaber, who raised coconut palms and ferns.
Eventually, Ohlhaber platted the subdivision and sold off lots. The first house built in the subdivision was Ohlhaber’s mission-style home at 205 Pilgrim. Ohlhaber’s grandson said Ohlhaber bought the tract to provide dockage for his 90-foot yacht, but the yacht ran aground in the Gulf of Mexico and never reached Lake Worth.
In 1947 Hone’s house was bought by Max Brombacher, Henry Flagler’s chief engineer, and it remains in the Brombacher family today.
Belair became West Palm Beach’s fourth historic district in August 1993.
Central Park Historic District
Central Park is a collective name for several subdivisions north of Southern Boulevard. It originally was part of the Estates of South Palm Beach (which went from Wenonah Place to Pilgrim Road ease of Dixie Highway).
Like other West Palm Beach neighborhoods, the Estates of South Palm Beach boomed after Henry Flagler’s descent on Palm Beach. In 1884, James W. Copp, a bachelor in the boating business, borrowed $367.20 from Valentine Jones to buy the land. The ownership of what is now known as Central Park changed hands many times before being developed. Around 1919, the tropical wilderness was transformed into an exclusive neighborhood with curbed roads, sidewalks and a pier (at the foot of what is now Southern Boulevard).
The neighborhood became part of West Palm Beach in 1926, and was named a city historic district in December 1993. In 1999 the neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Clematis Street Historic Commercial District was listed in the West Palm Beach Register of Historic Places in 1996 and in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The district is significant for its association with the development of commerce in West Palm Beach and represents and expansion of the City’s primary commercial street, which first developed to the east. It is also architecturally significant for its collection of vernacular, commercial architecture of the early twentieth-century; for its embodiment of distinguishing elements of design, detailing, materials and craftsmanship. Mango Promenade became a West Palm Beach historic district in 1995 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
El Cid Historic District
Noted for its Mediterranean revival and mission-style homes, El Cid developed in the height of Florida’s real estate boom.
In the late 1800’s, most of the land north of Sunset Road was pineapple fields, but the crop dwindled in the early 1900’s. Pittsburgh socialite Jay Phipps subdivided the old pineapple fields in the 1920’s. He named it El Cid, after the celebrated Spanish hero, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, who conquered Valencia in 1094. He was called “Cid”, meaning “lord”.
The home of Ralph and Ann Norton (he founded the Norton Gallery of Art) at 253 Barcelona Road is on the National Register of Historic Places.
El Cid became a city historic district in June 1993. In 1995 the neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally a pineapple plantation, Flamingo Park was established by local contractors and developers (such as Hansell Hall, James Ebert, Clare Warner and Edward Roddy), who saw the potential in this area — one of the highest coastal ridge sections from downtown West Palm Beach to Miami. Some ridge houses even had ocean views from upper floors.
Houses cost about $10,000 to $18,000 in the boom era, and many buyers were owners of shops and businesses on fashionable Dixie Highway nearby. Recently, residents rallied to have stop signs installed throughout the neighborhood and have banded together to ward off commercial and industrial zoning. Property values are rising as residents renovate and restore Spanish-style houses.
Most of the homes in the neighborhood, developed from 1921 to 1930, are mission style, but nearly every style is represented. There are many Mediterranean revival-style houses along the high ridge line.
Only two buildings in the historic district are known to have been designed by architects: 701 Flamingo Drive designed by Harvey and Clarke, and the Armory Arts Center designed by William Manly King.
The neighborhood became a West Palm Beach historic district in January 1993 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Grandview Heights Historic District
One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods still intact, Grandview Heights was built as an extension of Palm Beach Heights from around 1910 to 1925.
Almost all of Palm Beach Heights and half of Grandview Heights was demolished in 1989 to make way for the proposed Downtown/Uptown project, which remains undeveloped.
Grandview Heights originally attracted construction workers who helped build the luxury hotels, ministers and store owners.
In recent years, residents rallied to stop random demolition of neighborhood homes. And they banded together to chase drug dealers and prostitutes from the neighborhood. New investors are helping bring back the neighborhood, which has one of the city’s best collection of early craftsman-style bungalows, as well as some modest, Mediterranean revival-style homes.
