Tales of Boynton’s Old Stone Lodge: Death by Electrocution, Rattlesnake, and Double Suicide

A STORIED PAST

Some people might claim the old Boynton restaurant held some type of curse. We know that its proprietors and managers met unnatural deaths. Within eight years, four people perished in three separate incidents on and around the Stone Lodge.

THE STONE LODGE RESTAURANT

The roadside eatery, known as the Stone Lodge, operated from 1924 to 1940 1 1/2 miles south of Boynton’s Ocean Avenue along U.S. 1. The property intersects with the road known today as SE 23rd Avenue. Further west that roadway turns into Golf Road as it continues on to Military Trail past the Village of Golf, Delray Dunes and Country Club Stables.

The lodge occupied the land west of U.S. 1, where the Marathon gas station is today. When the 1920 Federal census enumerators came through Boynton, they counted about 550 people living here, and its residents were primarily laborers, tradesmen and farming and fishing families.

Stone Lodge ad (20 Feb. 1925, The Palm Beach Post)

Stone Lodge ad (20 Feb. 1925, The Palm Beach Post)

Initially, the lodge only operated as a seasonal lunch stand type restaurant, typically open from November through April. Austin Abbot Stone and wife Louisa Jane Turner opened the establishment in 1924. The Stones owned and operated a bakery and rooming house in Massachusetts. They began wintering in Boynton about 1923/24, as did Louisa’s two younger sisters, Grace and Mabel.

MOUTH WATERING HOME COOKING

Help Wanted at Boynton Stone Lodge ad (20 Jun 1925, The Palm Beach Post).

Help Wanted at Boynton Stone Lodge ad (20 Jun 1925, The Palm Beach Post).

The Stones served hearty home cooked lunches like ham and alligator pear sandwiches on thick slices of bread that they baked daily. Their chickens supplied plentiful eggs and fresh chicken to be roasted or fried and served to hungry guests. Razor-back hogs, wild turkeys and deer provided other protein. Boynton’s bounty of fish and oysters supplemented the green beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables from their garden. Freshly squeezed seasonal orange and grapefruit juice and milk from the cows kept on the property washed down delicious desserts like cocoanut cake and huckleberry pie.
Stone Lodge ad (23 Dec. 1927, The Palm Beach Post)

Stone Lodge ad (23 Dec. 1927, The Palm Beach Post)

By 1925 the Stones took out Help Wanted ads in the Palm Beach Post seeking kitchen help and tea room attendants. They began advertising their “Chicken and Waffle Dinners” with large ads in The Post, The Lake Worth Herald and Miami News show similar advertisements, and society news columns tell about the lively luncheons, meetings and dinner parties at the Lodge.

HURRICANES

According to news accounts, an unnamed 1926 hurricane shuttered the restaurant for a season Since the Stones only wintered in Boynton, they were not in town during the hurricane season. In 1928, two more hurricanes hit Florida’s east coast, including the devastating “Okeechobee” killer ‘cane.

Ad for Boynton Stone Lodge (16 Apr. 1927, The Palm Beach Post).

Ad for Boynton Stone Lodge (16 Apr. 1927, The Palm Beach Post).

An advertisement for the Stone Lodge Restaurant indicated that the restaurant closed due to road washout and obstruction caused by the hurricanes. Since the rural nature of Boynton at the time considered the isolated place as “in the boonies,” the roadways between Boynton and Delray were likely not a priority for improving.
Mr. and Mrs. Stone operating the Brazilian Court Hotel Dining Room (17 Nov. 1928, The Palm Beach Post).

Mr. and Mrs. Stone operating the Brazilian Court Hotel Dining Room (17 Nov. 1928, The Palm Beach Post).

It is unclear if the restaurant itself sustained damage. It’s probably that the enterprising Stones had another couple to manage the Stone Lodge, since in November, 1929 Austin and Louisa Stone were managing The Brazilian Court Dining Room at the swanky boom-time Brazilian Court Apartments in Palm Beach.

The renovated eatery opened in 1929 adding “Fried Chicken and Fish Dinners,” and boasted that it attracted an élite clientele. In other words, it was pricy, and it is likely that more snowbirds and club women dined at the eatery than Boynton locals. There was not much along U.S. 1 in those early years. The 1930 Federal Census shows that Mr. and Mrs. Roland Owens who operated the Lee Manor Inn next to the Boynton Woman’s Club were enumerated as their nearest neighbors to the north.

By the 1930s, one can see that the Depression has set in, and the Stone’s featured “summer specials,” including breakfast, lunch, dinner, homemade cake and pie. The aging, hardworking couple had hired help that probably boarded with them. The establishment’s size is not disclosed in news accounts, however, since the Stones had “boarders” living with them in Massachusetts, the lodge probably served as a temporary home to northern visitors.

