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This week in history: Lake Worth Inlet officially opens

On Jan. 18, 1920, the inlet north of Palm Beach opened, sort of. The Palm Beach Post reported:

The inlet is open — and it isn’t open. The saline waters of Lake Worth and the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean embraced and kissed yesterday morning — and to that extent the inlet is open. But at dark yesterday a bar of sand stretched from the south jetty to the north jetty, above the level of the ocean. While that bar is there no boats can pass — and to that extent the inlet is closed.

The dredging continued the following day, until the inlet was 200 feet wide.

In 1926 residents voted to deepen and widen the inlet. Later that year the first cargo steamer arrived at the port, and in 1927 the first passenger boat dropped anchor in the harbor channel.

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Posted in Flashback blog January 17, 2011 at 6:00 am.

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‘Bathing girls, airplanes, yachts and bands’ greeted the first passenger steamer at the Port of Palm Beach

The recent troubles of the Palm Beach Princess prompted us to visit the Port of Palm Beach’s history.

In 1915, the Legislature established taxing districts with ocean access, and a local one was charged with dredging a navigable channel and establishing a port.

The Palm Beach Inlet’s entrance opened in 1917 with a 4-foot depth and two short jetties.

It was made 200 feet wide and 10 feet deep in 1919 and eventually had road and rail connections.

The inlet and port would cost a hefty $3.5 million and be completed under the supervision of George Washington Goethals, who oversaw the Panama Canal and for whom a bridge from New Jersey to New York is named.

The first cargo steamer, the Lake Chelan, arrived in 1926.

And in January 1927, even with the Booms busting, folks welcomed the first passenger steamer to the Port of Palm Beach.

The Mary Weems was greeted by the mayors of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Riviera Beach and Kelsey City — now Lake Park.

Also on hand: leaders of area clubs and organizations, along with “bathing girls, airplanes, yachts and bands,” and a seaplane carrying a reporter and photographer from the Palm Beach Daily News — the “Shiny Sheet.”

After one day in port, the Mary Weems left for Miami.

It and its sister ship, the Esther Weems, made the three-day run from Philadelphia and Baltimore, charging $75.21 and $80.67, respectively, for the round trip, including “meals and berth.” The boat sported “best cuisine and service” and “every modern convenience” — rooms with twin beds, showers, and baths and hot and cold running water. The Bust slammed the port; $3.5 million in the bank vanished. It would take a $60,000 bank loan in the 1930s to deepen the channel to 20 feet. Then World War II pushed business and the port was off and running. (Thanks to Judge James R. Knott’s “Brown Wrapper” series.)

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Read more about the Port of Palm Beach online at www.portofpalmbeach.com

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg March 12, 2010 at 9:33 am.

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