The neighborhood became a West Palm Beach historic district in 1995 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
This District was the home of early area settlers. Later many individuals prominent in West Palm Beach’s development lived in the District. Much of
the district maintains the integrity of setting, design, materials, and scale that reflect its development in the decades before, during, and after the Florida Land Boom era of the mid-1920s. Historical Context — At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, southeastern Florida was a wilderness, recently made safe from Indian attack. The first permanent residents of European descent arrived in present-day Palm Beach County during the 1870s. Most settled on the east shore of Lake Worth, now the site of the Town of Palm Beach. These early settlers established farms on both sides of Lake Worth, at first primarily cultivating pineapples. Benjamin Lanehart, whose homestead included most of the Mango Promenade Historic District, was one of the pineapple growers. Vegetables for northern shipment quickly became more profitable and replaced pineapples as the major products of the area.
An expansion of Old Northwood, Northboro Park was mostly custom houses for upper-middle-class professionals. Most of the houses are Mediterranean
revival, mission and frame vernacular.
Developed from 1923 to 1940, the neighborhood became the city’s second historic district (November 1992) and the historic designation may soon expand north to 45th Street.
The oldest building in the neighborhood is Northboro Elementary School at 36th Street and Spruce, built in 1925 by DaCamara and Chace. The first home in Northboro Park is 418 36th St., built in 1923.
Northboro Park became a city historic district in 1992. Northboro Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2007.
Northwest Historic District
West Palm Beach’s first historic district to be included on the National Register of Historic Places (February 1992), the Northwest neighborhood
was first settled in 1894, when the black community was moved from the Styx in Palm Beach to West Palm Beach. It also served as the city’s segregated black community from 1929 to 1960 (along with Pleasant City).
Northwest remains a predominantly black community but according to the city planning department, most middle- and upper-class blacks moved to other neighborhoods after desegregation. Tamarind and Rosemary Avenues were the commercial centers for blacks by 1915, but most commercial buildings have been demolished or remodeled so the architecture is no longer significant.
There are still good examples of late 19th- and early 20th-century American bungalow/craftsman-style homes in this neighborhood, which also has mission, shotgun, Bahamian vernacular and American Foursquare styles.
The Alice Frederick Mickens house, at 801 Fourth St., is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mickens was a philanthropist and humanitarian who promoted education for black youth.
Another notable house is the Gwen Cherry house at 625 Division Ave. Cherry, Florida’s first black woman legislator and a resident of Miami, inherited the house from relative Mollie Holt, who built the house in 1926. Now it is the Palm Beach County Black Historical Society.
The Northwest neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The next year the neighborhood became a West Palm Beach historic district in 1993.
Northwood Hills Neighborhood
On August 4th, 2003, the City Commission designated the Northwood Hills neighborhood as the 13th Historic District in the City of West Palm Beach. Northwood Hills comprises the area from 29th Street on the South to 39th Court on the North. The east side of Windsor is the Western boundary, and Greenwood Avenue is the Eastern boundary. The Neighborhood Association has worked several years to achieve the distinction of historic designation.
The Historic District will encompass 592 properties, 19 vacant lots, and City-owned Sullivan Park. This is the first district to be designated since 1996. Northwood Hills has a number of Mission Revival houses, a significant collection of Post-World War II architecture, a unique street layout, and one of the highest elevations in the City. The Northwood Hills neighborhood has also elected to allow the establishment of Bed and Breakfast establishments within the neighborhood.
The Northwood Neighborhoods began to be established in the 1920’s with the arrival of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad (even the eastern most bordering street of our association is called Flagler Drive). The majority of the homes were built between 1925 and 1955 and are an excellent representation of “old South Florida.” In the beginning, the homes were built as winter residences and homes of local business proprietors, including the many artisans working on Palm Beach Island. After World War II, the population began to grow due to the exposure of the area to the many military personnel that were stationed at McArthur Field (now known as Palm Beach International Airport). The proximity to the Intracoastal, the Atlantic Ocean and the hubbub of the thriving West Palm Beach Downtown District were a driving force behind the establishment of the neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has it own flavor and has worked hard to preserve this historic era. Northwood Harbor is no exception. The families that call this area home worked hard to obtain designation as a Historic District. This became a reality in September of 2006.
Old Northwood Historic District
Old Northwood was developed from 1920 to 1927 — the height of the city’s real estate boom. The Pinewood Development Co., whose partners were David F. Dunkle, Orrin Randolph and G.W. Bingham, platted and developed the area, most of which had been owed by the Rev. Elbridge Gale.