DEATH BY ELECTROCUTION

Austin Stone, the Stone Lodge’s namesake, met his demise in the inn’s wash-house in 1932. According to The Post, a family member (probably his wife Louisa) found the unresponsive 74-year-old proprietor on the laundry room floor in a puddle of water, with both hands severely burned.

Death notice for Austin A. Stone, electrocuted at home repairing a washing machine (11 Feb. 1932, The Palm Beach Post).

Death notice for Austin A. Stone, electrocuted at home repairing a washing machine (11 Feb. 1932, The Palm Beach Post).

Mr. Stone had attempted to fix a washing machine while standing in a puddle. Dr. Nat Weems and medics dispatched from Smith Funeral Home in Lake Worth administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the restaurant owner for over an hour with no avail. Dr. Weems listed primary cause of death as electrocution (accidental), and recorded senility as secondary cause.

STOIC MRS. STONE WORKS TO KEEP THE RESTAURANT

During the Great Depression, the widow Stone rented out rooms with board and continued to run the Stone Lodge Restaurant. On the 1935 Florida census, her sister Mabel and brother-in-law Jay Herbert Gould are listed as family members; their occupations are both bakers. Discounted lunches and dinners are once again advertised in The Post. It was what Little Orphan Annie called a “hard-knock life.” Few people had the money to dine out, and those that did, were not spending their time or discretionary income in Boynton.

FOR SALE

After her sister Mabel’s husband died in 1937, Louisa attempted to sell the Lodge, including the house, restaurant and surrounding property. A Palm Beach Post advertisement illustrates that the complex included fully stocked acreage of over three acres, chicken coop and other outbuildings, house, established restaurant with a favorable reputation.

PLEA FOR HELP

As the 1939 season began, Louise again advertised her property, this time with a $5K price tag. On October 30th, the Palm Beach Post ran a wanted ad in which Louise sought a couple to manage the property. It stipulated that the Stone Lodge had an established clientele and had continuously operated for over 14 seasons with the same owner.

PREPARING FOR THANKSGIVING

On November 12, 1939, Louisa Turner Stone awoke early, as usual, and headed out to the Stone Lodge’s chicken coop. Running a restaurant was hard work, and even on a weekend morning, much work had to be done. Thanksgiving and Christmas were approaching, and business at the restaurant was picking up. Earlier in the year, a wild grass fire started at J.J. Williams Fernery had threatened the Stone and Woolbright properties, and severely damaged the Boynton Nurseries. Louisa had recently hired a couple to help her operate the restaurant for the season, and placed prominent advertisements for holiday dinners (this year the fare included roast duck) in The Post. She was probably feeling optimistic, perhaps even excited on that Sunday morning.

TRAGEDY RATTLES BOYNTON

Death notice for Louise J. Turner Stone fatally bit by a rattlesnake (14 Nov. 1939, The Palm Beach Post).

Death notice for Louise J. Turner Stone fatally bit by a rattlesnake (14 Nov. 1939, The Palm Beach Post).

While Louisa was in a chicken yard, a large rattlesnake bit the 71-year-old. Her certificate of death signed by Dr. William Ernest Van Landingham indicates that she died from the rattlesnake bite at 7:00 a.m. the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach. Good Samaritan, was the the closest hospital to Boynton in those days. Someone, either the new restaurant manager, or Louisa’s sister Mabel, who served as informant on the death record, drove the victim 17 miles up U.S. 1 to no avail.

BITING BACK

Two days later, Joe Harless and Paul Mercer were motoring down U.S. 1 on their way to the opening of the Delray Beach Country Club. The duo saw a large rattler in the road outside the Stone Lodge. The newspaper article reported that the men stopped the car, and Mercer stepped out and used his golf club to whack the snake and completely sever its head. Whether the rattler was the same one that fatally struck Louisa Stone, we will never know, but on that day one less rattlesnake lived in Boynton.

Smith Funeral Home held services for Mrs. Stone. She was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery next to her husband Austin. Their tombstones are in the old section, and one can stay that I have walked amid the Stones many times on our Historic Moonlight Cemetery Tours. Their story, and that of the old Stone Lodge Restaurant will live on through this blog and on the historic tours.

Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach

Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach looking east. Pillow headstones for Austin and Louisa Stone are in the forefront.

DOUBLE SUICIDE

One would think that those two horrendous events at the Stone Lodge proved tragic enough. Unfortunately, there is more to the story. It appears that the restaurant operated through the holidays and the rest of the season, probably under the management of Mabel and the newly hired couple. Then, on April 1st the following year, two bodies were found dead in a car outside the lodge. A garden hose was taped to the car’s exhaust and run inside the window. Justice of the Peace W.F. Ridel determined it a double suicide.

