About Janet DeVries Naughton

Janet DeVries Naughton is the immediate past president of the Boynton Beach Historical Society and a librarian and history professor at Palm Beach State College. The intrepid historic researcher has contributed to and published over a dozen local history books. She has 20 years experience in Florida libraries, museums and archives, and is available as a consultant for family history projects, books and personal archival collections.

The South Lake Worth Inlet – an 85 year-old Boynton landmark

In 2009, local history supporter Robert Neff wrote to me at the Boynton Beach City Library, requesting the assistance and support of the Boynton Beach Historical Society in applying for a historic State of Florida marker at the Boynton Inlet. Mr. Neff offered to fund the cost for the marker. I researched and documented the history of the marker and applied for a Master Site File number. Prior to the application finalization, Mr. Neff passed away at the age of 95. Next month, the marker review board will make a decision on the South Lake Worth (Boynton) Inlet marker. Here is a tidbit of history from the application narrative:

Throngs of anglers and fisherman gather at the inlet to relax, fish and watch the sport fishing, recreation, and drift fishing boats travel in and out of the inlet.

Throngs of anglers and fisherman gather at the inlet to relax, fish and watch the sport fishing, recreation and drift fishing boats travel in and out of the inlet.

The South Lake Worth Inlet (commonly known as the Boynton Inlet) is located in Ocean Ridge, Florida. The first inlet into Lake Worth was cut in the mid-19th century in the vicinity of today’s Lake Worth Inlet on the north end of the barrier island of Palm Beach, and was stabilized in 1917 as a navigable inlet. In 1925, the South Lake Worth Inlet was cut at the south end of the body of water known as Lake Worth.

A view of the original bridge over the inlet, sometimes called Rainbow Bridge or Old McDonald Bridge for its twin arches

A view of the original bridge over the inlet. Over the years the bridge has been nicknamed the Rainbow Bridge or Old McDonald Bridge for its twin arches

In the early 1920s, the need was seen for an additional inlet at the south end of Lake Worth to allow better water circulation and improve water quality. Both the cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth dumped sewage into Lake Worth as water treatment was nonexistent in the 1920s. On October 10, 1923, the newly formed South Lake Worth Inlet District appropriated monies for engineering work on the Inlet and construction began with Karl Riddle serving as chief engineer (Palm Beach Post).

The rainbow-style bridge over the inlet was opened September 3, 1926 to allow automobile traffic to continue through to Palm Beach along Ocean Boulevard (Palm Beach Post). Work continued on the inlet and it opened March 16, 1927 (Palm Beach Post). The inlet impeded the natural sand flow to the south of the inlet, resulting in severe erosion along those beaches. In 1937, the world’s first fixed sand bypassing plant, with extended jetties on the north and south ends were constructed, which greatly reduced erosion (Dean & O’Brien, 1987).

Pelicans patiently waiting for a taste of fish

Pelicans patiently waiting for a taste of fish

The Inlet opening jump-started the local economy and launched Boynton Beach as a fishing and boating destination. The Inlet allowed easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, as Boynton Beach is the closest municipality to the Gulf Stream waters. The areas surrounding the Inlet became a popular destination with local residents and tourists. In 1988, the county improved the park and its amenities. The Inlet and site continue to draw thousands each year to its blue waters and park facilities.

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)

Boynton’s Earliest Churches

Before Palm Beach County existed, most of southeast Florida was Dade County. Before the pioneers founded religious institutions, the community relied on the occasional traveling missionary for church services. Congregants gathered in homes and in shady

Bethesda-By-The-Sea Church - Palm Beach (Courtesy Florida Memory)

Bethesda-By-The-Sea Church – Palm Beach (Courtesy Florida Memory)

arbors, reading the Bible and singing hymns. As more settlers arrived, the families raised money, gathered materials, and built small local churches. Weather and fire destroyed most of the early church buildings, though one pioneer church built in 1894, the second Bethesda-By-The-Sea Episcopal church, still stands in Palm Beach.

In 1930-1940, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) surveyed churches throughout the state to chronicle the history and inventory the church archives. The WPA reported the Town of Boynton had seven organized congregations with church buildings, though few buildings were the original structures.

According to WPA records, Saint Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church (1900) is the oldest. The records designate Saint John Baptist (1909) as the second oldest, yet a comprehensive history of the Boynton Methodist Episcopal Church, South published in 2006 (First United Methodist Church of Boynton Beach, Florida: A Centennial Celebration: A History of the First 100 Years 1905-2005) is contrary to the WPA date of 1915 and supports the claim the Boynton Methodist formed in 1905.

Original WPA Notes scanned into Florida Memory

Original WPA Notes scanned into Florida Memory

Other early Boynton churches

Saint John Baptist Church 1909

Saint Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church 1923

Community Church 1926

Church of God 1936

New Mount Zion Church 1939

Methodist Church, 1930s

Methodist Church, 1930s

In the 1976 film, The History of Boynton Beach, one of the scenes shows scores of men, women and children exiting a church. As the church-bell chimes, people scurry across Seacrest Boulevard and gather in small groups to chat. The women wear lovely skirts and wear heels, with their heads covered by colorful hats. Nearly every gentleman wears a tie, and most are carrying a suit coat or sport jacket over his arm. Though today many church-goers don’t dress up as much, this idyllic scene is still repeated across Boynton Beach on Sunday mornings.

Today Boynton Beach and nearby unincorporated areas of Palm Beach County are home to nearly 600 religious institutions. The Boynton Beach Historical Society would like to add to its knowledge base and archive with information including primary documents and photographs of each church. To contribute to the history, please email us at boyntonhistory@gmail.com.

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.

An Old-Fashioned Celebration

Early residents of Boynton and Delray celebrated Independence Day in ways very similar to the way we celebrate today. Leisure activities such as picnics, parades and swimming topped the list of events.

Parades have long been a big source of entertainment. In 1914, Delray and Boynton teamed up to hold a big 4th of July celebration. Decorated floats like this one paying homage to the principal crop, the tomato, paraded down the street.

Image courtesy State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory 31747

Image courtesy State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory 31747

The Boynton Inlet and the Boynton Casino were popular places for celebrating Independence Day. Games and contests were held along with a friendly game of baseball.  Each family packed a picnic basket with homemade treats like fried chicken, coconut cake and fresh pineapple.

Families would walk from town over the bridge carrying covered dishes and the baskets full of goodies. Children played in sand and surf and danced in the waves.

Image courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County archive.

Image courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County archive.

Watermelon was and still is a popular menu item with people of all ages. Here a group of Boyntonites feast on homegrown watermelon. The expressions on their faces reflect the merriment of the holiday.

Happy Independence Day from the Boynton Beach Historical Society!