History & Culture of the Palm Beaches | On The Town in The Palm Beaches

History & Culture of the Palm Beaches | On The Town in The Palm Beaches


♪ I will take good care of you ♪ ♪ If
you take care of me ♪ With names like Flagler and Kennedy, the Palm
Beaches have long been known for wealth and opulence. But the area’s history is rich in
so many ways. Today we’ll tackle how the area came to be, from indigenous tribes to Flagler’s
train, and the birth of tourism. We’ll hear the story of early pioneers and learn how
the Palm Beaches became synonymous with the arts. I’m Frank Licari, and that’s all on
this episode of On the Town in the Palm Beaches, the History and Culture episode. [Announcer] This program is brought to you
by Discover the Palm Beaches. Visit ThePalmBeaches.TV for more information. Hey, On the Towners, I’m standing in the shadow
of the oldest structure in the Palm Beaches, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. It’s been helping
sailors navigate dangerous waters since the 1860s. But the story of the Palm Beaches starts
long before that. How long, you ask? Well, let me introduce you to a few friends who
have all the answers. Most people don’t know the history that’s in this area, but you all
do, right? We certainly do. Yeah. We do our best. I can see it in your eyes. You keep saying that. I wanna break this down. So, Eliot, can you
talk to me about the cradle of Palm Beach County civilization? How did it begin? When the Europeans arrived in the early 1500s,
there were probably a 1/2 million indigenous peoples in Florida, first nations. And now
we name our regions after them. There were the Tequesta, the Calusa. There were the Timucuas,
and the Apalachee. So we name all these places after the Indian groups that we wiped out. May I introduce Yes. William Jenkins Worth? Is he here? He’s very important Please. To our conversation. Yes. So we’re going to ask Mr. Eliot Kleinberg
if he kind of can connect William Jenkins Worth with the conversation that we just had
as far as the Seminoles. Challenge flag, that was a challenge. The second Seminole War was the most vicious
and the most unpopular. So the head of the US forces was a fellow named William Jenkins
Worth. Ta da! And one day Colonel Worth decided that he
was tired of this war, so he unilaterally declared it over. [Helen] And they actually honored him in 1842
by naming the body of water that we call Lake Worth. [Debi] But just a few years later in 1860,
they were very busy up in Jupiter, building the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. That was our
first European group of people to be here. [Helen] How old is the lighthouse? It was built in 1860. 1860? 1860. I’ll let you do the math. That’s all right. There’s no math being done, this is a history
table. But nobody told me we were doing math. But Debi, you have to tell Frank who built
the Jupiter Lighthouse. Well, he actually didn’t build it, but he
did design it. Who designed it? George Mead, he was an architect, and he was
down and visited the site, as did Robert E Lee in the 1850s. On the eastern seaboard, South Florida was
the last region of pioneering, and that’s approximately this same time. Right, the same time period. We were the last
frontier. Give me that one thing that nobody would ever know. [Josh] The lens is really historic, one of
13 in the entire United States, first order that’s still active in the lighthouse. Older
than anything else, besides the lighthouse, in Palm Beach County. So if that breaks? Irreplaceable. Irreplaceable. You can’t like tape it? Well, there is a middle crossbar up there
that helps hold it together. One of lenses was damaged by a hurricane, but it’s so well
made that even with that damage, Still works. Still works. It was on a trip to St. Augustine when Henry
Flagler first realized Florida had the potential to become a tourist mecca. All it needed was
some grand hotels and a way to get there. So Henry Flagler built both. In 1894, he opened
Palm Beaches’ first resort, The Royal Poinciana Hotel and his Florida East Coast Railway laid
its first tracks in the area. That railroad brought with it both tourists and early pioneers,
and riding the rails back north, the bounty of Florida’s early crops: pineapples, bell
peppers, and strawberries. How do we move into where this goes from this fighting kind
of land to when does it start where it’s like, hey, we should settle this. We agree that Flagler, Henry Flagler. Flagler. I would disagree with that. I’m so sorry. I want an arm wrestle for this. I would too. This is fantastic. No, no, no, no, no. 1860, on the census, there
were two people mentioned, and they were both just keepers at the light. They were waiting
for the permanent keeper. So there may have been other people living here secretly. I agree with Debi. I agree with Debi that
there were people here, but I think it took the finance, money of Flagler to Change it greatly. Make the change. We’ve got some agreement there. You guys okay? Thank you for sitting between us. Okay, yeah, I wanna make sure that, yeah.