Former Ringling Brothers performers commit double suicide in car outside Boynton eatery (1 April 1940, Tampa Bay Times)

Former Ringling Brothers performers commit double suicide in car outside Boynton eatery (1 April 1940, Tampa Bay Times)


The Palm Beach Post reported former vaudeville and Ringling Brother’s Circus performers Joseph and Laura Cameron McNutt who had managed the Stone Lodge committed a double suicide. The married couple left two notes in the car, one indicating that they should be cremated, and another saying that the car was rented.

In July, 1941 The Post published an ad offering the Stone complex and property for $5K. Augustus Robinson from Hartford, Connecticut purchased the property, Robinson also bought adjacent properties and filed a plat for his subdivision in 1951.

If you have any memories, tales or photos of the old Stone Lodge, we’d love to see/hear more about the establishment.

Boynton Beach Memories

“What’s your earliest Boynton Beach memory?” If one asked that question on the street, the beach, at the mall or even on Facebook, it’s likely there’d be dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of different early memories, visions (or versions) of Boynton. That’s because we all have our personal memories, our familial stories. We may have been born in different eras, grew up in a different neighborhood, or hung out at different places.

There’s probably some commonalities, like food. People tend to fondly remember food. It wouldn’t be an oversimplification to say that Bud’s Chicken, Lucy’s Donuts, Lucille and Otley’s Restaurant and Sal’s (or Danny’s) Pizza comes up. Who the heck is Danny, anyway? Oh, he’s a new kid on the block, like many of you (Welcome to the neighborhood).

Other common threads are the beach, A1A and the Boynton Inlet. Just don’t call it by it’s official name (The South Lake Worth Inlet). That would irritate generations of people who are certain the name is the Boynton Inlet—and that would be especially confusing because there’s a town nearby named Lake Worth. Or is that Lake Worth Beach? Depends upon who you ask, and when they moved here.

And the Boynton Beach Mall. Again, everyone has their version. Back when there was NOTHING to do in little old quiet Boynton, the mall was a HUGE deal. Jordan Marsh, Burdines, food, games, hanging out in something called air-conditioning…ahh. Then there’s haters…haters gonna hate—and supporters. Like mall walkers. They love the mall. And dad, Sears is one of his favorite stores. Oh dear, Sears is gone. Lots of people will say that Sears, ToysRUs, and K-Mart or whatever store is lame—until it’s gone. Then they miss it and post all kinds of photographs wishing that it was still there, and that they could buy some Craftsman tools.

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

That reminds me of the Two Georges. No, not the restaurant, the boat. Back in the 1960s (AKA The old days), Boynton was a farming and fishing town. Really, it was. Once the Inlet (the cut to old-timers) opened up, commercial and sport fishermen and even weekend warriors could ride out through the Inlet to perhaps the best fishing spots in the country. That was before wave runners, jet-skis and selfies. The Two Georges was just one of the ½ dozen head boats and several dozen charter boats docked at Boynton marinas. A head boat is a boat where folks pay a few bucks a head (a person) to fish for four hours. They are sometimes called drift boats, because once the captain gets near a favorite fishing spot, or at least the water is a certain depth, he cuts the engine for a time and lets the boat…drift. I won’t tell you what happened to the Two Georges boat (I’ll let the old-timers here chime in), but I can tell you that the Two Georges Restaurant is still here, and so is the Banana Boat. But someone is thinking of the restaurant that was there before the Banana Boat. It begins with an S…..it was owned by the Molle’s…Smokey’s! That’s it, Smokey’s Wharf!

What about the farms? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that back in the 1970s pretty much everything west of Congress was farmland. West of Military was “the boonies.” That brings us back to the question? What is your version of Boynton? For some it was the blue crabs that flooded the coastal highway, causing tire punctures. For others it was taking horseback riding lessons at one of Boynton’s many stables. Others recall fishing off N. 22nd Avenue (what’s that you say?)…I mean Gateway Blvd. There was a Go-Kart and midget car race track on Lawrence Road…and a citrus farm where you could drink fresh squeezed orange juice, ride a tram through the groves, eat pie, see a native Seminole wrestle an alligator. Certainly you remember Knollwood Groves? What about Palm Beach Groves, Sturrock Groves, Indian Hill Groves, Blood’s Hammock Groves? Why did you think there is a school on Lawrence Road called Citrus Cove?  Have you any idea where the Rangeline is? State Road 441 (AKA the Everglades). Don’t get me started on the dairies. Or the roses and the orchids. Or the pineapples. Or the toms. Tom who? Tom-a-to.

Times change. Nothing stays the same. People are born. We live, we love, we die. Storms come, storms go, we rebuild, preserve what we can, and honor and memorialize what is gone. Embrace what you’ve got. As Joni Mitchell sang “ … you don’t know what you’ve got
till it’s gone … “

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.

