The Rise and Fall of the Boynton Beach Mall and the Congress Avenue Corridor. What happens next?


Boynton Ocean Avenue Business Area, 1950s


Once a sleepy little village by the sea, Boynton Beach’s population doubled between 1970 and 1980 (18,000 to 36,000).

The area experienced tremendous growth due to technological changes in transportation & communication and this shifted the economy from family-operated businesses to commercial enterprises. These gradual changes stripped away the rustic serenity and charm that was small-town Boynton Beach. 


In December 1975 the final portion of Interstate 95 was completed through Boynton Beach.

While the highway advanced transportation in South Florida, this event led to the death of downtown Boynton Beach and its thriving business district. The expressway cut off access to Ocean Avenue, which was Boynton’s main drag through the commercial business district as well as the road to Alternate A1A and Boynton’s Oceanfront Park.

The expressway not only divided Boynton, but tourists also bypassed U.S. 1 and family-run restaurants, motor courts, surf, shell, and specialty shops, insurance and real estate agencies, and roadside attractions. Nearly 50 years later, some of this land has become housing (hi-density condos & apartments), but many worn-out old buildings and lots remain lifeless and vacant.

Aerial view of Congress Avenue looking south from Hypoluxo Road. Melear Dairy is on the right, 1962


Cows grazed on all four corners of Old Boynton Road and Congress until 1983 or so, a change factored by Motorola opening its 70,000 square foot Paging Division plant on a former cow pasture on the SE corner of Congress and 22nd Avenue. The new pager industry hired nearly 4,000 factory workers, engineers, and executives, many of whom moved with their families to the then still-rural Boynton.

Motorola Plant, Congress Avenue and Gateway Blvd., 1983

A building boom frenzy brought dozens of new housing developments including Sky Lake, Boynton Lakes, Country Fair, Rainbow Lakes, Sun Valley, The Meadows, and Banyan Creek along Congress Avenue, Military Trail, Boynton Beach Blvd and Old Boynton Road.

SkyLake 3 & 4 bedroom homes 79-88K, 1984, The Palm Beach Post

Until then, Congress was a two-lane road and the Melear Dairy had cow passes (small wooden bridges) so that the cows could graze and avoid traffic. Boynton had the most dairy farms in Palm Beach County.

North Congress Avenue 4-laned for Motorola and the Boynton Mall, 1982 Palm Beach Post


In the mid-1970s, Edward J. Bartolo, owner of at least 40 shopping malls (including the Palm Beach Mall) and the San Francisco 49ers football team envisioned a $20-million, 1 million-square-foot regional shopping Mall on 100 acres at Congress and Old Boynton Road. In exchange for city utility services (including fire, police, and sanitary service), the City of Boynton invited the corporation annexation.

In 1975, Vice-Mayor Joe DeLong announced that the city could gain $575,000 in property taxes if the shopping center was annexed.

Boynton Mall takes shape, 1985, The Miami Herald

Originally set to open in August 1977, the mall didn’t open until 1985, and then it opened in stages, store by store.

Boynton Mall walkers, 1986

The popular indoor mall with its food court, national department store anchors, stores, services, and specialty shops further eroded what was downtown Boynton Beach. Strip malls, out parcels, medical buildings, and a sea of chain restaurants lined Congress Avenue, Boynton Beach Blvd., and even the old Military Trail, which was considered “The Boonies.”


Westward expansion’s tidal wave surged for the next 40 years until it hit the Florida Everglades. So many communities were planted over former family farms that developers came up with pretentious, and often ridiculous names for their planned mega-communities. Someone suggested that they must spin a wheel to find ill-fitting names like “Journey’s End,” and “The Canyons.”


Meanwhile, the Boynton Beach CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) has worked to improve downtown Boynton and incentivize businesses to open in their districts. The City of Boynton Beach has opened new state-of-the-art Fire and Police headquarters and City Hall/Library. The Boynton Beach Historical Society saved the 1913 schoolhouse that now serves as a Children’s Museum and Learning Center. The Historical Society and the Historic Resources Preservation Board saved the 1926 high school and the city restored it into a vibrant Cultural Arts Center.