Essentially, Flagler comes down here and he builds what? [Rick] He promptly started buying up all the
land, and in 1894 he opened the Royal Poinciana Hotel. How long does commerce take for it to take
hold? About 10 minutes. 10 minutes, right? Well, yeah. Right away. [Debi] A lot of people came down here, were
here in 1893. They laid out the town of West Palm Beach and started putting in businesses.
That’s where the commerce was going to be. [Frank] This is one of the oldest churches
in Palm Beach County. Its roots go back to 1893 when the Payne Chapel AME Church opened
its doors in an area known as The Sticks. That was the cheap, temporary housing area
for the AfricanAmericans building Flagler’s hotels and railroad. The church moved West
in 1925 to a new building designed by the city’s only black architect, Hazel Augustus.
It was a popular spot. Right around the same time, the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church
opened next door, and both churches continue to serve the community. Sometimes when you
go into a church, it’s just a church until the congregation shows up, right? But this
one, you walk in and it has an immediate spirit, you can feel an energy when you come in. I’m
gonna start with the pastor. What is so special about this church for you? One of the really unique things is this was
the first site for school for AfricanAmerican children here in this place. So this church
has always had a feeling and a passion for education, and also for social justice, those
kind of things that made a difference. [Frank] Dorothy, tell me the role you play
in this church. [Dorothy] I was born in this church back in
the days when I had to come to church four times a day. That is faith on overdrive right there. I saw the building of this church when I was
a girl, when the men were on scaffolds putting those bricks up. That’s gotta be an interesting feeling coming
to church every Sunday, knowing that you’ve been here through all of its history, right? 90 plus years. [Frank] 90 plus years, wow. Today kids can say, I don’t think I feel like
going to church. That was not part of it. When you woke up, you knew that on Sunday
you were goin’ to church. And you didn’t mind it because, as I said, you got to see people
that you wouldn’t see all the time. [Frank] It was home. [Jacqueline] It was always home. [Pastor] This is the highest point in Palm
Beach County, and so that kind of gives us a uniqueness also. Everyone knows about the
house on the hill, that’s what Tab is. Cemeteries often hold the key to a community’s
rich history. Filled with dates, names, and stories, the Evergreen Cemetery is the final
resting place for some of Palm Beach County’s most influential black citizens for over 85
years. Some of the more notable ones are Dr. T. Leroy Jefferson, the area’s first black
physician, and J. W. Minkins, who was an early educator. Let’s talk to Dr. Alisha Winn and
Debbye Raing to tell us a little bit more about this sacred place. This is the site of Evergreen Cemetery, AfricanAmerican
cemetery, which was initially started October 23rd in 1913, by founders. One, the first
black midwife, Mildred Gildersleeve, and many others came together, purchased at least nine
acres of land and it is known to be Florida’s first incorporated cemetery that was privately
owned and operated by AfricanAmericans. The founders of putting this particular cemetery
together, Mildred Gildersleeve is buried here. And T. Leroy Jefferson, he was the first black
doctor. And he lived in The Sticks first, and then
into West Palm Beach, so he was the only black doctor to service the entire black community
during that time. [Frank] So this still remains a very important,
sort of sacred place in the community? [Eliot] We’re at the corner of 25th Street
and Tamarind Avenue, about a mile or two north of downtown West Palm Beach. Behind us are
700 bodies. Behind us here? Yes. This might very well be the most underacknowledged
historic site in all America. For 60 years, there was nothing. There was a field. That
road back there was extended and relocated, and some of the bodies are under the street. [Frank] How is that possible? Well, all of the victims were black. 1920s
Florida was in the deep South, and that adds to the tragedy that was and is the forgotten
hurricane of 1928. The fact that most people never heard of it, might be the fact that
people just can’t keep track of all the hurricanes, it was followed by the depression. The hurricane
itself killed more people than any natural disaster in the history of the United States,
the only exception being the great Galveston, Texas hurricane. Sunday morning, September
16th, 1928, the storm is here. It did not curve. Did not curve. They were floating around in
10, 12, 15 feet of water over land. Drowned 3000 people. 674 black people were carted
to this spot, and a bulldozer dug a hole, and the bodies went in. Then there’s an architectural kind of boom,
right, as the area starts to define itself a little bit. Palm Beach had developed into a popular winter
destination. And the South of France, that was also a winter destination. But World War
I changed all that. A gentleman named Paris Singer, 23rd child of Isaac Singer, who invented
the Singer sewing machine. He was staying down here for the season. He invited a gentleman
down from up north named Addison Mizner. They thought, you know, we’re not gonna be going
to the South of France anytime soon. Let’s recreate the Riviera here in the United States,
and it’s gonna be here in Palm Beach. With grand hotels came grand houses as the
Palm Beaches became more popular. Now while most architects were working in the Mediterranean
Revival style, it was famed architect, Addison Mizner, who defined the style in the 1920s.
