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Lynn University celebrates 20 years

The world learned of Boca Raton’s Lynn University in January 2010 when four students and two faculty members were among the hundreds of thousands killed in Haiti’s earthquake.

This week, the university celebrates a more cheerful milestone: Its 20th anniversary as Lynn.

The school had opened in 1962 as a two-year women’s school named Marymount College, operated by nuns from the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

The school later went bankrupt and prepared to close. Students planned car washes and other events and even went door to door with soup cans and signs reading, “Save Our College.”

In 1971, Marymount got a visit from educator Donald Ross — no relation to Donald Alexander Ross, the first Lake Park resident killed in World War II and the man for whom the road in northern Palm Beach County is named.

Ross intended to buy the soon-to-be-defunct school’s library for his own program at Wilmington College in Delaware, a school he’d founded in 1967.

“I walked all over campus and could not believe how beautiful it was,” Ross told Lynn’s magazine in 2006.

Instead of buying up Marymount’s books, Ross persuaded Wilmington trustees to merge with Marymount and make it a coed college. By 1972, enrollment was up to 350.

In 1974 the school’s name was changed to the College of Boca Raton, but it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that it would begin offering four-year degrees.

In 1991 it would get its third name: Lynn.

In September 1991, the 1,000-student College of Boca Raton was renamed for philanthropist Eugene Lynn.

Palm Beach Post file photo provided by the Lynn family

Lynn (above, with his wife Christine) had become president of the Boca Raton-based Lynn Insurance Group in 1956. Over three decades, he and his wife, Christine, donated $3.5 million for a student dorm and put up the money for the Lynn Student Center, built in 1963. Eugene Lynn died in 1999.

Ross would run the school until 2006, when son Kevin took over.

Lynn now has about 1,660 undergraduates and about 450 graduate students. Its five colleges and two schools offer 34 majors. It’s become a leader in serving students with learning challenges.

Marymount College in Boca Raton became coed in the early 1970s. It is today’s Lynn University. (Photo courtesy of Lynn University)

Nuns at Marymount College (Photo courtesy of Lynn University)

Marymount campus in 1972. (Photo courtesy of Lynn University)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg and Our history in photos September 22, 2011 at 9:03 am.

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This week in history: First Palm Beach County airport approved

On Sept. 20, 1929, the first airport in the Palm Beach area was officially recognized when the federal government approved a beacon and landing marker for Lightbown Municipal Airport. The airport, named for Palm Beach Mayor Cooper Lightbown, was established by the Greater Palm Beach Airport Association and the Junior Chamber of Commerce on a 440-acre tract on Belvedere Road. In 1936 the airport we now know as Palm Beach International began commercial service and was renamed Morrison Field.

This photo of a Ford tri-motor passenger plane was taken in 1929. From Post Time reader James P. Sikes who submitted the photo: The plane was the “747 of its day. Note the huge wingspan. The event was a plane ride over West Palm Beach for the employees of the West Palm Beach Water Co., shown standing with the plane along with company trucks prior to take-off in West Palm Beach. My father is the man in the middle back row, wearing the bow tie. His name, James Sikes.”

Coincidentally, Charles Lindbergh flew over West Palm Beach on his way to Miami the day before Lightbown Municipal Airport got its federal certification,

The Palm Beach Post story says “Col. and Mrs. Lindbergh passed over West Palm Beach at 12:52 Thursday afternoon, flying very high, and somewhat west of the city. His plane was moving at a rapid rate of speed.”

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Posted in Flashback blog September 19, 2011 at 6:00 am.


Hurricane of 1928 was Geerworth’s end

Each year at this time, we mark the most profound event ever in Palm Beach County: the great Sept. 16, 1928, hurricane, which killed as many as 3,000 people.

Most died when a 6-foot muck dike failed and the storm pushed the waters of Lake Okeechobee into the countryside.

It’s the second-deadliest natural disaster in American history.

One of the storm’s victims wasn’t a person, but a place — a place called Geerworth.

The 16,000-acre tract was about 10 miles east of Belle Glade, at a spot at Senter Road and State Road 880′s “Nine Mile Bend.”

It had been founded around 1918 by Harvey G. Geer (above), who developed much of the West Palm Beach area and helped build the first Royal Park (middle) bridge to Palm Beach.

The first buildings went up on April 13, 1921. By December, more than 100 acres had been cleared.

Geer sold 20 tracts, of 10 to 50 acres each, mostly to a colony of Brits, set to leave Liverpool the following February.

An article echoed the hopes of developers of homes and farms sprawling from the coast to the big lake: “This is just a beginning and demonstrates what will happen as soon as the roads into the Glades are completed.”

And, it said, “every resident of Palm Beach County should make this trip and familiarize himself with this coming great domain which lies at their very door.”

In 1922, much of the settlement was swamped by floods.

But by 1925, Conners Highway was about to link the Glades to the coast. An article from April 1925, two months before the road opened, said, “already the new town of Geerworth has been laid out with a hotel, packing house, several good dwelling houses and county school. Crops are now growing and daily shipments of produce are being made.”

That resurgence was brief. In March 1928, with the countryside tinder-dry following a drought, a grass fire roared through, burning down several buildings.

The 1928 storm washed out Geerworth forever. The former site now is part of the area’s expanse of sugar cane and muck.

Geer died at 83 in June 1939.