Children’s Museum & Learning Center housed in the restored 1913 school


In juxtaposition, the Boynton Mall attendance declined over the years. The run-down mall has been sold, and another layer of Boynton history will be paved over. What would have benefited the community and the taxpayers the most?

A swimming pool, a history museum, a nature center, a small concert center, a canopied bike and walking trail? No doubt some type of housing is in its future.

After all, people still want to live in beautiful Boynton Beach, and pushing farther westward is not an option.

Some of the original Boynton Beach Mall entities (from occupational licensing information)

Feel free to add your memories and comments

Jo Ann Fabrics No. 913, Room 511, Fabri-Centers of America, Inc.
Video Concepts, Tandy Corp.
Things Remembered, Space 741, Cole National Corp.
Ritz Camera, Ritz Camera Centers, Inc. Lane Bryant, Inc., Room 161, Lane Bryant, Inc.
Gordon’s Jewelers No. 10545, Gordon’s-Guayama, Inc.
Chick-Fil-A, Cathy S. Truett
Pearle Vision Center, Room 309, Ronald Rzaca Optician
Walgreens, Walgreens, Co.
Manchu Wok, M.W. Boynton, Inc.
Girard Jewelers, Room 879, Lou Ellen Girard
Foxmoor Specialty Stores Corp., Foxmoor
Victoria’s Secret, Victoria’s Secret Stores, Inc.
Today’s Woman, No. 36, Today’s Woman of Florida, Inc.
The Limited Stores, Inc., The Limited Stores, Inc.
Limited Express, The Limited Stores
Camelot Music, No. 187, Room 943, Camelot Music, Inc.
Waldenbooks, Walden Book Co. Inc.
Lord and Taylor Division of Associated Dry Goods, Lord and Taylor
Taco Viva, Space 677, Taco Viva, Inc.
Sunshine Treasures, Inc., Room 111, Susan and Don Bennett
Contempo Casuals, Bernard Zertner
August Max No. 522, The United States Shoe Corp.
Caren Charles No. 1823, The United States Shoe Corp.
Petit Sophisticate No. 1633, The United States Shoe Corp.
Ups ‘n’ Downs No. 1294, The United States Shoe Corp.
Casual Corner, The United States Shoe Corp.
Morrow’s Nut House
Sbarro’s Italian Eatery
Pinch or Pound
General Nutrition Center
Dentaland, Jeffrey P. Feingold
Harry’s Kidsworld
Burdine’s Travel
Boardman’s, H.C. Boardman

The Orange Blossom Express

Excitement filled the air in the newly chartered Town of Boynton by the sea. The long awaited Orange Blossom Express had completed its extension to Miami, and was scheduled to stop in Boynton. This monumental event embodied even more prosperity for south Florida. The last few years saw dizzying growth. Folks who used to live in, visit, or pass through Boynton didn’t recognize the place any longer.

Boynton townsfolk awaiting the Orange Blossom Express




The great land boom had greatly altered the landscape of the frontier settlement. New schools, churches, hotels, office buildings, and elaborate residences were under construction.


It seemed that with each passing day another developer set up big tents, and their agents took down payments for lots or houses not yet built. A six-story Spanish style hotel under construction on Ocean Avenue was the talk of the town.





On Saturday, January 8, 1927 in picture-perfect 72 degree weather, over 500 residents waving flags gathered at the Seaboard Air Line railroad station. Everyone was excited to meet the inaugural train car carrying Seaboard president Solomon Davies Warfield and Florida governor John Wellborn Martin.

Seaboard Air Line President Solomon Davies Warfield

Florida Governor John W. Martin











The Boynton band welcomed the sleek green, yellow and orange train filled with over 600 “titans of industry” who were interested in investing in Florida land.

Orange Blossom Express

The prominent men who had traveled from New York to south Florida peered out the windows at the assembly.

