Do you remember the Sunday Brown Wrapper history pages published in South Florida newspapers during the late 1970s and 1980s? These history pages, resembling a brown grocery sack and sponsored by First Federal Savings of the Palm Beaches (The Big First), were written by local authors and contained short history vignettes (much like today’s blog posts). The accounts weren’t foot-noted, but delivered interesting information on a variety of local news topics with the Sunday newspaper. The history section was wrapped around a thick bundle of advertisements and the popular “funnies.”
Many of the Brown Wrappers are available online in their entirety via Google News, and more are being scanned by local historical societies and libraries for your reading pleasure. The Wreck of the Coquimbo, shown here, from the July 27, 1980 edition of the Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Daily News, was written by James H. Nichols.
Jim Nichols graduated from FAU with a Master’s Degree in History and served as a historic researcher for the Boynton Beach City Library. Mr. Nichols was also a photographer and a member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society.
Ronald Tee Johnson created the Sunday Brown Wrapper format in 1975, initially as a monthly special advertising campaign produced by First Federal Savings ad agency. The weekly Sunday Brown Wrappers ran for seven consecutive years in The Palm Beach Post – Post Times and were also packaged with the Ft. Lauderdale News and the Sun-Sentinel Sunday newspapers. The reverse side of each Brown Wrapper contained a full-page advertising First Federal’s services.
The most prolific writer for the Sunday Brown Wrapper series was Judge James R. Knott. Judge Knott, a Palm Beach County circuit judge from 1956 to 1977, served as the President of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. His passion for history resulted in several books on the subject including Tales of Tallahassee Twice Told and Untold: A Reminisce.
Many of Judge Knott’s Sunday Brown Wrapper stories are available in book format, The Mansion Builders, Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach, Palm Beach Revisited: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Revisited II: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County. While now out of print, several local libraries have copies of these books. You can also occasionally purchase copies on used book sites such as Half and AbeBooks.
Some of the Sunday Brown Wrappers currently available online are about Boynton history.
Breakfast Poetry (about poet Edgar Guest wintering at the Boynton Oceanfront Hotel) by James Hartley Nichols, September 12, 1982.
The Story of a Pioneer Woman – About Little Pierce Voss and Charlie Pierce
And others that are simply of general interest.
November 15, 1980 – Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People
Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People
January 4, 1981 – The Currie Map of West Palm Beach 1907.
The Currie Map of 1907
Since the brown grocery sack paper the history accounts were printed on was thick and durable, many of the original copies have survived and can be viewed at libraries and historical societies throughout Palm Beach County. The ongoing digitization efforts ensure preservation of this important facet of Palm Beach County history and will make research and reminiscing easier than ever.
1905 – Florida requires automobile registration
George W. Potter was the first person in this part of the state (Palm Beach County) to legally register his automobile with the state.
Other horseless carriages were dotting the sandy roads, but Potter’s registration of a lightweight, four-horsepower Orient Buckboard, recorded November 20, 1905, was the 80th registered vehicle in the entire state of Florida. Before moving to Florida, Potter studied art and engineering in Cincinnati. His great grandson, David Willson, cartoonist for the Palm Beach Daily News, recounts how you could tell Potter had a fascination with all things mechanical as his sketches were filled with bridges and steam boats.
Henry M. FlaglerHenry Morrison Flagler registered his vehicle on December 6, 1905, a few weeks after Potter. Local history sources contend that Flagler did not allow motorized vehicles on his luxury island resort at Palm Beach, instead preferring guests to traverse through the gardens and jungle trials via wicker rickshaw bicycles, powered by Negro guides.
Flagler’s vehicle, listed as a Touring Car manufactured by White Sew’g Mch. Co. (White Sewing Machine Co./White Motor Co.) operated on steam, hence the vehicle was not a noisy as other autos of the time. Presidents William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt also owned White Motor Company automobiles during this time period.
Florida East Coast Hotel System
The vehicle must have served Flagler well, for in the next few months his Florida East Coast Hotel system purchased and registered five additional identical touring cars.
Boynton Hotel Company President A.E. ParkerIn January 1908, Albert Edward Parker, manager of the Boynton oceanfront hotel and son-in-law of hotel owner Maj. Nathan Smith Boynton, registered his 30-horsepower Winton M.C. Co. Touring Car. Parker conducted business in both West Palm Beach and Miami, and likely used the old, bumpy sand trail to traverse the county for business purposes and to take hotel guests on sight-seeing tours.
1908 – 500 registered vehicles in Florida
By 1908, 500 vehicles were registered in the state of Florida.
2016 – Over 20,000,000 registered vehicles in Florida
Currently, there are over twenty million vehicles registered in Florida, with 1.2 million in Palm Beach County.
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.
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 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
306 SE 1st Ave.
House: Fish scale shingles to gables, wood shake roof, brackets, exposed rafters, dormer window.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.