West Palm Beach History

As is true of the history of many coastal Florida cities, West Palm Beach history essentially begins with the arrival of Henry Flagler. This wealthy business tycoon, who was a cofounder of Standard Oil, first arrived in the area in 1893. Not long after his arrival, Flagler stated that the region was "a veritable paradise," and he started to plan the birth of a town. Flagler's aim was to make Palm Beach a resort, which he successfully did. His other aim was to establish a commercial city on the mainland, which became West Palm Beach. In the early days, West Palm Beach was to be nothing more than a "worker city." In other words, it would be the place to live for the workers who not only built up ritzy Palm Beach, but who also worked there catering to the needs of the rich and famous. To this day, West Palm Beach is still more of a worker city, while Palm Beach remains a hangout for the wealthy.

When it comes to interesting historical facts about West Palm Beach, it is worth noting that the city was incorporated on November 5, 1894. Not long thereafter, the then small city became a bustling town. According to those who have studied the history of West Palm Beach in depth, Banyan Street was as wild as any Wild West street in the early days. So raucous was West Palm Beach, in fact, that the famous anti-alcohol advocate, Carry Nation, paid the city a visit in 1904. With bible in hand, she hoped to change what she deemed to be evil ways. Whereas Henry Flagler managed to succeed in building up his resort and his "worker city," Carry Nation failed in her mission to outlaw drinking. West Palm Beach, like every other American city, did have to endure Prohibition in the early 1900s, but that didn't manage to stomp out partying altogether. Being that this city is a prime vacation destination, you will have no trouble finding your favorite drink. As for historical sites that hearken back to the rather rowdy old days, the Whitehall Flagler Museum and the Breakers Resort are two of the most prolific. Both were built by Flagler around the turn of the century.

When discussing West Palm Beach history, it is important to note that the city experienced a large growth period between 1920 and 1927. During this time, the population quadrupled, and industries such as sugar and farming grew. The local schools also got bigger. This boom was short lived, however, as speculators soon started to take their money elsewhere due to fears that things would drop off. It didn't help that killer hurricanes passed through the area in 1926 and 1928. By 1929, the Depression was starting, and property values plummeted. This is perhaps the darkest period in the history of West Palm Beach. Like a lot of other cities in America, however, West Palm Beach started to experience a re-growth in the 1940s, thanks to World War II. Military dollars helped the city get back on its feet, and once the war ended in 1945, many veterans headed south. Growth was again the norm, and between 1950 and 1960, West Palm Beach figured among the fastest growing cities in the nation! Tourism didn't take long to catch on, much like it did at the turn of the century, and by 1966, the Palm Beach International Airport was dedicated.

The history of West Palm Beach is rich, and if it wasn't for a natural occurrence in the early days, it might just have become Miami before Miami did. In other words, West Palm Beach stood to become the cultural center of southeast Florida in the early days. A deep freeze in the south, however, encouraged Flagler to extend his Florida East Coast Railroad on down to Miami, which helped it to grow into the larger metropolis that it is today. This is one of the more interesting historical facts about West Palm Beach. While Miami has become the cultural center of the southern part of the state, West Palm Beach is not devoid of culture. A visit to the Norton Museum of Art or the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is enough to drive that point home. Another museum worth adding to your list of local attractions is the Whitehall Flagler Museum. This former winter home of Henry Flagler is one of the best places in town to learn about the history of West Palm Beach.

Should you be interested in West Palm Beach history, you might be surprised to know that the city's history is basically repeating itself. Today, the city is once again growing. One of the newest structures in town is the convention center. This center has helped to attract business to the area. There might be lots of new buildings in West Palm Beach, but that doesn't mean that the historical structures have disappeared. Anyone interested in the history of West Palm Beach will do well to explore the city's historic neighborhoods, which include the Bel Air Historic District, Grandview Heights, and Flamingo Park, just to name a few. You can also treat yourself to a tour of famed Worth Street on Palm Beach Island. This avenue has been a top shopping strip since the 1920s, and the stores that line it continue to offer high-quality merchandise to those who can afford it.

Arming yourself with some historical facts about West Palm Beach will only help you better enjoy your time here. The city is oozing with history, thanks in part to historic structures like the Breakers Palm Beach Resort, and if you manage to make it over to Peanut Island, you can even view a JFK-era presidential bunker. Don't forget to visit the Historical Society of Palm Beach County as well. When you're not learning more about West Palm Beach history at attractions such as these, there are plenty of excellent area beaches to relax on. West Palm Beach pretty much has it all, which is part of the reason why this largest city in Palm Beach County is such a wonderful place to visit.

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