Lake Worth Historical Museum
The Lake Worth Historical Museum preserves the history and culture of Lake Worth by collecting, organizing and exhibiting artifacts, books, photographs, and other materials which record the development of Lake Worth and the cultural history of the immediate surrounding area.
Textile displays show visitors how the pioneers dressed and “modern conveniences” such as the ice box and the wringer washer reveal how they worked. Exhibits range from the very large - such as the switchboard from a hotel - to the much smaller - a collection of cameras and medical instruments. Display cases maintained by local Polish, Finnish and Lithuanian groups are highlights of the heritage exhibits.
Lake Worth History
The area that is now referred to as Lake Worth was settled a few years after Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862. In 1896 Henry Flagler extended his rail line south from West Palm Beach; making Lake Worth much more accessible for new settlers. Much of present-day Lake Worth was once owned by Samuel and Fannie James, two former slaves. While the James' where in possession of the property, the future townsite was referred to as Jewel. In 1911 Fannie James sold the core area of her land to Palm Beach Farms Company.
The name Jewel was subsequently changed to Lucerne and platting began shortly thereafter. Lake Worth was formally incorporated in 1912, and in January of that year Lake Avenue became the first street to be graded and rocked. As the town began to grow, residents saw the need to construct a dock at the foot of Lake Avenue that extended 1,000 feet into the Lake Worth Lagoon. Shortly thereafter Bryant Park was established, a park that remains beautifully active today; complete with a modern bandshell where people enjoy festivals, concerts, and recreation.
As settlers moved to Lake Worth in the early twentieth century, they built homes, grocery stores, churches and restaurants. During the summer of 1912, a survey of the town was completed that laid out 55 miles of streets, and nearly as many miles of alleys, as well as 7,000 residential lots ranging in size from 25 to 50 feet wide. The small lot sizes were part of a sales tactic that coupled the purchase of multiple acres of farm land west of the community with a small town lot in present-day Lake Worth.
History of Lake Worth Casino Building & Beach Complex
A.A. Jones moved to Lake Worth in 1912 from Minneapolis with a dream. After vacationing in Palm Beach previously, he wanted to find the perfect location for a bath house. That location was at the present site of the Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex. He negotiated with E.M. Brelsford of Palm Beach and arranged a yearly rental of the land. After securing the beach, Jones went to the County Commission to obtain a franchise to operate a public ferry with the provision that docks be provided on both sides of the Lake Worth Lagoon accessed by a public road.
In 1913, Jones’ ferry charged five cents to take passengers across the Lake Worth Lagoon, where a short walk took them to the beach. There the first Lake Worth Casino was constructed just north of what is now Richard G. Kreusler Park on A1A in Palm Beach. Workers transported 1,700 feet of pine and 17,000 shingles across the lake to construct a two-story bathhouse; upstairs was used for dances, while downstairs were dressing rooms and a dining room.
After the bathhouse burned down in 1919, the pioneer Brelsford family deeded oceanfront property to the City of Lake Worth. The same year, a wooden automobile bridge was added to reach the beach and casino, then one of the longest wooden toll-free bridges in the United States. The Lake Worth Casino and Baths opened in 1922, including slot machines until the mid-1930s, when the city outlawed gambling.
Atwater Kent family added more land to the site in the 1940s for a total of 19 acres, almost 1,300 feet of beach. The casino was rebuilt after the 1947 hurricane and remained open with shops and restaurants, a municipal pool, and a pier. The casino building closed in 2010 to undergo major reconstruction.
March 1, 2013, the new Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex officially opened to the public and has quickly become the new travel destination and the “only” beach front complex of its kind in South Florida.
History of Lake Worth Public Library
The Lake Worth Public Library was born of the vision of the early pioneer women who settled Lake Worth. While the men were concentrating on building a city, the women saw the need for a school and a library. In May 1912, The Lucerne Herald, the local newspaper, carried an appeal for book donations. Mr. and Mrs. John L. McKissock pedaled their bicycles the seven miles to West Palm Beach to pick up the donations as they arrived. Soon the town furnished a room for the rapidly growing library. The local people read the books by candlelight, oil and gasoline lamps until May 1914 when electric lights were turned on in the city. The Library is proud to point out that there was a library in Lake Worth five months before the first school and nearly two years ahead of the lights.
In 1926, the Lake Worth City Council called an election and the majority of citizens voted in favor of the establishment of a library under Florida Statutes. The Lake Worth Public Library was organized at this time and the assets of the Library Association formed by the pioneers were turned over to the Library Board. For several years the library was housed in City Hall.
With limited space at City Hall, efforts were formulated to build a new library. It had been originally planned to name the new facility as a memorial to General William Jenkins Worth, the man credited with ending the Seminole Wars, as no memorial had been erected to him in Florida. Congress passed a bill providing $60,000 funding for this building in 1939; however, President Roosevelt vetoed the bill. Because of this, the library is named for the City instead as serving as a memorial library.
The library supporters were disappointed but still determined to have a new home. Through prudent investment and a fund raising campaign, a new library building was erected in 1941 and a dedicatory service was held August 12, 1941. It has been proudly noted that the building was erected without taxing the citizens or with Federal assistance. At the time of construction, James and William Strait provided $10,000 to build an art museum wing. For many years this was the home of the Art League until The League moved to larger quarters. The wing is now home to the children’s library collection.
The Lake Worth Public Library is housed in a Mediterranean type building in the historic downtown and has many unique treasures unusual for a library:
- Only known collection of historic paintings by noted artist R. Sherman Winton. Collection features Florida themes of the Spanish period including De Soto, Ponce De Leon, and Osceola and a 6’X18’ mural of the Spanish Armada.
- Wood carvings by Sam J. Schlappich, a Lake Worth artist who exhibited at the Century of Progress Fair in 1933 and the World Fair in 1939.
History of Lake Worth Utilities
Let There Be Lights
Of all the departments of the City, the Utilities Department has experienced the pain and glory of being part of a rapidly growing community. Established as the Lake Worth Water, Light, and Ice Company, the franchise was introduced in October 28, 1913 by Lake Worth’s first appointed Mayor, J.W. Means.
The “turning on of the lights” took place on May 18, 1914. This date has been used to determine an “original pioneer”. With this new power the city of Lake Worth pumped water through the city mains for the very first time on June 18, 1914.
Bonds were sold to extend and improve the systems of water and lights. The first bonds were prepared on December 1, 1914. In November 18, 1915, the City provided separate bonds for the Electric Plant ($15,000) and the Water Plant ($20,000). The Electric Plant was located on Lake Avenue and the Florida East Coast Railroad.
On March 20, 1916, the City elected to purchase both the Water and Light systems. The sale and transfer became final by resolution on June 13, 1916, and Anson F. Senior became the first superintendent of the Lake Worth Water, Light and Ice Company. Senior was one of the highest paid employees of the city, making $250 dollars a month.
Senior retired in 1917. Ward Randolph replaced Senior on August 28, 1917. His contract called for a monthly salary of $300 per month. During the period the growth of the Light and Water Plant was remarkable. In 1914, the City was able to generate 65 horsepower. In 1924, using three generating units, a total of 685 units of horsepower could be produced. In 1918, Randolph signed, an unheard of, ten year contract with the City.
It was not until November 1918, that Lake Worth was given 24 hour lighting service. The first meters were installed on February 18, 1919 and some of them are still operational.