He designed 67 structures in Palm Beach, 27 in Boca, and 10 elsewhere around the county.
Among some of his hottest properties, were the Everglades Club, the Boca Raton Resort
and Club, and the Boynton Women’s Club, as well as this beautiful structure right here.
Have you ever wondered how Addison Mizner came up with his great ideas? Well, he used
to spend days on end in his office and come out here to his balcony and create all these
great concepts. Let’s speak to someone who can tell us a little bit more about the history
of the Addison. The Addison was built in 1926 by Addison Mizner,
developed all of Boca in the 1920s, and the Addison really was his office where all of
his architects and developers came to do business. He would bring his clients right off the train
into the Addison, do business. He would wine and dine his clients, and then basically send
them on their way to the Cloisters for the day. [Frank] So not only, this was his creative
hub, right? Everything kind of flowed through here, but this is kind of was his sales office
too. He would bring people Absolutely. And schmooze them a little bit. Actually, it also functioned as a visual example
of what Boca Raton was supposed to look like as it was being developed. Describe for me what is the Mizner look? [Melanie] It was inspired very much by his
travels to Spain, so it’s got a lot of that Spanish architecture. He’s known for his beautiful
arches. Also you’ll notice in a lot of his buildings, he’s got the Pecky Cypress ceilings.
So it’s got really beautiful wood with the texture inside. He was identified as like
basically the primary architect and the developer of the area. [Frank] That’s incredible. So now the Addison is a private event venue.
So we do corporate events, we do weddings, social events. We have an amazing team, actually,
in our kitchen. We’re fivestar diamond awarded team. Where we’re sitting right now is where
we do our wedding ceremonies. Beautiful. So bride, groom. So if we were getting married, Yes. We would be, this would be where we would
sit and just sort of gaze into each other’s eyes. We would be over towards the fountain saying
our do’s under the arch. Right. It feels romantic, doesn’t it? It does, it does. And awkward all at the same time. Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. It really is. Mizner’s architecture can also
be found along Palm Beach’s most famous shopping destination, Worth Avenue. There, you’ll find
fashion’s hottest boutiques among Mediterraneanstyle courtyards and alley getaways. But Worth Avenue
isn’t the only spot for worldclass shopping in the Palm Beaches. Fashionistas will find
PGA Commons and Royal Poinciana Plaza to the north, and in Boca, they can enjoy Mizner
Park’s mix of shops and fine dining. There’s also a lot of specialty shops in the region.
I hear this next spot has been selling women’s clothes for over 100 years. Let’s take a peak
inside and see how much fashion has changed since 1895. So give me a little history of
how we got here. Well, my family actually came down on the
train with Henry Flagler in 1890s, early 1890s, and they started Anthony’s in 1895. Who’s they? My grandfather’s older brothers. It became
a full line department store, probably in the 30s and 40s. We had women’s, men’s. [Frank] Oh so you had everything? [Anthony] We had cosmetics. Like Burdine’s
was the store in Miami, so we were the department store here. [Frank] You’ve got a really niche, [Anthony] Totally, and we know who we’re after.