Train with Mr. Warfield and Governor Martin

Boynton mayor Roy O. Myers had issued a special proclamation ordering all business houses to close from 8 am to 10 am and urged everyone to the Seaboard Air Line station to greet the train and dignitaries. Nearly the whole town turned out for the monumental event.

Decorated Seaboard Air Line station




Chamber of Commerce president Albert Edward Parker and the Boynton Boosters had decorated the Seaboard station in red, white, and blue, and small coconut palms greeted the spectators.  Men wearing suits with suspenders waved their hats, and farmers in overalls and work pants looked around curiously, Women carrying babies waved handkerchiefs, and schoolchildren stood on tiptoe or their father’s shoulders to view the extravaganza.



Boynton townsfolk greet the Orange Blossom Express

Two young women presented a flower bouquet to Mr. Warfield. He was also given a small wooden chest containing the key to the Town of Boynton. In a few minutes the gala was over, and the train raced south where similar events played out in Delray, Deerfield and Pompano.

Welcome at Boynton (09 Jan 1927, The Palm Beach Post).

Lake Worth Herald

Historical Society Officers Conduct Award Winning Historic Moonlight Cemetery Tours

Woodlawn Cemetery Tours

For more information and to register please call the City of West Palm Beach at 561-804-4900

Woodlawn Cemetery - Palm Beach's oldest gated community

2023 Tours

Friday, February 3, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, March 3, 6:30 p.m

Thursday, April 6, 6:30 p.m

Sponsored by the City of West Palm Beach – Historic Preservation Program & Parks and Recreation Division

Moonlight Cemetery Tours of Woodlawn Cemetery conducted by Boynton Beach Historical Society officers Janet DeVries and Ginger Pedersen, Palm Beach County historians and authors of “Pioneering Palm Beach: The Deweys and the South Florida Frontier,” and “The Collected Works of Byrd Spilman Dewey.”

Look for more cemetery tours for Delray, Boynton Boca Raton & Lantana cemeteries coming soon!

Woodlawn Cemetery at dusk.

Woodlawn Cemetery at dusk.

These award-winning history tours are limited to 50 guests, and a $5.00 donation is appreciated and will be used to help restore this historic cemetery. The tour will cover some of the most prominent pioneer families who arrived in the area more than 100 years ago.

chillingworthAlong with a couple dozen other interesting pioneers, Charlie Pierce, Florida’s famous barefoot mailman and Boynton’s first postmaster is featured along with Anna and Albert Parker, Maj. Nathan S. Boynton’s daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Parker managed the Boynton Hotel.


Several of South Florida's barefoot mailmen. Charles "Charlie" Pierce on the right.

Several of South Florida’s barefoot mailmen. Charles “Charlie” Pierce on the right.


PLEASE BRING: A flashlight, bug repellent, water (there are no facilities on-site).

PLEASE WEAR: Closed-toed shoes such as sneakers.

LOCATION: 1500 South Dixie Highway, across from the Norton Gallery. Parking is available on-site inside cemetery gates.

ALL TOURS BEGIN AT 6:30 PM or 7:30 PM dependent upon daylight savings time. PLEASE ARRIVE AT LEAST 15 MINUTES EARLY FOR CHECK-IN.

Rain Policy: If heavy rain occurs on the night scheduled, the tour will be held the following evening. If it rains on the next night also, the tours is suspended for that month.

Boynton’s Post Office History

Transportation advances opened South Florida to settlers in the 1890s. Before then, only the few pioneer families who took advantage of the 1862 Florida Homestead Act, indigenous tribe members, and African Americans were living in today’s Palm Beach County.


Those demographics changed with the advent of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. Whistlestops and railroad stations popped up along the route. Before the tracks extended through to Boynton in 1896, mail was brought down the Florida East Coast Canal from the Hypoluxo post office located in Hannibal Pierce’s store at the end of the Porter’s Dock by early settlers F.S. Dewey, U.D. Hendrickson, M.B. Lyman, C.W. Pierce, and F.C. Voss.


