Boynton’s Oldest House

In the early 1900s, Boynton pioneer families lived in frame vernacular homes. Horace Bentley Murray, who built the Boynton Hotel for Michigan investor Maj. Nathan S. Boynton, constructed many of the wood houses, commercial buildings and swing bridges. The majority of these early structures became lost to time with progress, fire and hurricanes claiming them over the last 120 years.

The Andrews House

The Andrews House

Today’s “Andrew’s House” at 306 SE 1st Avenue is Boynton’s oldest residence. Bert L. Kapp, a Dutchman who moved to Boynton from Michigan built the house in 1907. Although the house is typically thought of as constructed in 1901, newspaper records support a 1907 construction date. The Kapp family sold the house to A.E. Parker, Major Nathan S. Boynton’s son-in-law, and moved to West Palm Beach.

Who were the Andrews?
Charles Lee Andrews and Katie Andrews purchased the house from Parker. The Andrews’ story is intriguing.

Charles Andrews AKA Benjamin Green

Charles Andrews AKA Benjamin Green

Charles Lee Andrews served in the Confederate Army under the name Benjamin F. Green. He married Katie in Mississippi, in spite of the fact that he was at least 42 years older than Katie. They had two sons, George Kermit and Charles Lee Jr. The Andrews ran a small grocery store in Boynton. Charles Lee Andrews passed away in 1922, and Katie remained in the house. She began collecting Andrew’s Civil War pension. She continued to collect that pension until 1971, when she passed away, making her the last Civil War pensioner in Palm Beach County. Her son George and wife Edith then lived in the house; George passed away in 1993. Edith moved to a nearby apartment, and the house was boarded up and fell into disrepair.

In 1998, Boynton native Bob Katz bought the Andrews house and several other downtown properties. He had the Andrews house moved to an adjacent lot so it could be better seen from Ocean Avenue, and had the house restored. Katz’s untimely death at age 50 in 2006 has left all his downtown properties in limbo, and several are currently for sale.

For more information on Boynton’s historic buildings, visit the City of Boynton Beach’s Historic Preservation page. Historic Preservation

Site information
306 SE 1st Ave.
Style:
Frame Vernacular
Built:
1907
Period:
Spanish-American War
Type:
House: Fish scale shingles to gables, wood shake roof, brackets, exposed rafters, dormer window.

Discovery of unusual postcard of the 1909 shipwreck Coquimbo and the tale of two Clydes

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

After years of searching for photographs of the 1909 shipwreck, The Coquimbo, on December 19th I spotted a postcard for sale on the Internet. As I read the title “Boynton FL Bark Shipwreck Coquimbo Floral Border c1910 Postcard,” my pulse quickened. When I opened the listing and viewed the photograph of the three-masted sailing ship, my heart skipped a beat. I scrolled down and stared at the reverse side. Postmarked August 9, 1909 and sporting a one-cent stamp, the message read

Boynton Fl. 8/8/09 – Dear Roger. It has ben (sic) a long time since I have heard from you so I wanto (sic) know if you are still living. I have ben (sic) all over hell since I last wrote you but I am home now carpentering. clyde.”

 

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I stared at the card and message for a few moments, then clicked ‘Buy-it-Now.’ I had to secure this image to add to the historic record of Palm Beach County and the city of Boynton Beach. I had an idea of who the sender was – there were only two young men named Clyde living in the Boynton area in 1910.

The Norwegian barkentine ship is legendary in Boynton Beach. During the pioneer era of the 1880s-1910s, many ships reportedly ran aground and sunk in the waters only several hundred yards off the Boynton coast. The Coquimbo is especially important to the history of Boynton as the 225-foot long ship carried a precious cargo of pine lumber and many of the early frame houses and buildings were constructed with the lumber.

