When did Palm Beach become an actual town… and why?
- 1894. For tax purposes, Henry Flagler needed to establish his railroad and hotel properties in an incorporated municipality.
- 1898. That’s the year Alligator Joe was paid a princely sum of $900 by Sir Edward and Lady Colbrooke of England, for the simple task of bagging an 11-foot alligator for them to stuff. He used the funds to file a claim of municipality for his property at the west end of Worth Avenue, current site of the Everglades Club.
- 1911. In the course of gaining land and permission to build a second bridge, developers got wind of West Palm Beach’s intention to annex the island. The new town was formed in order to escape becoming the eastern part of West Palm Beach.
- 1903. After an inferno destroyed the wood-framed Breakers, town leaders decided to incorporate – not for the purpose of being governed (to which they strongly objected) but so taxes could be collected to support a proper fire department.
The answer? 1911. Former state legislator and Palm Beach pioneer Elisha Dimick, with a consortium of other speculators, formed the Palm Beach Improvement Company and planned to build homes near what is now Royal Palm Way. But they didn’t want to bring their potential buyers over Flagler’s bridge, so they needed to build a new one. When they inquired about buying a parcel on the west side of Lake Worth, they learned of the city’s planned land grab. Within three months, Palm Beach became a town and “Cap” Dimick its first mayor. And yes, that’s Dimick who greets you as you drive over the Royal Park Bridge. (Photo courtesy of The Palm Beach Daily News.)
Oh, and the story about Alligator Joe? Only partly true. He did – as instructed – capture and kill an 11-footer for Sir Colbrooke to take to the taxidermist for the trophy room back home in England. But Joe was paid just $25 for his trouble.