Boynton’s first official United States post office opened in April 1896 in Lyman’s store on Ocean Avenue with William H. Cox as the first postmaster. Cox filed the Boynton Post Office paperwork on January 31, 1896. In his application he stated that the nearest post offices were Hypoluxo and Lantana (three and four miles north) and Linton (five miles due south). He noted the

1896 Boynton Post Office application by William H. Cox postmaster

Florida East Coast Canal ¼ mile east, and that the Boynton post office would be located 100 yards east of the new FEC railway station. The train stop was called Boynton after civil war major Nathan Boynton who had plans to build a resort hotel. At this time, mail chiefly consisted of letters, penny postcards, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, seeds, packages, home furnishings and even livestock delivered to the station. Post offices sold money orders, stamps, postcards, and envelopes. Since the Boynton settlers were cut off from most of the world and were hungry for news from their families and hometowns, mail delivery was important to rural life.

Several Boyntonites held the postmaster title over the next decade including H.B. Murray, J.P. Harper, and C.W. Pierce. Pierce, a former Star Mail Route (aka barefoot) carrier served in this capacity the longest. He was postmaster from 1901 to 1903 and notably from 1908 until his death in 1939 when his wife, assistant postmaster Ethel Sims Pierce assumed the position.

Boynton Post Office (left) built 1911, Ocean Avenue

In 1911, Charlie Pierce managed the first stand-alone post office on Ocean Avenue. The wooden structure, reportedly constructed with lumber from the 1909 Coquimbo shipwreck, served as a community focal point. Pierce curated the settlement’s first lending library with select titles sent down from the state library supplemented with titles from his own collection and books donated by Byrd Spilman Dewey as well as those left behind by Boynton Hotel guests.

The 1920s Florida land boom transformed the remote Boynton farming community into a bustling town. Developers purchased land and platted luxurious subdivisions like Boynton Hills and Lake Boynton Estates. A cut was made through the barrier islands connecting the inland canal with the Atlantic Ocean. The George Harvey company started work on the fashionable 12-story Hotel Cassandra on Ocean Avenue. By 1926 the tiny post office was overrun with customers purchasing money orders and sending and receiving items. Postmaster Pierce reported that receipts for the first quarter surpassed the second half of the previous year. The gigantic land bubble began to deflate in 1927 after two powerful hurricanes hit South Florida causing infrastructure damage and delaying shipments. Food and basic supply shipments took priority over construction materials.

Boynton Post Office, 1943.

In May 1928 a new post office opened next to the old wooden post office. Pierce’s official government report indicated that the new building was located 365 feet east of the Florida East Coast Railway. A deadly September 1928 hurricane slammed Palm Beach County damaging and destroying many Boynton buildings and claiming several thousand lives in western Palm Beach County. The grandiose building plans for Boynton halted. Skeletons of buildings and ghost developments haunted the once vibrant town. The Bank of Boynton closed its doors in 1929, and many people left town to avoid paying taxes and to pursue other opportunities.

The Town of Boynton incorporated as the City of Boynton Beach in 1941 with postmaster Ethel Pierce filing the post office name change. In 1946 receipts exceeded $10,000 making Boynton eligible for a new post office building.

The post office moved to the Puritin Building (also on Ocean) in 1949. Mail delivery began in 1956 after Mrs. Pierce convinced town officials to number all residences and businesses. Mail carriers rode bicycles or drove cars on their routes. Mrs. Pierce retired after this big change, with Richard Monahan succeeding her long tenure.

Boynton Post Office 1963


A modern, air-conditioned fire-proof post office at the corner of Seacrest and Boynton Beach Blvd. opened in 1963. The large new facility had automatic lights, improved mail processing capacity and 17 off-street parking spots for customers, with a separate parking lot for employees. It had vending machines for dispensing stamps and self-service post office box rentals. This post office has served as the downtown post office for six decades, and the familiar building still looks much the same as it did when it was new.