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

After the barque ran aground on a reef January 31, 1909, the 15 crew members were rescued and reportedly camped on the beach using the ship’s sails as makeshift tents. The big sailing ship drew attention from the guests at the Boynton Hotel and was the talk of the town. After efforts to right the ship failed, Capt. I Clausen placed a notice for auction in the Miami Metropolis, auctioning off the cargo, rigging, supplies and most useful of all to the people of Boynton, the lumber.

coquimbo 1901

 

 

 

 

 

The precious postcard held several clues. Initially, I suspected the card was sent by Clyde Murray, the oldest son of Horace B. and Mary Murray. The elder Murray, a carpenter and farmer, arrived in the tropical wilderness we now call Boynton Beach from Michigan in January, 1896 to build Maj. Nathan S. Boynton’s beachfront hotel. The fact that the sender came back “home,” and was “carpentering” sounded like a Murray following in his father’s steps.

This message also shed light on the massive building boom in Boynton, providing evidence to the stories about the many houses and buildings constructed of Coquimbo lumber springing up between 1909 and 1911. The sender evidently returned to Boynton to lend his carpentry skills to aid in the building boom.

My hunch proved wrong. After checking census records, I discovered Clyde Murray was born in 1893 rendering him merely 16 years of age in 1909.

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, next to his mother)

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, behind  his mother)

Now to check out the other Clyde!

C.O. Miller is best known for creating Boynton’s most enduring and splendid roadside attraction, Rainbow Tropical Gardens. In addition, the master gardener designed the exquisite gardens of the famed Addison Mizner designed Cloister Inn.

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Born Clyde O’Brien Miller in 1885, near Logansport, Indiana, Miller worked as a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad before settling in Boynton in 1909.

A year later, at age 25, he married Leona Austin, one of Frank Austin’s three daughters.

The year before Clyde and Leona’s nuptials her sister Frona drowned in a tragic accident, while attempting to cross the canal on a waterlogged barge. A third sister, Nellie, married Capt. Walter “Pop” Lyman, son of Lantana founder, M.B. Lyman.

Frona Austin

Frank Austin owned a farm and building supply store next to the Florida East Coast railway tracks on Lake Street (now Boynton Beach Blvd.)

 

 

 

The population of the Boynton settlement at that time numbered less than 700, and it is possible Miller met Miss Austin at her father’s store or at a Methodist Church activity. As a carpenter, Miller likely needed building supplies and tools from the store.

Rainbow nurseries aug 9 pbpost

By following census records, news accounts and government documents, it seems Miller did indeed move about or travel often   (as described in his 1909 postcard).

Clyde Miller and Leona Austin had four children, including Vivian Alice, Clyde Austin, and Merna. The firstborn, Averon Mae, born January 19, 1911 in Logansport, Indiana, died at about age six, probably from the influenza epidemic that claimed the lives of many, especially the very young, the elderly and the infirm. Averon’s tiny body has rested in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach since her 1917 death.

A World War I Registration Card dated September 12, 1918, listed Miller’s occupation as a fisherman at Webster’s Fisheries in West Palm Beach. The record describes him as tall and stout, with light blue eyes and dark hair.

He served as a sheriff in Okeechobee briefly after the War.

By 1921, Clyde owned and operated Rainbow’s End Nursery on north U.S. 1. He specialized in tropical and semi-tropical plants. This nursery became Rainbow Tropical Gardens, one of the most famous attractions in Palm Beach County in the 1920s-1950s era.

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More on Clyde Miller, Rainbow Tropical Gardens and its incarnations in an upcoming blog.

A Secret from the Past is Revealed

In the great adventure that has been the story of Byrd Spilman Dewey and husband Fred S. Dewey, who filed the plat for the Town of Boynton in 1898, a few mysteries remained, nagging for an answer. We had wonderful photographs of the grand house they built in West Palm Beach called Ben Trovato (meaning “well invented” in Italian), but we knew there was another Ben Trovato, and that home stood somewhere in Boynton.

Ben Trovato in West Palm Beach, 1896

Ben Trovato in West Palm Beach, 1896

We didn’t know where the house was, nor how it looked. Not one person living in Boynton today had any recollection of the house.
We had a few clues. When Judge Earl Hoover researched Mrs. Dewey in 1966, he had a letter from prominent Boyntonite Bertha Williams Chadwell, who had moved to Boynton in 1907 and was friends with the Deweys. Mrs. Chadwell wrote: “The Dewey home stood at the corner of Second Avenue [Boynton Beach Boulevard] and the Dixie Highway [Federal Highway]. It was a big two-story house facing east. It is no longer in existence. It stood where the Cities Service Station now stands. The house was destroyed by fire later when owned by a succeeding owner, about 1920.”

