As I was watching television this morning, a reporter was describing the village of Bucklebury, where the royal baby is, as being away from the “hurly-burly” of London. To my mind immediately came an old advertisement for the Boynton Hotel, which said that the Boynton Hotel was “away from the hurly-burly of large, fashionable hotels.”
Boynton Hotel ad from 1899
So who could have written the ad with the somewhat British expression? It very well could have been Albert Edward Parker, who managed the hotel for many years. He was Major Nathan S. Boynton’s son-in-law, married to his daughter Anna. The only known picture of them was taken at the Boynton Woman’s Club dedication in 1932. Parker was a native of England, born in 1873 who emigrated to America in 1886.
A.E. Parker also has a special spot in Palm Beach County’s history as the first naturalized citizen, sworn in on the day that Palm Beach County became official, July 1, 1909. Parker managed the hotel until the early 1920s, and also had the first dairy in Boynton, the Bertana farm, which was a combination of his first name and Anna’s. He went by the name “Bert” among his friends.
Albert and Anna Parker, 1932
He went on to become West Palm Beach’s city manager, and eventually sold real estate in Palm Beach. He built a beautiful Mediterranean-revival house on Flagler Drive (recently renovated). Albert passed away in 1935; he and Anna are interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach.
As Palm Beach County’s coastal ridge areas were being developed in the early 1900s, land speculators eyed the lands just beyond, along the pine ridge that started about where Military Trail is today. The land between today’s I-95 and Military Trail needed quite a bit of drainage, through the chain of lakes that runs from Lake Mangonia all the way south to Lake Ida in Delray Beach. This buffer area was quite swampy. The “Flatwoods” or pine ridge that runs from Military Trail to 441 was a little higher. The Palm Beach Farms Company bought thousands of acres of this land, and offered it up for sale in five acre (and larger) tracts. The company platted the Town of Lake Worth in the process, to offer a “free” 25 foot town lot if you bought acreage out west. Greenwood and Bryant owned the vast holdings, depicted as the shaded areas on this map – each square is 640 acres.
Palm Beach Farms Land Holdings in 1910
They had many takers for the land, yet much of it was not drained for many years, and was wet during the summer rainy season. Many acres end up in farming and dairying, and today of course it is mostly covered with housing and business developments.
The sales literature was filled with glowing reports, and quite frankly, some real untruths, such as this quote: “So dry is the air with an easterly wind that within a quarter mile from the sea a wet garment hung out in the breeze at night will be found quite dry in the morning.” Somehow Florida humidity and mosquitoes did not exist for the sales writer. They were unwelcome surprises for those early land purchasers.
In the process the company built Boynton Road and Delray Road – today’s Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue as ways west out to the land. Cars and trucks allowed farmers access to the land, although the shell rock roads were slow going. The land boom was on.
The wilderness as seen in 1910.
When I was collecting information on Major Nathan S. Boynton’s hotel on the beach, I found many old ads for the hotel in The Tropical Sun and the Miami Metropolis, the area’s first newspapers. One of the peculiar findings was the hotel’s seemingly “magical” water for curing all sort of ailments. The ad states that the water is “unsurpassed,” a “certain cure for all kidney troubles.” It was even analyzed by a state chemist! Of course having healthful water with curative properties was a ploy used by many hotels of the time, especially in Europe. A.E. Parker, the hotel’s manager, was originally from England and may have gotten the idea from growing up across the pond. Maybe Boynton Beach should be bottling its special water.
The year is 1871, and one of the most important surveyors in Florida history has a new contract from the Federal government, to survey all the land between Miami and St. Lucie
Marcellus A. Williams
– that last frontier of America called South Florida. Marcellus A. Williams was born in North Carolina in 1818, and lived with his wife and nine children on Amelia Island. This story is so good that I’m going to write it as a “serial” story over the next few weeks, so that you will read glimpses from some of the first people who set eyes on this unspoiled paradise.
Marcellus Williams’ house on Amelia Island in the Fernandina Beach Historic District. Courtesy Florida Memory.
1912 Death Certificate – Marcellus Williams
This promotional post card from the 1920s advertised Boynton’s first big “boom time” development – Lake Boynton Estates. Its original plat is four pages, and the development would have spanned the area from Boynton Beach Boulevard to Woolbright, just west of the Seaboard Coastline railroad tracks. Speculators built a few houses in the 1920s, only three of which survive to this day. Only one side of the original three sets of gates survives, on the east side next to the railroad tracks. The ones depicted in the postcard were at the Boynton Beach Boulevard intersection, then called Lake Street. Later the lots were sold and houses are still being built in the area on lots that were never developed.
Lake Boynton Estates
Remaining gate at Lake Boynton Estates