The annual service to victims of the 1928 hurricane who are buried at the cemetery in Port Mayaca, is at 10 a.m. Friday, the hurricane’s 83rd anniversary.

Special thanks to archivist Debi Murray, Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

This photo taken in Belle Glade after the devastating hurricane of 1928 shows the damage to the Everglades Experiment Station. A 6-foot muck dike around Lake Okeechobee failed, and much of the nearby countryside was flooded. (Photo courtesy of the University of Florida)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg September 16, 2011 at 8:51 am.


Historical society seeks details on Camp Higgins

For many years, Debi Murray, the archivist at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, has been an invaluable source. Recently she asked us to ask you for more about Camp Higgins.

It was one of many federal installations that sprang up in South Florida during World War II.

They include Morrison Field (now Palm Beach International Airport), Camp Murphy (now Jonathan Dickinson State Park near Hobe Sound) and Boca Raton Army Air Field (now the Boca Raton airport and Florida Atlantic University).

“Camp Higgins operated from early 1942 or earlier, at the undeveloped northern tip of Palm Beach, bordered by North Ocean Boulevard, Indian Road, the ocean, and Lake Worth Inlet,” the historical society’s website says.

“The camp accommodated about 200 men, sent for rest and recuperation. They lived in wooden-sided canvas tents, and kept a few tanks and sandbagged gun positions on the dunes. In 1943 the commanding officer of Camp Higgins was Lt. C.B. Hindman.”

The society quoted Philip H. Reid Jr., who lived nearby as a boy and recalled in 1981, “There were eight or ten North End boys who could often be found wandering through the camp, climbing on the tanks, visiting the tents, and talking to the soldiers. We often accompanied the soldiers when they hunted for sea turtle eggs, which they unearthed and cooked.”

Debi writes the camp had been deactivated by September 1942, when its recreation hall was loaded onto a truck and moved to Morrison Field.

Readers: Can you help?

American soldiers parade down Worth Avenue in this World War II-era photo. During the war, Palm Beach was a hotbed of patriotism, support for Allied troops, and even warlike action as German U-boats sank U.S. ships off the South Florida coast and prompted officials to mandate countless blackouts on the island. As Florida airfields and other facilities became home to military bases, uniformed personnel were everywhere, including marching in parades along the avenue. While not pictured, one can assume Palm Beach’s hundreds of Volunteers for Victory were marching, too. Volunteers for Victory operated several war-effort endeavors, ranging from a bathhouse at the beach to a soldier’s canteen. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

Update: Palm Beach State College dean Ginger Pedersen, who runs her own local history Web page, wrote about the mystery behind the name of Congress Avenue: “I think the origin is more tied to the Westgate subdivision, which was started in the land boom. I too have found the newspaper referenced back to 1933. The best solution is that the road was a connector between Okeechobee and Belvedere. I think “Congress” in this case means a “connector.” Later when Palm Acres was platted, they took the name and extended it first south across the airport, then later north. Congress was not extended south to Boca (Raton) until the 1960s.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg September 8, 2011 at 9:26 am.

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Delray incorporation meeting 100 years ago this week

Delray Beach will mark its centennial Oct. 9, the official incorporation date. Look for plenty of fun events next month.

A meeting “for the purpose of discussing the advisability of incorporating” occurred a century ago, Sept. 4, 1911. It was at the Ladies Improvement Association Hall in what then was the settlement of Linton.

A month later, on Oct. 9, 57 “qualified electors” voted almost unanimously — one ballot was tossed — to create the new municipality of “Delray,” west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Maj. Nathan Smith Boynton, U.S. Congressman William Seelyn Linton and David Swinton had come from Michigan in 1895.

Boynton was a retired Civil War major and former mayor of Port Huron, Mich.; Linton, postmaster of Saginaw, Mich., and a congressman; and Swinton, a Saginaw bookstore owner.

In West Palm Beach, they heard of land for sale to the south. By 1895, Linton had brought down 10 settlers. After they were hit by a freeze and Linton defaulted on land payments, settlers decided Linton reminded them of struggle and chose a different namesake.

Delray was a neighborhood in Detroit that was itself named for the Mexican town of Del Rey, translated as “of the king.” At the October 1911 meeting, John S. Sundy (pictured above) was elected mayor with 53 votes. He served seven terms.

A construction superintendent for the Florida East Coast Railway, he had stepped off a southbound train in 1898. When Henry Flagler told him, “There’s nothing here,” he replied, “There will be.”

Also at the incorporation meeting was George H. Green (pictured above), one of 10 people nominated for five aldermen’s positions, coming in seventh. Notable about that was that Green was black, in Florida, where in the early 20th century, few blacks even were allowed to vote. In fact, 11 of Delray’s 57 electors were African-American.

In 1923, the town of Delray Beach, encompassing residents on the barrier island east of the Intracoastal, was incorporated. Four years later, on May 11, 1927, the two towns merged.

The Delray Beach centennial web page is delray100.com.

Read the minutes of Delray Beach’s incorporation meeting here.  

Miller and Son’s First Bicycle and Barber Shop in Delray, circa 1912. Left to right: two unknown customers, Albert L. Miller, Mary (Clutter) Miller and Albert F. Miller. The photo was taken near the location of the old Arcade Tap Room, now Gol! The Taste of Brazil on Atlantic Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Delray Beach Historical Society)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg September 1, 2011 at 9:52 am.

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