Palm Beach County Historical Fun Facts

Lorea Thomson
Posted by Lorea Thomson
Updated on
Published in Boating


Photo courtesy of Eduardo Buchin, Jupiter.

Palm Beach County’s first tourists were the early settlers. The area was known as “Lake Worth”, named for Major General William Jenkins Worth.  General Worth fought in the Second Seminole War.

The first permanent residents of Palm Beach County arrived in 1872. They struggled to clear the land for building homes and growing crops.

A ship the “Providencia”, traveling from Havana, Cuba to Barcelona, Spain, transporting a load of coconuts was shipwrecked ashore Lake Worth’s coastline.  The early settlers salvaged the coconuts.  Coconut Palms were not indigenous to South Florida.  The first residents wasted no time in planting the coconuts in an effort to introduce a profitable coconut industry.  Palm Beach was named because of the shipwreck of the “Providencia”.

In the late 1800’s, the Jupiter and Lake Worth Celestial Railroad and Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast (F.E.C.) Railroad began service.  The F.E.C. railroad unlocked Palm Beach County to the tourism industry.

The first hotel, the Coconut Grove House, was built in 1880.  By the 1890’s several hotels opened as word spread about the beauty in South Florida.

The heavy turnout of voters in the 1889 voting polls, forced Dade County (which included Palm Beach County) to move its central government location from Miami to Juno Beach.  That first municipal center, Juno Courthouse, was in the same spot that Oakbrook Square Shopping Center is situated today.

West Palm Beach became incorporated in 1894.  West Palm Beach is the oldest municipality in Palm Beach County.

In 1905, Joseph Sakai formed the Yamato Colony (Boca Raton).  Sakai appealed to other Japanese to come to the colony with a promise of plenty of farmland.  One young Japanese farmer, George Morikami, flourished.  Morikami’s home and part of his land was bequeathed to Palm Beach County and is Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden Park.

In 1909, Palm Beach County became the 47th county in the State of Florida.  The first government meetings were held in the old four-room schoolhouse.  The schoolhouse was located on the corner of Clematis Street and Dixie Highway.  The new county had 5,300 residents.  Palm Beach County then included portions of what are now Broward County, Okeechobee County and Martin County.  


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