Discovery of unusual postcard of the 1909 shipwreck Coquimbo and the tale of two Clydes

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

After years of searching for photographs of the 1909 shipwreck, The Coquimbo, on December 19th I spotted a postcard for sale on the Internet. As I read the title “Boynton FL Bark Shipwreck Coquimbo Floral Border c1910 Postcard,” my pulse quickened. When I opened the listing and viewed the photograph of the three-masted sailing ship, my heart skipped a beat. I scrolled down and stared at the reverse side. Postmarked August 9, 1909 and sporting a one-cent stamp, the message read

Boynton Fl. 8/8/09 – Dear Roger. It has ben (sic) a long time since I have heard from you so I wanto (sic) know if you are still living. I have ben (sic) all over hell since I last wrote you but I am home now carpentering. clyde.”

 

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I stared at the card and message for a few moments, then clicked ‘Buy-it-Now.’ I had to secure this image to add to the historic record of Palm Beach County and the city of Boynton Beach. I had an idea of who the sender was – there were only two young men named Clyde living in the Boynton area in 1910.

The Norwegian barkentine ship is legendary in Boynton Beach. During the pioneer era of the 1880s-1910s, many ships reportedly ran aground and sunk in the waters only several hundred yards off the Boynton coast. The Coquimbo is especially important to the history of Boynton as the 225-foot long ship carried a precious cargo of pine lumber and many of the early frame houses and buildings were constructed with the lumber.

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

After the barque ran aground on a reef January 31, 1909, the 15 crew members were rescued and reportedly camped on the beach using the ship’s sails as makeshift tents. The big sailing ship drew attention from the guests at the Boynton Hotel and was the talk of the town. After efforts to right the ship failed, Capt. I Clausen placed a notice for auction in the Miami Metropolis, auctioning off the cargo, rigging, supplies and most useful of all to the people of Boynton, the lumber.

coquimbo 1901

 

 

 

 

 

The precious postcard held several clues. Initially, I suspected the card was sent by Clyde Murray, the oldest son of Horace B. and Mary Murray. The elder Murray, a carpenter and farmer, arrived in the tropical wilderness we now call Boynton Beach from Michigan in January, 1896 to build Maj. Nathan S. Boynton’s beachfront hotel. The fact that the sender came back “home,” and was “carpentering” sounded like a Murray following in his father’s steps.

This message also shed light on the massive building boom in Boynton, providing evidence to the stories about the many houses and buildings constructed of Coquimbo lumber springing up between 1909 and 1911. The sender evidently returned to Boynton to lend his carpentry skills to aid in the building boom.

My hunch proved wrong. After checking census records, I discovered Clyde Murray was born in 1893 rendering him merely 16 years of age in 1909.

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, next to his mother)

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, behind  his mother)

Now to check out the other Clyde!

C.O. Miller is best known for creating Boynton’s most enduring and splendid roadside attraction, Rainbow Tropical Gardens. In addition, the master gardener designed the exquisite gardens of the famed Addison Mizner designed Cloister Inn.

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Born Clyde O’Brien Miller in 1885, near Logansport, Indiana, Miller worked as a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad before settling in Boynton in 1909.

A year later, at age 25, he married Leona Austin, one of Frank Austin’s three daughters.

The year before Clyde and Leona’s nuptials her sister Frona drowned in a tragic accident, while attempting to cross the canal on a waterlogged barge. A third sister, Nellie, married Capt. Walter “Pop” Lyman, son of Lantana founder, M.B. Lyman.

Frona Austin

Frank Austin owned a farm and building supply store next to the Florida East Coast railway tracks on Lake Street (now Boynton Beach Blvd.)

 

 

 

The population of the Boynton settlement at that time numbered less than 700, and it is possible Miller met Miss Austin at her father’s store or at a Methodist Church activity. As a carpenter, Miller likely needed building supplies and tools from the store.

Rainbow nurseries aug 9 pbpost

By following census records, news accounts and government documents, it seems Miller did indeed move about or travel often   (as described in his 1909 postcard).

Clyde Miller and Leona Austin had four children, including Vivian Alice, Clyde Austin, and Merna. The firstborn, Averon Mae, born January 19, 1911 in Logansport, Indiana, died at about age six, probably from the influenza epidemic that claimed the lives of many, especially the very young, the elderly and the infirm. Averon’s tiny body has rested in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach since her 1917 death.

A World War I Registration Card dated September 12, 1918, listed Miller’s occupation as a fisherman at Webster’s Fisheries in West Palm Beach. The record describes him as tall and stout, with light blue eyes and dark hair.

He served as a sheriff in Okeechobee briefly after the War.

By 1921, Clyde owned and operated Rainbow’s End Nursery on north U.S. 1. He specialized in tropical and semi-tropical plants. This nursery became Rainbow Tropical Gardens, one of the most famous attractions in Palm Beach County in the 1920s-1950s era.

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More on Clyde Miller, Rainbow Tropical Gardens and its incarnations in an upcoming blog.

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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