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/

 

Jungle Fire: History of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue

For this blog we are pleased to have a another Boynton Beach Fire Department history installment from our resident guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department

An interesting early morning structure fire during the late 1940s occurred at a tiny pub called the Jungle Inn Bar located in Briny Breezes. The inn was a popular drinkery owned and op…erated by a man called “Biggin” Baskin — aptly named due to his mountainous size.

The fire began as an unattended barbeque pit that was used inside the tavern collapsed in the wee hours of the morning, sending smoldering coals crashing to the ground. The unabated embers ignited the wooden floorboards and flames quickly rolled up the walls.

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

The department had recently purchased a 1946 Mack 500 GPM piston pumper and Boynton firemen responded to the blaze with the new engine. On arrival, they found the inn totally insulted by fire. They staged the fire engine parallel to the tangled mangroves and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in hopes of drafting water, as hydrants were few, or non existent.

In the chaos that ensued, the weary operator engineer [driver] stood aghast at the pump panel. Scratching his head in disbelief, he had forgotten the sequence for pumping. Fireman James I. Lacey then stepped up to the panel and quickly engaged the pump. As other firemen began to pull multiple sections of hose and nozzles from the engine, James deployed the hard suction, complete with strainer into the saltwater, thus beginning the drafting process.

They valiantly battled the blaze until dawn.

“It was saltwater, but it was wet. We pumped water until daybreak and finally extinguished the fire. It was a good thing because we noticed that our drafting hose and strainer were dangling in mid air. The water level had dropped considerably. We thought that we had drained the canal until we realized it was an outgoing tide! We all enjoyed a hearty laugh.”

~ Fireman Lacey

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

Unity and Patriotism

This 911 tribute is written by guest blogger Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department.

911 Tribute

911 Tribute

September 11, 2001 happened to fall on “B” shift for the men and women of the Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. I was working as the lead paramedic on Rescue No. 2 along with firefighter 3, Randy Jute and probationary firefighter, Adam Turey.
Our normal morning activities of inventorying supplies, checking vehicles, cleaning the station and perpetuating firehouse gossip was abruptly halted by a barrage of horrific images coming from national television broadcasts. We focused on the small TV in the kitchen to witness the top portion of the north tower of the World Trade Center being enveloped in thick, black smoke.
The smoke was billowing uncontrollably from a gaping hole in the building and initial reports were unclear. However, I vividly recall reporters stating this may have been accidental.  “A small plane has just struck the north tower of the World Trade Center . . . more details to follow,” one of them muttered.
It was painfully obvious this was no accident as United Airlines Flight No. 175 slammed into the south tower in an exploding orange ball of fire and falling debris. The plane literally disintegrated into the building killing everyone on board instantly. Terrorists had planned and executed an affliction on American soil like no other time in modern history with perhaps the exception of Pearl Harbor.
As Randy, Adam and I discussed our own strategies for combating such a blaze, the north tower began to buckle and crumble. This magnificent structure, now insulted by fire, collapsed in a huge cloud of dust that blanketed the streets of Lower Manhattan — forever shattering our sense of security.  We realized that it was just a matter of time until the south tower would succumb to the same intense heat radiating from the burning jet fuel. It too, would finally collapse under its own great weight. It was surreal watching this calamity unfold on live television.
My wife called the fire station — her voice cracking with fear as the twin towers disappeared from the New York City skyline. I desperately tried to calm her fears, while coping with my own.  Our reality then set in when the station alarm sounded, summoning us to the first of many emergencies we would handle on this day. My emotions remained mixed throughout the arduous twenty-four hour shift. I was experiencing feelings of anger, grief, helplessness, but above all, I had feeling of unity and patriotism.
Everyone we encountered, including patients, nurses, ER physicians and the notoriously cranky trauma surgeons offered support for what we were doing — simply our jobs. I’ve always been enamored with this profession, but never have I been so proud to have worked as a firefighter/paramedic as I did on September 11, 2001.

On the first anniversary of September 11th, I was invited to speak to a group of young people regarding the events of that day. I chose words of celebration, not of despair. I reflected on the newfound sense of unity and patriotism I had experienced.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I felt as though, albeit brief, that everyone in the country, regardless of race, color or creed, seemingly became one. We were all touched by this tragedy — not for the color of our skin, nor our political affiliation or religious beliefs, but simply because we are Americans.
Who can forget the bipartisan, campy rendition of “God Bless America” sung by members of Congress on the steps of Capitol Hill? Yes, it’s true, some sang like squeaking hinges, but it was good to see cooperation and unity from our leadership.
It’s troublesome to think it takes this type of cataclysm for the people of this great country to come together as one nation.
I will always hold the 343 New York City firefighters, the paramedics and emergency medical technicians, the police officers, the port authority personnel, our military and civilians who were murdered on that clear September morning in the highest regard.

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

The Boynton Theatre

Meteorologists predict temperatures may reach 100 degrees this week in the Palm Beaches. What do people do when the temperature climbs to uncomfortable heights? They head for the refreshing air-conditioning of the movie theatre!

Boynton Theatre

Boynton Theatre

The Boynton Theatre at Lake (Boynton Beach Blvd.) and U.S. 1 (Federal Highway) originally featured silent movies, and a theatre employee provided dramatic music on the piano. The building had one screen and wooden floors. In the 1950s, a quarter-dollar bought two feature movies, a cartoon, and a newsreel. Popcorn cost 5 cents. Church groups met in the theatre building before construction of their own buildings, and businesses occupied the second floor.
Vintage movie theatre brochures provide a glimpse back in time. Look at the entertainment selections from April 1959!

1959 Boynton Theatre Flyer

1959 Boynton Theatre Flyer

 

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw Movie Poster (1958)

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw Movie Poster (1958)

The Goddess (1958), a drama loosely based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, a 1959 biography of Al Capone, aptly called Al Capone, a 1958 British/American western comedy starring Jayne Mansfield and Kenneth Moore, and a low-budget 1957 science fiction film – The 27th Day, featuring flying saucers and aliens.

Al Capone 1959 Movie Poster

Al Capone 1959 Movie Poster

What does the spring 1959 movie selection tell us about the Boyntonites escaping to the movies? Did I mention the free air-conditioning?

The 27th Day Poster (1957)

The 27th Day Poster (1957)