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Nathaniel J. Adams

Nathaniel J. Adams Park at 568 15th Street in West Palm Beach was named for the man who formed West Palm’s first Boy Scout troop for blacks. He died at age 73 in January 1982. The park was named in 1983.

When Nathaniel J. Adams went to an awards program of the Exchange Club of South West Palm Beach in April 1976, he expected to see his daughter presented with an award. Instead, Adams himself was given the group’s Book of Golden Deeds award for community service. A resident of West Palm Beach, Adams served 30 years with the Gulfstream Council for the boy Scouts and had been active in several other charitable and civic groups. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Flashback blog March 11, 2013 at 10:30 am.

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Sansbury: County, not state, led Air Force Beach park purchase

Our June 21 column about Air Force Beach prompted responses from readers.

From John C. Sansbury, Palm Beach County Administrator from 1975-1986: “I would like to set the record straight. The state of Florida had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of Air Force Beach from the MacArthur Foundation.”

Sansbury wrote from suburban West Palm Beach that the county bought the 325 acres in 1980 for $21.2 million. He said John D. MacArthur’s son, Roderick, persuaded the rest of the foundation to sell at a reduced price and throw in $10 million in value on top of that. “In reality, the park should be named the Roderick MacArthur Ocean Park,” Sansbury wrote.

Sansbury wrote he later raised the idea of the state becoming a partner. The state then paid half the purchase price and made the place a state park.

“Shortly thereafter, I recommended to the County Commission that we trade our half-interest in the park for 600 acres the state owned at the southeast corner of Forest Hill Boulevard and (Florida’s) Turnpike, directly south of the county’s 600-acre Okeeheelee Park,” Sansbury said. “This property is now the Dr. Jim Brandon Equestrian Center and Trails.”

And Don Grill, 80, of North Palm Beach called to say that for a long time, what would be Air Force Beach had the unofficial name of Manhattan Beach.

That’s for the 25,000-ton, 1,200-plus passenger cruise ship, the queen of the U.S. Lines, that grounded 300 yards off Singer Island on Jan. 12, 1941, and stayed for nearly a month.

Three private tugs spent weeks removing tons of cargo, including more than 150 cars, as well as some 4,550 barrels of oil from the ship, while crowds estimated at up to 20,000 lined the beach.

Entrepreneurs sold cold drinks and photo postcards of the stuck ship. The Manhattan finally was freed Feb. 3.

Don Grill was a kid at the time.

“They had to throw over a lot of stuff that they were transporting to lighten the ship for a lot of the tugs to pick up,” Grill said. “The commercial fishermen came up in their skiffs and picked everything up. All up and down U.S. 1 in Riviera (Beach), every vacant lot was a place where they sold this stuff. It was everything. All kind of general cargo. There were sneakers, and food, and you-name-it.”

Jupiter resident D. Howarth submitted this photo that was taken Jan. 13, 1941, of the SS Manhattan, which had run aground in Palm Beach.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg August 2, 2012 at 10:09 am.

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‘Mariner’ rode seas of finance

I want to know the history of the fisherman statue at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach.
— Barbara Platner, Singer Island

Seaman statue at the entrance to Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The romantic figure of a grizzled skipper, hands at the wheel, seems perfect for seafaring Singer Island. But that wasn’t the “mariner’s” original home.

Its creator was noted muralist and sculptor Earl LaPan. His client was, not surprisingly, Mariner Bank. It stood on Broadway in Lake Park. The bank paid $18,000 for creation of the 14-foot-high, 2,500-pound statue in 1978.

The bank later closed, and in 1983, the mariner was loaded by crane and moved to Phil Foster Park. There it stood, in tribute to Jerry Thomas, who’d founded Mariner Bank in 1962. Thomas’ son Ken said in 1983 his father had been the model.

Jerry Thomas was in the Florida Senate from 1965 to 1972 and was president from 1971 to 1972. The banker-turned-politician wrote or co-sponsored hundreds of laws. He served on the Board of Regents and was an undersecretary in the U.S. Treasury Department under President Gerald Ford.

Thomas died of cancer at 51 in 1980. The bridge from Riviera Beach’s mainland to Singer Island and a Jupiter elementary school are named for him.

Then Senate President Jerry Thomas talking with artist Earl LaPan in 1972 before the unveiling of two murals LaPan created for the state senate. The mural in the background depicts Ponce De Leon landing in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the Political Collection of the Florida Photographic Collection, on the Florida Memory website of the State Library and Archives of Florida)

When Phil Foster Park was renovated in 2006, the mariner was moved about 20 feet east, and it has since been given a “sprucing up,” with fiber patches and some new structural support, Palm Beach County Parks director Eric Call said this month.

The mariner was a tiny piece of Earl LaPan’s résumé.

But perhaps his most famed Palm Beach County work is no longer here.

NEXT WEEK: The horses.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg May 17, 2012 at 8:55 am.


Savannas Preserve State Park turns 35

Savannas Preserve State Park, described as “one of the Treasure Coast’s best-kept secrets,” turns 35 this week. It opened April 25, 1977.

Here are excerpts of a 2002 article by former colleague William M. Hartnett:

“The effort to protect the Savannas’ collection of pine flatwoods, shallow marshes and imperiled scrub began long before the state opened the first small piece of the now 8-square mile park.

“Conservationists began lobbying state officials to preserve the Savannas in the 1960s, when it was a playground for mud-bogging rabble-rousers and a convenient dump for the stolen and stripped refuse of car thieves.

“The late Dr. Walter Stokes, an environmentalist and Olympic gold medal-winning marksman, is widely credited with being one of the original and leading proponents of preserving the Savannas.

Walter Stokes with his wife Florence in their Stuart back yard in 1978 (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

“Although many natural areas on the Treasure Coast were devoured by mushrooming neighborhoods and roads long ago, visitors paddling the Savannas’ tea-stained waters or hiking its sandy trails are still greeted on clear mornings by an incredibly blue sky and a soundtrack of grunting alligators and honking sandhill cranes.”

In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott rejected a proposal from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to shut down Savannas and 52 other state parks in order to cut 15 percent from its budget.

Savannas Preserve State Park is located off Riverview Drive in Jensen Beach. Open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Admission: $3 per vehicle. Call (772) 340-7530.

Environmental Education Center: 2541 Walton Road, Port St. Lucie. Open: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Monday. Call: (772) 398-2779.

Savannas Recreation Area: Operated by St. Lucie County. Midway Road 1 mile east of U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce. (772) 464-7855. Offers campsites for tents and RVs.

Canoe landings: north of Environmental Education Center and near park’s main office off River-view Drive. No gasoline-powered boats allowed. Free guided canoe tours offered three times a month by reservation.


Posted in Eliot Kleinberg April 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm.

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This week in history: Jupiter Island residents donate land for wildlife refuge

On Sept. 30, 1969, the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge was established after Joseph Verner Reed donated 229 acres of Jupiter Island land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge grew to its current size of more than 1,000 acres through donations of land on the island and along the Indian River Lagoon.

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Posted in Flashback blog September 26, 2011 at 9:39 am.

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