Bertha W. Chadwell

Bertha W. Chadwell

That was our only clue as to the house’s location and how it looked. We combed through old pictures of Boynton from books, pamphlets, historical society newsletters, and other archival collections, but none seemed to match the location and the description.
In July, a postcard with a lovely frame vernacular Boynton house owned by A.P. Lynch appeared on the eBay auction website.

A.P. Lynch House

A.P. Lynch House

We checked land records and noted that the Deweys had sold their seven-acre citrus grove to Mr. Lynch in 1912. The Lynch house was two-story, but located on the east side of Federal highway at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Federal. We saw the Lynch house noted on the well-known 1910 “Boomer” map of Boynton, and a portion of the house is visible on an old snapshot from Cindy Lyman Jamison.

Lynch house location

Lynch house location

In August we pulled all the lot sales records from the original Town of Boynton at the Palm Beach County Courthouse for careful inspection of the lot buyer’s names and lot locations. We found that in 1912, the Deweys sold lots 1 through 5 in Block 1 of the original Town of Boynton to Charles T. Harper, which according to Mrs. Chadwell, is where the Dewey house stood. This information would also coincide with the year Mr. Dewey reentered the Soldier’s hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee and the Deweys left Boynton. Harper and wife Cora Stickney Harper would have lived in the house until they moved to Fort Pierce in 1913 when Charles was transferred to the Florida East Coast Railway station as head agent. In 1923, Charles sold the five lots to the Austin family.

The 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows no structures on lots 1 and 2, where the house had stood. It could be that the house had burned down by the time the map was drawn. This supports Mrs. Chadwell’s report of the house burning down in about 1920. Without further evidence we were left with only the probable location, and no idea what the house was like, other than it was two-story.
Then something very strange happened. Last week I was searching through the old Florida East Coast Homeseeker magazine, which was a sales tool for selling off Henry Flagler’s vast land holdings he had gained from the state of Florida for building the railroad. Several copies of this publication are scanned online in the HathiTrust archive, and once in a while I like to scroll through the pages and clip old photographs of areas long since developed.

As I was looking through the Homeseeker late one evening, Janet DeVries texted me about the Dewey house – would we ever really know what it looked like – could it be the Lynch house after all? I answered back that I doubted we could ever know what it looked like. I continued to scroll through the Homeseeker issue, which featured the Everglades drainage project. Some interesting pictures of dredges and such, then a picture of a Delray house with a wooden cistern that looked like a scene from the 1960s television show Petticoat Junction.

Then I scrolled to the next page—and saw a rather imposing two-story house in the woods—and the words “Ben Travato” [sic] sprang out from the page…and Dewey…and Boynton. It was as if I was guided to that page, that one page among the millions of books scanned online and their billions of pages, the one page that had a picture of the Dewey house in Boynton, at the exact moment we wanted to solve that mystery.

Ben Trovato in Boynton, 1910

There it stood—in the wilderness of pine trees that was Boynton—the big two-story house, with a wonderful deck and unusual windows that is reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright design. A shingled frame vernacular design with high ceilings and screened porches. There stood Fred and Byrd, she in her signature white dress with parasol, and Fred looking down from the deck with his familiar grey hat. The design was probably Byrd’s; from a 1936 letter: “I’ve built nearly a dozen cottages, and several big houses. My biggest ‘job’ is doing that sort of thing, as I’m my own architect, as well as landscaper, and it PAYS when we’ve needed nice sums in a hurry, and my husband was unable to work.”
The photograph is not sharp, having been scanned from the original lithographed magazine page. The photographer was listed as the “Florida Photographic Concern” and “Fort Pierce.” The company was based in Fort Pierce and run by Harry Hill, who was a bee-keeper and avid photographer. Many of his glass negatives have been preserved by the St. Lucie County Regional History Center; we contacted them to see if an original photograph exists in their archives. Hill did much photography for Flagler’s businesses, so he was probably hired to photograph the Dewey house.
I will leave the reader to draw conclusions as to how this happened as it did. A parable written by Mrs. Dewey, “Who Seeks Finds,” certainly fits what occurred in the rediscovery of the Dewey house in Boynton. The joy and triumph of finally seeing that wonderful home in Boynton still lingers. If spirits do return…

UPDATE 4/16/2016:

The newly updated Palm Beach Post archive at Newspapers.com revealed that the Dewey house burned May 16, 1916 in the early morning hours. No cause was given.

