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This week in history: West Palm Beach boat service from the Glades begins operation

The tiny pond at the north end of Howard Park was once a basin large and deep enough for barges that carried passengers and crates of produce from the Glades. Regular boat service to the basin began operation on May 17, 1918, but the basin and canal lost favor when a railroad line and motor highway to the Glades opened in the mid-1920s. The 1928 hurricane destroyed the docks and slips.

In 1997 preservationists tried to get the Stub Canal and Turning Basin onto the National Register of Historic Places, but National Park Service denied the application, saying the canal and basin had lost their link to the city’s past. Even without the official National Register designation, the city installed a historic marker in Howard Park.

Glades farmers shipped their vegetables down the West Palm Beach Canal to the Stub Canal that led to the turning basin where there were docks, warehouses and trains to transport the produce to northern markets. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

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Posted in Flashback blog May 14, 2012 at 6:00 am.

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Canal not deemed historic

Last week we told you about the turning basin at Howard Park in West Palm Beach and the stub canal that connected it eventually to Lake Okeechobee. Here’s more:

The basin and canal lost favor as a produce and passenger operation when a railroad line and motor highway to the Glades opened in the mid-1920s. The 1928 hurricane destroyed the docks and slips.

State representative and former city commissioner Mary Brandenburg, who lives in the neighborhood, served on the city’s historic preservation board in 1997 and wrote the pitch for getting the canal and basin on the National Register of Historic Places. She says the effort went to the state’s historic preservation board, which opted not to recommend it for the national register, ending that attempt.

But the city did later landscape the area around the pond, and installed a marker in the northwest corner of Howard Park to tell the history of the turning basin, said Joan Goldberg, the city’s cultural affairs adviser.

The pond is also the site of one of only two known on-duty deaths of Palm Beach County firefighters. On June 23, 1941, West Palm Beach Fire Capt. Harry Juergen, 41, drowned when a boat capsized during a training exercise. The other death was in 1967, when Oscar Gustav Strand, 65, of Juno Beach, a firefighter for the area volunteer fire department which is now part of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, was struck by a motorist as he directed traffic at a brush fire in the northern part of the county.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg August 31, 2005 at 11:50 am.

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Old Turning Basin Was Busy Place

Q: Where was the old turning basin in downtown West Palm Beach? – Dr. Joel Cohen, Jupiter

A: Where waterways once ruled the city’s commerce, now only a tiny pond remains, on the northern end of Howard Park, at the southeast corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and Parker Avenue across from the Kravis Center. Here’s the story, courtesy of Joan Goldberg, cultural affairs adviser for the city of West Palm Beach, and Mary Brandenburg, a former city commissioner and now a state representative.

Clear Lake is now bordered on the east by Australian Avenue. In the early 20th century, it extended farther east, covering what’s now Howard Park. It then was more like a swamp. By 1917, much of it had been filled in and its area shrunk. An orphaned remnant was dredged to form a basin. A stub canal, originally 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep, connected the basin not to Clear Lake, but to the West Palm Beach Canal, which came from Lake Okeechobee. The stub canal veered northeast; the West Palm Beach canal continued southeast to Lake Clarke Shores and out into the Intracoastal Waterway at the West Palm Beach-Lake Worth line.

At the turning basin, barges unloaded passengers and crates of Glades produce. Some were transferred to railroad cars on a spur. On the facility’s formal opening day, May 17, 1918, 5,000 crates of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cabbage and eggplants were transferred to 10 railroad freight cars – twice what merchants had anticipated. The basin also featured docks and slips and a produce market.

Next week: The demise of the turning basin

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg August 24, 2005 at 11:51 am.

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