We don’t sway from that at all. Not only have past and present presidents
made Palm Beach County their winter White House, but here’s a fun fact. What do Rod
Stewart, Jimmy Buffet, JFK, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all have in common? They’ve all bellied up
to this counter here at Green’s Pharmacy. In this store, you don’t know who’s sitting
next to you. We’ve had Hollywood. We’ve had senators. We’ve had Jimmy Buffet, and he’s
in here all the time. He just gets treated like he was you. Oh, I doubt it, ’cause I get treated very
terribly so far. And we don’t chase anybody. If we find that
we see them, we don’t chase them for autographs. Of course, my employees have been told, you
do that, don’t come back. I want you to know that I give autographs
out freely, so if you’d let your employees know I’m an open book, no problem. The Paramount
Movie Theater was another local hotspot. In its glory days, you could catch a glimpse
of famous celebrities. Currently, it houses a church and thankfully, still a good bit
of movie memorabilia. When it opened, was considered one of the
fanciest movie theaters in the entire country. Now you have to think that why would that
be in Palm Beach? Well, a lot of folks who were financing films were in Palm Beach, so
there was an attempt to impress them and make sure they really supported future films. When the movie theater closed, but the Paramount
Complex stayed open, we came in 1994, long after it had been converted from a theater
to office space. I founded Paramount Church in 1994. People continued to come into the
Paramount daily because many have been here when it was a historical theater, and we have
an extensive photographic exhibit that is open to the public every day, showing the
history of the Paramount Theater, who was here and attended the films in the 1920s,
30s, 40s, 50s. [Frank] You can’t talk about Palm Beach County
history without talking about Burt Reynolds. And there’s not a lot of small areas like
this where you can say, oh, there’s a celebrity that was born and raised and grown out of
this sort of area. So let’s talk about the Burt Reynolds Theater. It opened in 1979, and he had it for exactly
10 years. He brought all of the biggest names into town. And I have met people that traveled
from the Midwest just to come and see shows and performances here. I mean, he really and
truly put Jupiter on the map. [Frank] Every year, the Palm Beach’s Student
Showcase of Films happens, I get to host it, which is so much fun. And we’re now calling
this kind of the home of the Student Showcase of Films because every year, Burt would be
here with yourself and you would interview for the Burt Reynolds scholarships for all
the students. Andrew Cater was wonderful and opened up this
space here. We would meet each of these blowyoursocksoff, incredibly talented young people. He loved
that process, being able to meet them. He would talk to them and he would interview
them. That was always very special to see. Because you felt like you knew him. He was
just down home Burt. That’s actually a really great way to describe
him, because I do think everybody felt that they knew him. And that’s what he wanted.
And he appreciated and loved his fans so much. What are the things that makes you part of
a community, right, is its arts and its culture. Can we all agree on that? Yes. So let’s talk about that part of the area,
which I think is where we’re getting to with society, culture, arts, JFK, all of the things
that we wanna sort of bring in here. The theater, all of these things, are what make the area
a Special. A home. What makes an area a home on the island? I think the best place is to start someplace
like Debi, because she represents all of Palm Beach County. When you go to visit her museum, The little historical society? That little
thing? Yeah. She represents all of us. One of the more modern people that may have,
that really looked at our community as a whole, and whether or not this would be a viable
place to bring a business, was Alex Dreyfuss. He’s the one who began the drive for the Kravis
Center. That was just the ultimate. There were many, many more facilities, especially
in Palm Beach. I think probably the first important cultural
institution was the Society for Arts in Palm Beach. Because absolutely there was a need
for these wealthy folks coming down to Palm Beach in the winter months to have a place
to go check out a book, or to attend a lecture, Go to the movies. Or go to the art exhibit. Palm Beach Opera has been in existence since
1961, and we’re entering our 57th season. And we’ve performed for over 50 years in South
Florida. We rehearse all of our performances here. Then we take them into the Kravis Center,
and we perform our shows. ♪ Figaro there, Figaro up ♪ ♪ Figaro down ♪ Palm Beach
Opera likes to focus also on education and community engagement programs, and each season
we reach about 19,000 kids and adults throughout three counties for free. Each season, we also
take one of our main stage productions and reduce it down for a onehour performance,
specifically for children. It’s a really great opportunity for families and kids. [Debi] If you haven’t had an opportunity to
visit the Norton recently, their addition is just absolutely gorgeous. Yeah, that’s magnificent. I think it’s the
first major fine art museum in the state of Florida. It started initially as not only
a museum, it was also an art school. So my mother took art classes there, along with
many other local folks. So it really had a double function of exhibiting this collection
from Ralph Norton, which then grew over time. When you walk in here, it really feels like
you’re in a grand place. Feels like you could pluck this and put it in New York or Washington.