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Frozen in Time

Last week an envelope of late 1950s/early 1960s photographs arrived in our mailbox. The lovely 8″ by 10″ photographs were taken by popular lens man Stan Sheets. While Mr. Sheets took photographs for the Boynton Star, the Palm Beach Post and other local newspapers, he also captured street scenes of mid twentieth century Boynton Beach. His foresight to photograph everyday street scenes and share his images with friends and neighbors (in this case friend Charles Cassell), allows us to look back and see the charm of our town a half century ago.

Most of the photographs are not labeled, but careful scrutiny of the foreground, background, and other details give clues to the place and the date of the images, now frozen in time.

Photograph of Boynton Greyhound Lines Bus Station by Stan Sheets. Donated by Faith Cyr. Colorized by Ginger Pedersen.

Photograph of Boynton Greyhound Lines Bus Station by Stan Sheets. Donated by Faith Cyr. Colorized by Ginger Pedersen.

My favorite photograph is of the Greyhound Lines Bus Station. According to the 1959 Polk City Directory the bus station was located at 112 S. Federal Highway on the east side of Federal Highway about a block south of Ocean Avenue. What I find most amazing about this image is the details it captures.

Google Map of 112 S. Federal Highway today

Google Map of 112 S. Federal Highway today

Look closely, and you will see that not only did this structure serve as the bus terminal; it played an important role in communication and transportation, two vital components of our town’s infrastructure.

Note the two benches outside the station, for waiting for the bus. Imagine how many people rested there over the years, perhaps to leave for college in Tallahassee or visit relatives in the north.  Picture the moms and dads tearfully waving white handkerchiefs as the buses pulled away. The station had a Western Union Telegraph Office, where you could send a telegram announcing you had arrived. “ARRIVED IN BOYNTON SAFELY STOP MISS YOU ALREADY STOP LOVE PATSY”

1958 Chevrolet Impala

1958 Chevrolet Impala

The telephone number for the local taxicab (9694) is displayed outside the station, and I spy a telephone booth in the far left of the frame, behind the 1958 Chevy Impala.

Try peering into the open door.  Barely visible inside is an old Coca Cola machine. The 6 oz. bottles of Coke from the vending machine likely cost 10 cents by 1960. The empty bottles fetched a 2-cent return value. The bus station probably sold many of those 10-cent cokes in the summer, as the station had no air conditioning. The structure had jalousie windows and the door is open to let in a breath of air.

This home once belonged to the Joseph Kolendo family

This home once belonged to the Joseph Kolendo family

The house to the right of the frame once belonged to the Kolendo family. Joseph Kolendo, a building developer, was responsible for developing many of the single-family homes in Boynton in the 1950s.

Advertisement for Kolendo Construction Company from 1955 Palm Beach Post.

Advertisement for Kolendo Construction Company from 1955 Palm Beach Post.

 

 

The house has a huge television antenna. Those were the days before cable TV, satellite dishes, or WiFi. The television was likely a black and white console with only a few TV stations reached by dial, probably WTHS, channel 2,WJNO, channel 5, WEAT, channel 12, WIRK, channel 21.

1950s logo of WPTV News Channel 5 NBC affiliate

1950s logo of WPTV News Channel 5 NBC affiliate

What is curious about the photo is the roadside citrus stand. An old pickup truck with a makeshift stand is peddling grapefruit and oranges.

Roadside citrus stand

Roadside citrus stand

Behind the truck are several lean-to’s or storage sheds with an assortment of old junkyard type objects lying about.

Children's toys and other items piles atop the structures next to the bus station

Children’s toys and other items piles atop the structures next to the bus station

I spy a child’s old rusted tricycle on top of the haphazard pile. I guess the city didn’t have code enforcement in those days.

