Black history month
This Week in History
West Palm Beach
World War II
On Sept. 15, 1950, the new Southern Boulevard bridge over Lake Worth opened. It was renamed the Marjorie Merriweather Post Memorial Causeway in 1974, after the cereal heiress who built the Mar-a-Lago estate near the east end of the bridge.
It’s not every day that Hollywood stars attend the renaming of a road, but when the Post Memorial Causeway was dedicated in early 1975, actress Dina Merrill and then-husband Cliff Robertson attended the ceremony. Merrill, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s daughter, grew up at Mar-a-Lago.
Dina Merrill and Cliff Robertson at the 1975 causeway dedication. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Tags: bridges, Palm Beach, This Week in History
In 1921, the masonry structure that was being built to replace the 9-year-old wooden bridge collapsed under the weight of a steamroller two days before it was scheduled to open. A temporary wooden structure was built, and on August 11, 1924, the new Royal Park Bridge was completed.
Undated photo of the Royal Park Bridge (courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)
Tags: bridges, Palm Beach, This Week in History
Q: I would love to know the name of the bar on Palm Beach about one block north of Worth Avenue in the 1970s with the interior made out of concrete trees. — Sandy Bernstein Kornheiser, Boca Raton.
A: This took some doing, but we got the answer from Kevin O’Dea, longtime maitre d’ at Club Ta-Boo. The answer: The Kenya Club.
The club, at 204 Australian Ave. and County Road, “was like a jungle inside,” Joseph Bustani Jr., 76, said this month from Palm Beach Gardens. “The foundation was made to look like palm trees, with metal bars that stretched out and were covered with concrete.”
Joseph Bustani Sr., who died at 92 in 1996, opened the club around 1966. Popular with waiters, cabbies and laborers, it was perhaps the only blue-collar drinking hole in a town that’s anything but.
Amid a haze of cigarette smoke and waves of plastic flowers, stuffed animal heads stared down on patrons.
“I shot all the animals in Africa” a half-century ago, Leo Bustani, 85, Joseph’s older brother, said.
“The tree was a poinciana tree that spread 45 feet from one side of the Kenya Club to the other,” Leo said. He said the lion, a three-quarters mount, “was bursting through the bamboo. And there were spears stuck in the wall,” and “a cape buffalo that almost killed me and my guide.”
The club, he said, “was full, jampacked, all the way to the wall.”
Joseph Jr. recalls the 6-foot-3 doorman who wore a zebra skin and feather headdress and carried a spear. The Bustanis got complaints about racial stereotypes but insisted the doorman didn’t mind, and loved the big tips.
Not all went well. In 1981, the tavern, just a half block from Town Hall and the police station, was raided. Police confiscated more than $20,000 in alleged proceeds of a football gambling operation and arrested three. And in 1984, David Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, spent a few hours there, then went two blocks back to his room at the Brazilian Court and died of a drug overdose.
Kenya Club closed in the late 1980s. Bustani briefly reopened it as the Safari and Polo Club.
Buccan restaurant now is at that corner.
A leaping lion, a water buffalo and other animals, which once graced the walls of the Kenya Club in Palm Beach, now live at Leo Bustani’s Central Florida home. (Photo courtesy of Leo Bustani)
Tags: Palm Beach
Ken Brower of Brower Architectural Associates in Palm Beach sent us this 1907 map of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach published by Currie Investment Company.
Click on the map to view a larger version, or click here for an even larger version in a PDF file.
George Graham Currie, a native of Quebec, arrived in Florida penniless, became a lawyer, made and lost a fortune in real estate, and was West Palm Beach mayor from 1901 to 1902. He wrote at least 18 books of poems, musical lyrics and essays and aspired to be Florida’s poet laureate. Currie died in 1926, soon after the Delray Beach park named for him was was dedicated. Currie Park in West Palm Beach was dedicated in 1949. Currie’s son, longtime county judge Francis Angevine “Banzai” Currie, died in 1979.
Judge James Knott featured the 1907 map in the Brown Wrapper in 1981: “A legacy from Mr. Currie’s career as a major land developer is a 1907 map of the coastal area comprising the Palm Beaches and neighboring towns.”
Places featured on the map include a tea house and restaurant called the House Boat in Lake Worth near the inlet, described by Judge Knott as “not a boat, but a capacious structure set several feet above the water on concrete pilings.” The House Boat was destroyed by the 1928 hurricane. Coniff Hermitage, just above the inlet, “now almost vanished from human memory, was a picturesque shack inhabited (as its name suggests) by an old hermit.”
The map also lists “sights to be seen by horseback, bicycle, rail, automobile, launch, or canoe,” including Haley’s Island (“the smallest homestead in the United States”), the Loxahatchee River (“with its mangrove bordered shores and beautiful, sinuous arms”), Hobe Sound (“the theatrical company”), Stuart (“where ex-President Cleveland spends his winter”), the Boynton Hotel (“fine place for an ocean bath and a good meal”), Delray (“where the largest shipments of pines are made on the east coast”), and the castaway’s lonely grave in Boca Raton.
Tags: map, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach
Hotels and other transient housing
April 9, 1940, was the day designated for counting people in hotels. The official manual instructed enumerators: “You are to complete the enumeration of all tourist or trailer camps, missions, and cheap one-night lodging houses in your district on the evening of April 8th, and of all hotels in your district on April 9th.”
The tourist camp and hotel enumerations in the Census are separate from the street-by-street listings that make up most of the Census images for Palm Beach County (you can find all of the Palm Beach County images online here).
Here’s an example of one of the enumeration pages for Palm Beach hotels, listing the Surfside Hotel, Balmoral Hotel, Southland Inn, Ocean Hotel, and the Brazilian Court:
Click on the image to see a larger version.
Guests at the Ocean Hotel included a singer, a petroleum products salesman, a newspaper correspondent, a broker of hides, and a rubber goods exporter.
Only one guest was counted in the hotels in Delray Beach, a building management executive staying at the Colony Hotel. Others listed on the hotel page include hotel owners, staff and their families.
Two tourist camps were listed in Lantana, Young’s Tourist Camp and Jitterbug Jungle Camp:
In April 1940 George Morikami lived on Federal Highway near the end of Old Dixie Highway in what is now northern Boca Raton. He was 53 years old and listed his occupation as farm operator.
Click on the image to see the whole page from the 1940 Census at 1940census.archives.gov.
Morikami had come from Japan with a group of farmers who planted acres of pineapples, peppers and tomatoes. Ultimately the Yamato Colony failed, and most of the farmers moved to other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.
George Morikami remained after the colony disbanded, and continued cultivating fruits and vegetables and buying land. He lost much of his land during the Depression, and later the federal government confiscated more of it for the Boca Raton Army Air Field, but Morikami eventually donated 200 acres to Palm Beach County, which opened the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens on that land in 1977, one year after Morikami’s death.
Tags: agriculture, Boca Raton, Census, Delray Beach, immigrants, Lantana, Palm Beach