Legend of the Boynton Caves


Postcard image with Charles Leon Pierce, son of barefoot mailman Charlie Pierce, at the cave’s entrance, ca. 1910

Mention the Briny Breezes area caves to local old timers, and the stories begin—Tales of pirates, hidden treasure, skeletons, boot-leggers, and Al Capone surface.

Many Tourists Visit the “Caves” of Delray (24 Feb 1920, The Palm Beach Post)


The Confederate Army hid in the connecting caves (Dillon), local children played in them, motorcycle gangs rode up from Miami to see them, the barefoot mailman took refuge and slept in them, and teenagers followed the underground caverns into nearby mansions basements to raid wine cellars.


Lyman Boomer’s map of the Boynton area as he remembered it as it was in 1910 (he noted “to the Old Cave” on the far left).

Naturalist and illustrator Lyman Boomer mentioned the caves on his map depicting Boynton in 1909-1910.

Sailor Jim’s Cave by Pat Enright


Delray author/illustrator W.J. Pat Enright, who moved to Delray in the 1930s, coined the cave “Sailor Jim’s Cave” with his 1951 adventure novel about a mystery of buried treasure in Florida. Enright’s juvenile fiction title is available to read free on Archive.org. The author describes the old hermit’s coastal cave dwelling beginning on page 110.


Delray Cave Inspires Noted Cartoonist
(5 Nov. 1951, The Miami News).


Although archaeological evidence proves that the mysterious caves were in today’s Gulf Stream (south of Gulf Stream beach), generations of people who grew up in coastal Boynton/Delray remember the rocky outcroppings and underground caverns accessible at low tide, but many have trouble remembering where they were.


Bluffs along the Atlantic coast in Manalapan (ca. 1920, A. Roman Pierson).


Located below a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the caves are about midway between Boynton and Delray Beach, south of Briny Breezes.

Roadside sign on South Ocean Blvd.


Long before luxury residences and condominiums lined much of Ocean Blvd., the vast beaches with rocky overlooks were an unobstructed paradise and veritable playground for locals and visitors.

Century-old newspapers mention the caves as tourist attractions, and a real photo postal card mailed in 1910 depicts Chuck Pierce, son of famed pioneer barefoot mail carrier Charlie W. Pierce, posing outside of such coastal caverns.

Palm Beach County archaeologists Dorothy Block and Chris Davenport are familiar with the cave. Davenport told me the Florida Master Site File lists the location as Boynton Cave.  Block maintained the Boynton Cave (dwelling site) hails from the Glades I through the Historic period and represents one of 30 coastal Palm Beach County archaeological sites.

Prehistoric native Americans, probably the Jeaga, lived in them, used the rock slabs as tables, and left ancient artwork and messages on the ceilings. Anthropologist John M. Goggin described the cave as he found it in 1949:

A large cave in a coquina outcropping faces the old beach road. One entrance is only a couple of feet east of the road, the major entrance is no more than twenty feet from the road. This entrance, about twenty-five feet long and three to four feet high, opens into the largest of two connecting chambers. This room, about thirty-five feet wide slopes steeply down from the entrance, with the lowest part of the floor about nine or ten feet below the roof at the entrance…The ocean beach is only about 200 feet or less to the east of the cave entrance…Both the cave and the surrounding area have served as Indian camping spots as evidenced by sherds…Further evidence of Indian occupancy is a large painting on the roof of the main chamber. This is composed of several simple motifs painted in burnt sienna color (Goggin, 1949, 376-377).


Site of the old Gulfstream Polo Fields on the Atlantic Ocean
1. Caves in the coral rock

According to a local on our Facebook page, Dennis Evangelist, a Bank of America banker built his house on the cave site in the late 1960s/early1970s. Evangelist recalled: “We rode our bikes over the Eighth Street bridge from the Lake Ida area to the Boynton Inlet to catch catfish and would stop by the cave to look around and sometimes snorkel.” Another cave entrance was reportedly barricaded in the early 2000s when a house above it collapsed while digging a swimming pool.

Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve, Jupiter, Florida

With the entrance sealed up and houses over the caves, it’s easy to dismiss the subterranean Boynton Caves as an urban legend. However, those familiar with the Florida coast know that caves existed along the beach’s ridge. Even the famed Boynton Oceanfront Hotel was built on a coastal ridge. Hence, the names Ocean Ridge and Highland Beach.

If you’ve ever been to Jupiter’s Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve, you can see its limestone outcropping with its solution hole spouts. Travel west, and the old coastline of 10,000 years ago can be recognized by a crest of higher land about a mile inland (High Ridge Road).

Cave Location


My husband and I rode bikes through Gulf Stream and marveled at the rocky ridges bordering some of the neighborhood’s most attractive homes. Across from Gulf Stream school is a public beach access (we had to walk the bicycles).



Once you enter the beach area, look north, and notice the large, partially submerged rock formation. The underground cave is below and to the west. If you are at Gulfstream Park, walk south on the beach to find the outcropping.


East entrance to the Boynton Cave (now sealed off)



Block, Dorothy. (2023). Three Thousand Years in Paradise: Coastal Archaeology in Central Palm Beach County. Vol. 76, No. 2 The Florida Anthropologist.

Dillon, Rodney, (1982 October 24) Confederates Escape off Southern Palm Beach County. Fort Lauderdale News).

Enright, Walter J. Pat. (1951). Sailor Jim’s Cave: A Mystery of Buried Treasure in Florida. Dodd Mead, New York. Internet Archive. Sailor Jim’s cave : a mystery of buried treasure in Florida : Enright, Walter J. Pat, 1879- : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Florida Division of Historic Resources. (2024). Florida Master Site File Florida Master Site File – Division of Historical Resources – Florida Department of State

Goggin, John M. (1949). Archeology of the Glades Area, Southern Florida. P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville.

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 (single-lane 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