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Historic Pahokee Hit Hard Times

Larry Wright, who is active in the local history of the Glades, writes to ask about his alma mater.

The historic 11-building Pahokee High School complex — built in 1928 and which stood in the great hurricane later that year — officially opened for the 1930-31 school year at 360 E. Main St.

At the time, Pahokee, which shipped produce down canals to the coast,was one of South Florida’s most important cities and the third most populous in Palm Beach County.

Until Belle Glade High was built in 1941, Pahokee High served the Glades from Port Mayaca, in western Martin County, all the way around Lake Okeechobee and nearly to Clewiston.

Pahokee was the first school in the county to be integrated.

At a huge black walnut tree, generations of friends met after class.

Out back, on a second-floor balcony, boys gathered to watch the girls go by.

And out front, a flagpole was the site of many a marriage proposal.

Workers and former students have found decades-old handwritten love notes and failed tests wadded and jammed into crevices behind chalkboards.

In 1998, the Palm Beach County School Board closed the complex, to make way for a new Pahokee High, and turned it over to the city.

Residents said it needed either to undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation, and then become a new city hall complex, a mall, an adult living center, an RV park, a museum, even a bed-and-breakfast — or be razed.
Leaving a shuttered eyesore wasn’t an option.

But that’s just what happened for two decades.

Even after its rich history and Mediterranean Revival architecture earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, it continued to stand rotting, fouled by squatters, litterbugs, the elements, wildlife and the march of time.

Next Week: New life.
Palm Beach Post file photo: This photo was taken during a peaceful demonstration on April 24, 1969 at Pahokee High School. Students are (from left) George H. Tucker III, president of the student body; Eugene Reed, Jimmie Wilson and Norman Seabrook. The students demonstrated for 10 minutes during lunchtime, then there were speeches, the pledge to the flag and the school song. They then returned to their classrooms. The school was the first in the county to be integrated.


Posted in Eliot Kleinberg May 14, 2009 at 9:53 am.

1 comment

One Reply

  1. Maria Hernandez Mills Sep 7th 2013

    I was in that crowd that day and it was a peaceful demonstration. These boys were members of my class, the Seniors of 1969. We were protesting because we had heard our school was going to be closed down and a bigger school built to accomodate the students coming from East Lake School as we became desegragated.

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