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.

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

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.