Palm Beach County’s First Automobiles

1905 – Florida requires automobile registration

Florida Memory - Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

Florida Memory – Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

In 2015, the State Archives of Florida digitized the first two volumes of motor vehicle registrations recorded by the Florida Department of State. These ledger pages, found online at Florida Memory, Found Here contain detailed information recorded between 1905 and 1917 about our earliest vehicles, including the registered owner, city, county, make, model and horsepower of each automobile and motorcycle.

George Potter

George W. Potter was the first person in this part of the state (Palm Beach County) to legally register his automobile with the state.

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

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.

Record #80 Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Record #80
Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Waltham Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of automobiles in Waltham, Massachusetts, including the Orient Buckboard, between 1902 and 1908

Henry M. Flagler

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry 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.
White Auto Co. 1905

White Auto Co. 1905


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 Automobile Registrations

Florida East Coast Hotel Automobile Registrations



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.

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

Boynton Hotel Company President A.E. Parker

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

In 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.
Winton Motor Carriage Car

Winton Motor Carriage Car


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.

Vehicles registered in the State of Florida as of February 5, 2016

DRIVE SAFE!

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 4.54.22 PM

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 Egg Circle

You can purchase farm fresh eggs in western Boynton Beach. Heritage Hen Farms (hidden behind the Publix Supermarket on Haverhill Road, west of Military Trail and south of Le Chalet Blvd) offers freshly laid chicken eggs, honey and goat milk.

Heritage Hen Farm

Heritage Hen Farm

During the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the farm was the site of Oscar Winchester’s “Flatwoods” pineapple plantation. Mr. Winchester was widely known as the “Pineapple King.”

HOME

If you have enough money, you can buy a mini-hen farm from the 2012 Neiman Marcus Fantasy Christmas Catalog for “just a drop in the bucket” – $100,000.

Neiman Marcus 2012 Fantasy Christmas Catalog Mini-Hen Farm

Neiman Marcus 2012 Fantasy Christmas Catalog Mini-Hen Farm

There’s one catch; cultivation of chickens and other farm animals are prohibited within the Boynton Beach city limits.

Not to ruffle any feathers, but that wasn’t always the case. Boynton once boasted a very successful Egg Circle.

In 1921, shortly after the town’s incorporation, a flock of Boynton Women organized a co-op for cultivating and marketing home-grown eggs.

Lake Worth Herald, Dec. 1 1921

Lake Worth Herald, Dec. 1 1921

Led by president Mrs. I.R. Funk, and Manager, Mrs. H.P. Smith, seven Boynton entrepreneurs went into business.

The Egg Circle presented an educational exhibit and promoted their egg circle production at the annual Palm Beach County Fair. (Note: George Graham Currie founded the Palm Beach County Fair in 1912)

Nearly 650 dozen eggs sold during the winter season. Because they didn’t put all their eggs in one basket, the women were able to sock away a nice little nest egg.