(Update: Wayne Kolendo tells us the small building with the tricyle, bike wheels and other items housed his bicycle repair/building shop. Kolendo was a mechanical entrepreneur during his high school years.).

While no gas pumps are visible, one can’t miss the iconic yellow and red Shell Oil Company sign with the 1955 emblem. Using modern day magic, the original photograph by Stan Sheets is again glowing brightly.

1955 Sign for Shell Oil Company

1955 Sign for Shell Oil Company

Next time you come across some old pictures, send them to us. You might see some of them featured here!

*If any readers know Mr. Sheets, please let him know we are interested in talking to him, and thanking him for capturing and preserving our history.

(8/21/14 update) We learned Stan Sheets left us in 2005. We are working with his family to honor him for his community support and for chronicling Boynton history.

We also found another photo of the bus station/Shell Station.

Jim Smith, owner of Smith's Shell Station in his truck. (Photo courtesy Wendy Smith Franklin)

Jim Smith, owner of Smith’s Shell Station in his truck. (Photo courtesy Wendy Smith Franklin)

Special thanks to:

  • Faith Cyr
  • Wendy Smith Franklin
  • Debra Kolendo
  • Ginger Pedersen
  • Stan Sheets
  • Historic Boynton Beach Facebook Fans

References for this story:

  • Car Gurus. http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/1958-Chevrolet-Impala-Pictures-c4308
  • Florida Television History. http://rogersimmons.com/florida-television-history/
  • GoogleMaps. https://www.google.com/#q=112+S+Federal+Hwy%2C+Boynton+Beach%2C+FL
  • Palm Beach Post
  • Polk City Directory
  • Shell Oil Company. http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/who-we-are/our-history/history-of-pecten.html
  • History of Coca Cola. http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/coca-cola-facts/coca-cola-history/

 

Boynton’s Waite Bird Farm

The Waite Bird farm, founded and operated by Howard and Angela Waite, served as a popular tourist attraction from 1947 to 1978.

Waite's Bird Farm

Waite Bird Farm

The bird farm, located on North Federal Highway at the Boynton city limits, once existed as the state of Florida’s largest breeder of rare and exotic birds.

The breeding farm first operated as the Lewis Bird Farm.

The Waites, along with son Howard, relocated to Lake Worth, Florida from Ohio in the early 1940s. Howard, formerly a radio engineer, married Angela Kellacky, a teacher from Chicago in 1928.

Angela Waite

Angela Waite

The Waites raised the birds in colonies, with Angela nurturing and hand feeding the fledglings and Howard traveling to Mexico to buy birds and other animals for the zoo and to sell.

Howard Waite, Sr.

Howard Waite, Sr.

The popular tourist attraction drew visitors from all over the state. People flocked to see the colorful parrots, toucans, ostriches, peacocks and macaws. The zoo at the Waite Bird Farm included giant tortoises, trained monkeys, alligators and a leopard.

Growing up surrounded by animals and caring for sick species inspired Howard Waite, Jr. to study veterinary medicine at Alabama Polytechnic University (now Auburn University). Following his 1959 graduation he served as veterinarian for his family’s menagerie.

Howard Waite, Jr., high school football photograph

Howard Waite, Jr., high school football photograph

In the next few years, he, along with Charlie Camus and George Samra founded the Zoological Society of Palm Beach County which led to the 1969 establishment of  the the Dreher Park Zoo  (now the Palm Beach Zoo) with colleague Paul Dreher.

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

After the Florida Turnpike extended its concrete ribbon through South Florida, traffic passing the quaint landmark dwindled and condominiums and large stores replaced the allure and charm of roadside Florida.

The bird farm closed in 1960, however the Waites continued operating the business as a pet shop until 1978.

Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos

In the late 1970s and 1980s,  Howard Waite, Jr. used his artistic talent to contribute to the Florida Audubon and other wildlife magazines with his pen and ink drawings.

Today Howard “Bud” Waite lives in east Boynton Beach and is an active member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society. The building once housing Boynton’s exotic pet dealership stills exists on the corner of North Federal between Potter and Dimick Roads.

Dr. Howard "Bud" Waite, 2012

Dr. Howard “Bud” Waite, 2012