Q: Where was the old turning basin in downtown West Palm Beach? – Dr. Joel Cohen, Jupiter
A: Where waterways once ruled the city’s commerce, now only a tiny pond remains, on the northern end of Howard Park, at the southeast corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and Parker Avenue across from the Kravis Center. Here’s the story, courtesy of Joan Goldberg, cultural affairs adviser for the city of West Palm Beach, and Mary Brandenburg, a former city commissioner and now a state representative.
Clear Lake is now bordered on the east by Australian Avenue. In the early 20th century, it extended farther east, covering what’s now Howard Park. It then was more like a swamp. By 1917, much of it had been filled in and its area shrunk. An orphaned remnant was dredged to form a basin. A stub canal, originally 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep, connected the basin not to Clear Lake, but to the West Palm Beach Canal, which came from Lake Okeechobee. The stub canal veered northeast; the West Palm Beach canal continued southeast to Lake Clarke Shores and out into the Intracoastal Waterway at the West Palm Beach-Lake Worth line.
At the turning basin, barges unloaded passengers and crates of Glades produce. Some were transferred to railroad cars on a spur. On the facility’s formal opening day, May 17, 1918, 5,000 crates of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cabbage and eggplants were transferred to 10 railroad freight cars – twice what merchants had anticipated. The basin also featured docks and slips and a produce market.
Next week: The demise of the turning basin