Postal employees moving packages, 1964

Girl mailing a letter at the Boynton Post Office 1963


Boynton Post Office Employee 1963

Boynton Post Office clerk 1963









Photographs courtesy of the Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives

Ward Miller’s Briny Breezes at Shore Acres: The Early Years

Wintering in Boynton

In November 1920, Mr. and Mrs. Ward B. Miller arrived to spend the winter in Boynton. Accompanying Miller and his wife Agnes was their daughter Ruth, son Howard and his new bride, Thomasine. The elder Millers looked forward to the mild climate, and time relaxing and socializing with other winter visitors. The younger set, who were in their early twenties, were excited about ocean bathing, bonfires on the beach, and motoring to Palm Beach and Miami to see the sights.

This season was Ward Miller’s second winter in Florida, and he rented a cottage at Ocean Avenue on the Dixie Highway for his family. He was certain he could convince Agnes that Boynton was an ideal place for their winter home. Born in Indiana, Miller had worked in the lumber business in Port Huron, Michigan, the city where Maj. Nathan S. Boynton served as mayor and newspaperman.

Plans are drawn for Mr. and Mrs. Ward B. Miller’s handsome new home on the ocean beach (30 Apr 1921).

Plans Drawn for “Briny Breezes”

Agnes must have found the moderate temperature and gulf stream breezes to her liking for a few months later The Palm Beach Post announced that the Ward Millers “have the plans drawn for a handsome new house to be erected on the ocean beach, on one of the lots he recently bought there. Work will be begun on the house almost at once. It will be built of cement with a stucco finish. The location is fine and although they will be somewhat removed from any neighboring residences at the present time, prospects are that a number of other homes will be erected within the near future.”


In mid-summer The Miami News reported that work had begun “on the fine home of Mr. and Mrs. Ward B. Miller on the ocean front…work is progressing nicely. Miller is building a magnificent home on his property there and will also install a large, modern dairy farm.” The fashionable two-story Miller home “Briny Breezes” was built in Spanish-style on the ocean ridge overlooking the Atlantic.

Briny Breezes Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

The Miller’s home “Briny Breezes.”

Incorporating the Town of Boynton

Miller kept busy about town. He used his keen business sense to help charter the Town of Boynton, serving as its first vice-mayor. He also performed many civic functions, such as starting a  chamber of commerce.


Cattle shipped to Shore Acres (20 Jul 1922, The Miami News).

Shore Acres Dairy Farm

The Miller’s property stretched from the Florida East Coast Canal (today’s Intracoastal Waterway) to the ocean. He called the dairy Shore Acres and traveled to Georgia to bring cattle back in railcars.

The dairy expanded with Miller purchasing an adjoining 25 acreage of “muck and marl” land on the east side of the canal from Boyntonite James McKay. The coastal breeze at the oceanfront dairy helped to keep the flies and ticks away from the cattle.

Miller’s dairy associate in the $23,000 enterprise, M.A. Weaver, understood the dairy business and later founded Weaver Dairies.

Dairy Cow Manure for Sale (27 Mar 1921, The Palm Beach Post).


Not Much to See Here (Yet)!

Whereas Palm Beach was bustling during the season and Boynton and Delray were also attracting winter visitors, the area between Boynton and Delray was located on a lonely stretch of today’s A1A.

Visitors knew they were approaching Briny both by the strong odor and the telltale three-story mansion along the ridge.




The Boynton Caves

The biggest attraction in the area at the time was the Boynton caves – a series of natural subterranean caves on the beach that attracted picnickers and served as a roadside curiosity. Motorcycle clubs from Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach and local young people frequented the region and used the site as a rendezvous  point.

Caves located between Highway A1A and the Atlantic Ocean (State Archives of Florida)


Young women from the Town of Boynton posing on the lawn of the Gulf Stream Golf Club (Image courtesy of Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives)


Gulf Stream Golf Club

It didn’t take very long for other families to realize the tropical Florida dream and to join the Millers in what was then considered a “remote outpost.”

