Pound for pound, there’s no town more interesting than Briny Breezes, which was incorporated as a municipality 50 years ago this week, on June 19, 1963.
The little mobile home park east of Boynton Beach is one of Palm Beach County’s smallest municipalities, but it’s been in the news just a few times.
Part of it is that the place is a throwback to the laid-back “tin can tourists” world of the 1950s and 1960s
Part of it is the town’s unusual 3-in-one configuration; it’s a mobile home park, it’s owned by a corporation of which its residents are stockholders, and it’s a city with, officially, one resident: Briny Breezes, Inc.
And for half a century, the biggest part may way well be that, amid towering condos and sprawling mansions, this shred of the charm of Old Florida has been a lone holdout, clinging stubbornly to this narrow stretch of sand off State Road A1A.
Except for one time.
In January 2007, residents voted to accept a $510 million offer to sell the town’s land, which stretches from the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway. The deal would have made many of the town’s 488 property owners millionaires — and would have allowed Boca Raton-based Ocean Land Investments to replace the mobile homes with a sprawling mega-resort.
The ensuing ruckus over the sale and the scope of the project pitted neighbor against neighbor and threatened lasting damage to the sense of community that set the place apart. Eventually, Ocean Land withdrew the offer.
Here’s a quick chronology of “Briny:”
1919: Ward B. Miller, a retired Michigan lumber business owner, buys 43 acres in an area called Palm Beach Shore Acres and builds a home on the ocean. Two years later, Miller begins operating Shore Acres Dairy with 500 cows. He invites campers to stay at his tract.
1925: Miller changes the name to Briny Breezes, subdivides the land into lots and sells it for nearly $2 million. After the real estate crash, the Miller family reclaims the tract. Miller welcomes people to camp and fish for free if they buy his strawberries and milk.
1958: Brinyites establish a resident-owned corporation and buy the park from the Miller family for $1.5 million. Five years later, Briny Breezes is incorporated as a municipality.
Oct. 14, 1964: A tornado spawned by Hurricane Isbell destroys about two dozen mobile homes.
1991: Ocean Club House is built for $485,000.
Feb. 20, 1997: Hugh David, the town’s only mayor since its founding, dies at 75.