Gale, a professor of horticulture, settled here in 1884. He grew tasty Haden mangoes on the property, but later his son converted the land to a poultry farm. Gale’s cabin, built around 1888, was one of the first built on the west side of Lake Worth, on what is now the middle of 29th Street and Poinsettia Avenue. Later the cabin was moved, and it is believed the house at 401 29th St. was built around that cabin, somewhere between 1900 and 1910.
Old Northwood became a neighborhood of what was considered extravagant Mediterranean revival, mission and frame vernacular houses, at $30,000 to $36,000. The buyers were professionals, entrepreneurs and tradesmen. Among them was Dunkle, who was mayor of West Palm Beach.
There are houses here designed by notable architects John Volk (best known for his Palm Beach houses), William Manly King (who designed Palm Beach High School and the Armory Arts Center) and Henry Steven Harvey (whose Seaboard Railroad Passenger Station on Tamarind Avenue is listed in the National Register of Historic Places).
The neighborhood became a West Palm Beach historic district in 1991 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in June 1994.
Prospect Park / Southland Park Historic District
Promoted as a high-end neighborhood patterned after the prominent Prospect Park district in Brooklyn, this area consisted of mostly smaller estates for prominent businesspeople and northern investors. The neighborhood has a high concentration of Mediterranean revival and Mission revival houses. It was developed from 1920 to 1935 and became a city historic district in November 1993.
The St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church Historic District consists of five properties: the 1895 church, located at the northeast corner of North Olive Avenue and 2nd Street, the 1912 Church, located just north of the 1895 church, the 1925 School, located at the southeast corner of North Olive Avenue and 3rd Street, the Rectory, built ca. 1903 and substantially rebuilt in 2000-2001, and a garage building, constructed ca. 1950 and subsequently altered. St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, the oldest parish on the southeast Florida mainland, was established by members of the Jesuit Order from Tampa. The 1895 church is one of the last remaining buildings of the Early Settlement Era (1884-1902) in West Palm Beach. The church was constructed at the southeast corner of Rosemary Avenue and Datura Street on a parcel of land which was donated by Florida land developer, Henry Morrison Flagler. The frame, Gothic Revival style church was dedicated on March 15, 1896. In 1902, Flagler sold a lakefront parcel to St. Ann’s Church for $1 and the church was relocated to its present location at the northeast corner of North Olive Avenue and 2nd Street.
As the congregation grew, it became apparent that a larger church was needed. Under the direction of Father John D. Brislan, S. J., construction of a new church began in 1912, just to the north of the original 1895 church. The cornerstone was laid on February 23, 1913. World War I interfered with the delivery of the arched, stained glass windows from Germany which did not arrive until 1920. The forty (40) stained glass windows were created by Franz Mayer and Company of Munich.
The Vedado-Hillcrest Historic District is an approximately 50 acre, residential area that contains a variety of residential architectural styles that includes architectural styles from the recent past, including Minimal Traditional, Minimal Ranch, Split Level, Contemporary, as well as styles from the Land Boom period, such as Mission, Spanish Colonial, and Mediterranean Revival. The district consists primarily of one-story structures constructed between 1947 and 1957 as well as the Land Boom from 1924-1928. A small number of primary residences have outbuildings, such as garages, garage apartments, and separate apartment structures; the majority of structures have carport or attached garage incorporated into the primary structure. There are also a few multi-family dwellings on the periphery of the district, particularly Parker Avenue. The remaining three blocks of the Hillcrest Subdivision (the rest of which was destroyed in the 1980s as a result of expansion of the Palm Beach International Airport) is included within the district boundaries. The Vedado-Hillcrest Historic District was listed on the West Palm Beach Register of Historic Places in 2007. It is a suburban setting with medium sized lots and structures centrally located on the lots. There are few historic outbuildings, garages, garage apartments, as the majority of buildings incorporate automobile shelter within the primary structures. Additionally, there is a distinguishing lack of site walls and fences that is characteristic of residential suburban development and evokes a cohesive sense of community.
Cashing in on the real estate boom, developers of West Northwood built speculative and custom houses for upper-middle-class professionals from 1925 to ’27. Major developers were DaCamara and Chace, H.E. Rise and J.C. Griswell, and dominant architectural styles are Mediterranean revival and mission.
Although the area was declining, that has reversed in recent years, as more investors buy and restore the houses. West Northwood became a city historic district in August 1993.
Excerpts from “Pioneers in Paradise” by Jan Tuckwood and Eliot Kleinberg.