Black history month
This Week in History
West Palm Beach
World War II
The square building at the center of this photo is the Palm Beach Post-Times building on Datura in 1926. The view is from Dixie Highway looking East down Datura. The Harvey Building, still under construction, is in the background, and the West Palm Beach Fire Department and their equipment are in the foreground. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)
Oct. 23, 1961: Demolition nears completion on the old Post-Times building at 328 Datura in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
The Palm Beach Post gets a new building
July 1960: Aerial shot of the new Post-Times facility on South Dixie Highway.
Nov. 13, 1960: About 2,500 people attend the grand opening of The Palm Beach Post-Times’ new building. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
About 1,000 members of the public tour The Palm Beach Post-Times’ new building. The hooks hanging from the ceiling carried copy to linotype operators. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
In the composing room in 1960 (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
L. Boswell works with a stereotype dry mat, part of the printing press process of the day. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Journalists work in the newsroom as a maintenance man installs a sign. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
The copy desk the day after John F. Kennedy was elected 35th president of the United States. In those days the copy desk was also called the “U-desk” because of the shape of the desk (the boss sat in the middle to control copy flow). The term persists today. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
The Palm Beach Post-Times’ downtown Lake Worth bureau in the 1960s. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Tags: buildings, newspapers, photos, West Palm Beach
Almost 10 years ago, on March 8, 2003, the Norton Museum of Art opened its $20-million, three-story, 45,000-square-foot Nessel wing.
That’s enough of an excuse for us to do a two-parter on the historic museum, featuring some mysterious graves and a big heist.
First, the new wing. It went up on the southwest side of the museum and was named for shoe magnates Melvin and Gail Nessel, who donated $6 million.
Its 14 galleries include a 1,600-piece photography collection, the Nor-ton’s Chinese collection — much of it selected by museum founder Ralph Norton — and European art from before 1870.
The expansion, part of an overall $35 million campaign, boosted the complex’s total area to 112,500 square feet. This helped the institution to display more of its 5,200-piece permanent collection. Museum officials also acquired about 150 new works of art.
With more space in the new wing, the original building was reconfigured to include more of the permanent collections and special traveling exhibitions.
The museum has a link to this region’s early settlers.
It was built on land that originally had held the graves of some 200 pioneer settlers.
That cemetery operated from 1895 to 1921, when it could no longer compete with Woodlawn, across the street.
The Lakeside Cemetery Association donated the land to the city, with the provision that it be used as a public park, that its graves remain untouched and that, with the exception of a pavilion, no construction be allowed.
Norton, a Chicago steel magnate, and his wife, Elizabeth, had bought a winter retreat in West Palm Beach in 1934.
When Ralph Norton leased the land from the city in 1940 to build the museum, the cemetery association removed a number of restrictions. But it added others.
In 2001, the Lake Worth Pioneers Association, representing more than 300 families who claim to descend from the region’s early settlers, complained that the museum wasn’t complying.
The dispute was later resolved.
NEXT WEEK: Graves under the stage.
Visitors to the southwest wing at the Norton Museum mingle and descend the staircase after the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2003. Architect Chad Floyd of Centerbrook Architects, who designed the new wing, said the space was intended to be like an “ice grotto” — providing a “cool” space for visitors seeking relief from the warm South Florida climate. (Palm Beach Post file photo)
Tags: buildings, museums, Norton Museum of Art
Valentine’s Day isn’t the only thing around here that’s red. Palm Beach’s “Little Red Schoolhouse,” the only school in all of southeast Florida when it opened March 1, 1886, reopened this month after being closed for nearly a year.
Once again, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach will host its “living history” program, which takes fourth-graders back in time for a mini-day in a one-room school of the 1890s.
The schoolhouse, in Phipps Ocean Park, was closed during a yearlong soil-remediation project in the park. The Foundation took advantage of the down time to renovate and update it.
When it opened, it was the only schoolhouse in what was then Dade County, which was a swath of scattered settlements stretching north to Stuart and covering an area the size of Massachusetts.
A county grant of $200 paid for lumber for the 22-by-40-foot building. Laborers donated time.
The Ladies Aid Society raised another $200 from the sale of embroidery and quilts to pay for furniture and supplies.
The first class had seven students ranging from 7 to 17 years old.
The teacher was Hattie Gale, from Kansas. She was all of 16, younger than some of her charges.
She was the daughter of the Rev. Elbridge Gale, a minister, educator and professor of horticulture, who retired to the area from Kansas in November 1884 and became one of the first to build a cabin on the west side of Lake Worth (the Intracoastal Waterway).
Hattie, who arrived in 1885, taught for only three months before the area hired a teacher for $100.
In 1901, the schoolhouse closed and a boat ferried the children to the new four-room school at Clematis Street and Poinsettia Avenue, now Dixie Highway, in West Palm Beach.