Tell me about the collections that you have here, because as you walk around, it’s pretty
impressive. First of all, I’m so glad you said that. I’m
so glad you asked that, because, I’m really good at what I do, Scott, very
good. I can tell that. Yeah, I’m a professional. The Norton has probably one of the broadest
collections of art in Florida. We have American art, pre1960, contemporary art, post1960,
European art, Chinese art, and photography. One of the interesting things about the founder,
Ralph Norton, is that he wanted the West to become more familiar with the East, and he
has assembled one of the world class collections of Chinese jade and bronze and porcelain.
It’s a small but mighty collection that’s pretty much known throughout the world. From festivals featuring 3D chalk painting
to art in public places to colorful murals popping up on buildings all over town, the
Palm Beaches celebrate the arts in all mediums. Let’s paint the town at the Lake Worth Art
League. Tell me what the Lake Worth Art League or LWAL is. [Brunny] It’s a gathering place for wonderful
artists to meet. They must be wonderful though. They are just terrific. Some of the artwork
is done by emerging artists,. Then we have our inbetween artists, who are taking classes
and wanna exhibit their artwork here. And it’s a wonderful place to hang your art. Maybe
it won’t get sold, maybe it will, but you’ll have a lot of fun on Fridays. The first Friday
of the month. First Friday of the month? We have a reception. Okay, what is the reception entail? I bring
my little stuff with me? No, you bring no stuff. I bring no stuff, I just meet people? You bring something to snack on. Oh, so it’s like a potluck reception. Yes, exactly. Thank you. [Brunny] People who are, everybody, it’s for
everybody. Anybody walking down the street can come in, and we welcome them. [Frank] And this is a bunch of artists sitting
around. Not sitting. Talking. No, you’re standing. We’re standing. Okay, sorry, I’m sorry. Most of us. I didn’t mean to, I would never assume that
artists would be sitting. No, we wanna be mobile, No, the energy is, yes. And talk about the Artists. Artists, that’s it. Yes, yes. You should come on a Friday. I should come on a Friday. We’re in Howley’s
Restaurant. It is the oldest working restaurant in Palm Beach County. Is that right? Yes, it is. [Frank] How did we get here? It was built in 1950. It was owned by the
Howley’s family, and it was four young girls working here, Howley’s daughters. [Frank] How young? Probably teenagers. Teenagers, okay. They did everything. Yeah. They cooked? He cooked. Oh, he cooked. And they served, The dad? It was family owned and operated. So the dad cooked, the girls served the food.
Okay 1950, wow. [Katie] It’s good quality food, made to order,
with a friendly smile. My little angels of history. Look what I did.
I went into the kitchen. You did this yourself? With these hands, Helen, with these hands.
And I made us Eggs Howley, named after the restaurant. Can I interest you? Wonderful. You’re all full? I am full, thank you. You’re good. Eliot is not going to indulge
us in a Maryland crab cake. We ready? [All] Yes. Let’s all do it together. I need to have a smaller bite. Let’s all do it together. Ready, one, two,
three. Very good, Frank. Not bad, right? [Helen] And you did this all by yourself? Oh yeah, all by myself. Just an inside tip for Howley’s, it is a late
night diner. So it stays open very, very late. I was told. You can come here for dinner at one or two 5:00 a.m. I heard in the morning. They open on the weekend. On the weekend. So everyone, to history. Thank you so much
for a wonderful time. I have left with so much knowledge. Oh good. There’ll be a test. And I came with nothing, as usual. We checked
out the area’s oldest building, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. While our historians helped
us explore Henry Flagler’s role in creating the modern tourism industry. And we learned,
among other stories, how one of the area’s oldest arts institutions, The Norton, has
evolved into a modern day world class museum. We hope you’ll get out and explore these cultural
gems and be sure to join us the next time we go On the Town in the Palm Beaches. Do
I look like that? What a beautiful gown. [Announcer] This program was brought to you
by Discover the Palm Beaches. Visit ThePalmBeaches.TV for more information.