In late 1923 workmen completed the palatial Addison Mizner-designed Gulf Stream Golf Club south of Miller’s dairy. The impressive private club caused quite a stir with the locals, who would ride their bikes down the desolate stretch, or walk the beach southward for a glimpse of the grand building.

The Phipps brothers built mansions along the beach and started winter polo matches. Florida surged in popularity when developers began subdividing land and creating new communities appealing to northern investors and affluent people fancying buying a winter home.




Wagg Organization (13 Sep 1925, The Palm Beach Post).

The Great Florida Land Boom

The great Florida land boom dramatically changed Florida, especially Palm Beach County, Boynton Beach, and even Miller’s Briny Breezes.

In 1925, at the height of the boom, after seeing the development frenzy and being approached by several persistent real estate developers, Miller couldn’t resist “selling the farm.”

Exclusive Listing Palm Beach Shore Acres (21 Oct. 1925, The Palm Beach Post).





As he approached his 64th birthday, Miller agreed to the Alfred Wagg Corporation subdividing his dairy lands into a new development called “Shore Acres.”

Wagg’s company quickly listed Palm Beach Shore Acres for a half million dollars.


Prospective buyers line up to purchase lot’s in Alfred Wagg’s new boom time subdivision Briny Breezes at Shore Acres

The Miller’s then joined the other dreamers and schemers and their sometimes-unscrupulous salesmen who peddled property unseen and weren’t inclined to record every transaction.


Announcing Briny Breezes (14 Oct 1925, the Palm Beach Post).

Cashing In

Meanwhile, Ward Miller invested in real estate in Boynton and northward into West Palm Beach. He purchased interests in lots in Northwood, Grandview Heights, and the Flamingo Park area. Across Florida, land swapped hands freely, routinely without proper title searches conducted or deeds issued.

The “Big Bubble”

Bubble in the Sun by Christopher Knowlton


Mid-year into 1926, the land boom bubble deflated.

Modern historians like Christopher Knowlton, author of “Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and how it brought on the Great Depression” quoted a contemporary who described the land grab frenzy stagnation, stating “We just ran out of suckers.”


Severe weather patterns extinguished any romantic dreams for investors.

In a now familiar tale, the wrath caused by the twin hurricanes of 1926 was finalized with the killer 1928 hurricane. Its devastation extinguished the land development schemes.  Supply chain issues in the Port of Miami thwarted materials delivery and potential investors realized that their pipe dreams were a grand illusion.


Run on the Banks

The First Bank of Boynton, established only a few years earlier, closed in 1929 and did not re-open again until the 1940s as it took that long for financial recovery in Boynton.

“Bank building, 1927,” Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives,


The Great Depression

Boynton Needlecraft Club at Briny Breezes, 1932, Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives


The depression hit hard. The people who stayed in the area had to work hard and trade with neighbors just to survive. Agnes and other local women shared afternoons sewing clothing, gifts and home accessories.

Boynton Needlecraft Club at Briny Breezes, 1932, Clara Topleman, Jennie B. Jones, Rena Powell, Alice Knuth, Clara White, Agnes Miller, Minnie Paulle, Emily Atwater, Harriet Seegitz andClara Shepperd (Courtesy of the Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives)

Rooms for Rent (The Palm Beach Post)

Ward and Agnes Miller were involved in several land-related court cases and were on the delinquent tax list. They devised ways to supplement their income and retain hold of their coveted oceanfront land. They rented out rooms in their beautiful home. They purchased strawberry plants to raise and to sell to visitors traveling down the ocean boulevard.

Miller’s buying strawberry plants in Plant City (5 Nov 1931, The Palm Beach Post).

(12 Oct. 1934, The Miami Herald





Briny Breezes Trailer Camp

During this financial depression the Miller family decided to lease lots to annual visitors and established the Briny Breezes Trailer Camp. There’s more to the story, but that’s a more familiar one and will make a good future blog.

Briny Breezes for Trailers & Campers



1930s Brochure for Briny Breezes