The original building was moved to Casa Bendita, the Palm Beach estate of John Phipps. It sat there for four decades, where it was used as a potting shed.
In 1960, shortly before Casa Bendita was razed, the schoolhouse was dismantled and moved to Phipps Ocean Park. In 1990, the Preservation Foundation restored the building to look like a one-room schoolhouse.
The building is closed to the public, except for the “living history” program.
The first schoolhouse (left) in Palm Beach County is shown in 1886 in Palm Beach. The first school teacher was 16-year-old Hattie Gale (in doorway). (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)
Tags: buildings, Palm Beach, schools
Sometimes history pokes out its head when you’re not expecting it.
In January 2010, Amer ican Legion Post 12 opted to sell its 4,000-squarefoot building at 3201 S. Dixie Highway where it had been since 1991. The new owner plans an orthodontist’s office.
As construction crews peeled away the face of the blue-and-white building, exposing raw concrete block, a large name, in black block let ters emerged: “J.P. Car-roll Pumps & Wells.”
When a mystery such as this presents itself, no self-respecting history sleuth refuses the challenge. James P. Carroll, along with his wife, Nona, first shows up in city directories in 1928, as an employee of Duro Auto Equipment Systems, 5016 S. Poinsettia Ave. — what Dixie was called then — and later as a machinist and a well-driller. The J.P. Car-roll business on Dixie first appears in 1955; his home address is listed as 333 Greenwood Drive. Records show James Car-roll died in 1961; Nona in August 1970.
Next stop: Jeff Kouns of Ocala. In the 1960s, his father, Jack Kouns, became the largest turf contractor and dealer of the Toro lawn equipment chain east of the Mississippi.
Jeff Kouns said J.P. Car-roll worked in large commercial water pumps. He said that in the mid-1970s — city directories suggest 1974 — Kouns’ dad bought the J.P. Car-roll firm and folded its operations into the main Kouns operation at 3326 45th St. Kouns sold his company in the 1980s; he died in 2008.
Next: Greg Marion, owner of Marion Construction. He isn’t just the contractor on the 3201 S. Dixie site. He also grew up in the neighborhood. Marion said — and city directories verify — that, after Kouns’ purchase, the building became headquarters for electricians’ groups.
“When you go inside, all the electrical’s in conduit,” Marion said. “It’s all perfect. You can tell it was union.”
Jeff Kouns recalled Carroll had a son, John, who worked for either Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue or the Palm Beach County Sheriff ’s Office. Fire-Rescue said it didn’t have a John Carroll; PBSO said a John Carroll retired a few years back. They reached out to him to see if he’s the one, but he didn’t respond.
So, dear readers, the trail dead-ends there. Or does it? Can you help?
When the former American Legion Post 12 building at 3201 S. Dixie Highway was being renovated, it revealed the building’s former manifestation as J.P. Carroll Water Pumps. (Eliot Kleinberg/The Palm Beach Post)
Members of the American Legion Post 12 in front of their building in West Palm Beach. The building will now house an orthodontist’s office. (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post)
Tags: buildings, business
Last week we started to tell you about Lake Worth City Hall’s previous life as an auditorium.
By 1961, one article said, the building housed “the city’s teenagers club (and) a radio club, and the Lake Worth Playhouse performs here. It has a recreation room and space is allotted to the Coast Guard for a boating course and to the Visiting Nurses Association. Several shuffleboard courts on the grounds receive daylong play, and folks wishing to just relax in the shade just use the area as a meeting place.”
In 1972, the Playhouse moved to the nearby Oak-ley Theater. The city had briefly considered razing the building for more parking. Instead, it voted to move over City Hall offices from 414 Lake Avenue. That building had served as an elementary school until June 1928.
The move to the auditorium building was completed in 1973.
The third-floor continued to be an auditorium. But in July 1979, city commissioners voted to chop it up into office space.
Now City Manager Michael Bornstein walks among file cabinets and boxes. He opens a door to a closet and points to green concrete and wood molding up a side wall. That was the proscenium, the arch that framed the stage.
“You can imagine the actors and roadies and everything,” Bornstein said during a recent tour. Pointing:
“This would be stage door left. This would be like standing in the middle of the stage.”
In what had been the third-floor foyer: an original glass lamp covering.
One stairway leads to what might have been a balcony or might have been the “colored section.”
Bornstein would love to move city hall — and, in the process, consolidate its far-flung offices — “and return this to public space;” bringing back performances on the third floor and perhaps moving the city’s museum from the old city hall site on Lake Avenue, now a city annex, to the first two floors of this complex.
Bornstein’s realistic; he worked on the project to save the old 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.
A $19-million project to remove the wraparound and restore the original courthouse led to its March 2008 opening as the Richard and Pat John-son Palm Beach County History Museum. That effort, Bornstein noted, took 13 years.
Tags: buildings, Lake Worth