Palm Beach County's African American Heritage: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park and More
By Florida Division of Historic Resources Staff
Historic homes, former schools and churches organized in the early 1900s are just a few of Palm Beach County's historical sites.
Florida has a rich and diverse history. African American landmarks and legacies exist in various locations throughout the state. The following historical sites can be found in Palm Beach County. While some of these sites can be visited, other listings are marked "private" and are not open to the public.
B.F. James & Frances Jane Bright Mini-Park
East side of NW 5th Avenue, 100 feet south of NW 1st Street
The park contains a bronze marker commemorating five historic sites in one of the oldest sections of Delray Beach. They are: School No. 4 Delray Colored, located on this site; Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 40 NW 4th Avenue; St. Paul AME Church, 119 NW 5th Avenue; Free and Accepted Masons Lodge 275, 85 NW 5th Avenue; and St. Matthew Episcopal Church, 404 SW 3rd Street.
The La France Hotel
140 NW 4th Avenue (Private)
Built in 1947 by Charles Patrick, the La France Hotel was one of the few establishments in South Florida that rented rooms to African Americans, including such great talents as Duke Ellington. www.delraycra.org.
The Spady Museum
170 NW 5th Avenue
Located in the 1926 Spanish-style home of the late Solomon D. Spady, a prominent African American educator and community leader, the museum is the only one of its kind in Palm Beach County. A 1935 house used by one of the city’s first black midwives, Susan B. Williams, was moved from Northwest Third Avenue to the museum grounds to house the Kids Cultural Club on the site. (561) 279-8883, www.spadymuseum.com.
The Osborne School
1726 Douglas Street
The first black school in Lake Worth, the school building was constructed in 1948, and served that purpose until 1971. The school was constructed by local residents and self taught builders, P.W. Odums, Able Wilson and Frank Jones. In 1980, the Osborne School reopened as a community education facility. (561) 493-1190.
West Palm Beach
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park
2200 N. Flagler Drive
One of the largest memorials commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this park contains numerous plaques and photos honoring Dr. King’s life, family, speeches and the civil rights movement.
Hurricane of 1928 Mass Burial Site Historical Marker
Southwest corner of 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue
On Sept. 16, 1928, a hurricane came ashore near the Jupiter Lighthouse and traveled west across Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee. Many of the 1,800 to 3,000 fatalities occurred when the Lake Okeechobee dike collapsed, flooding the populated south side of the lake. Approximately 1,600 victims were placed in a mass grave in Port Mayaca in Martin County. In West Palm Beach, 69 white victims were placed in a mass grave in Woodlawn Cemetery and 674 primarily black agricultural workers were interred in the city’s pauper’s burial field at Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street. Many others were never found. On Oct. 1, 1928, a city-proclaimed hour of mourning for the victims was observed. Memorial rites were conducted simultaneously at both of the burial sites. At the pauper’s cemetery, black educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune read the mayor’s proclamation to the 3,000 people attending the ceremonies.
Industrial High School
800 11th Street
When Industrial High opened in 1914, it was the first African American high school in Palm Beach County and housed grades one through 12. The last class graduated in 1950 when a new school, Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School, was opened.
815 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard
Built in 1946, the Jenkins House was home to African American pharmacist, Dr. Joseph Wiley Jenkins, his wife, Roberta and daughter Ramona. In 1966, the Jenkins House was sold to the City of West Palm Beach and designated a historic site.
The Mickens House
801 4th (Private)
The Mickens House was built in 1917. Alice Frederick Mickens rose to prominence as a promoter of higher education for blacks. She was chosen “Outstanding Woman of the Century” at the American Negro Emancipation Convention in 1963, and entertained such notables as Dr. Ralph Bunche, Mary McLeod Bethune and A. Phillip Randolph at her home.
Northwest Neighborhood Historic District
Bounded by NW 2nd St. 15th St., Tamarind Avenue and N. Rosemary Avenue
Local black builders and contractors such as Simeon Mother, R.A. Smith, J.S. Woodside, Alfred Williams and Samuel O. Major constructed most of the buildings in this district. Local architects such as West Palm Beach’s first black architect, Hazel Augustus, and the firm of Harvey and Clarke designed a few of the buildings, notably churches. The first blacks arrived here starting in 1894, when residents of the Palm Beach area known as “The Styx” relocated to the northwest section of the city. This district is the only remaining portion of the original black settlement. www.cityofwpb.com/neighborhoods/historic_districts.php
Old Pleasant City Elementary School
501 21st Street
One of two black schools in West Palm Beach, Pleasant City Elementary School began on the first floor of the Mount Parnassis Odd Fellows Hall. Constructed in 1914, this was the only building in the Pleasant City area designed by Hazel Augustus, the first black architect in Palm Beach County. The school board purchased and renovated the building in 1926. In the early 1960s, the city acquired it for a recreational center. Renamed the Pleasant City Community Multi-Cultural Center, the school today serves as a social service center. (561) 835-7105.
Pine Ridge Hospital
1401 Division Avenue (Private)
Harvey and Clarke, an architectural firm responsible for $7 million worth of new construction in South Florida from 1921 and 1925, designed Pine Ridge Hospital in 1923. It was the only area hospital admitting blacks during segregation. In the 1920s and 1930s, the hospital superintendent, Petra Pinn, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute, and all the nurses, were medically certified, and the hospital was well-equipped for the time. Pine Ridge Hospital was open until 1956, when patients were moved to the new black only north wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. The building was completely renovated in 2000. It has since been converted to apartments. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church
3345 North Haverhill Road
Organized by the Rev. Charles Long, Sr., in 1900, St. Paul is the oldest church in Pleasant City. As membership grew, the congregation built a small church and named it Gethsemane. When African American families moved from Palm Beach, many settled in Pleasant City, where they built the current church and named it St. Paul. (561) 242-0001.
Tabernacle Baptist Church
801 8th Street
This church was founded in 1893 as Mount Olive Baptist Church. In 1894, the first public black school in West Palm Beach was organized and held classes in the church through 1896. Built in 1925, this neo-Romanesque Revival style structure is the sole example of this style in the Northwest Historic District. (561) 832-8338.
Adapted from Florida Black Heritage Trail, published by the Florida Department of State, in partnership with VISIT FLORIDA, copyright 2007. For more information on African American sites, please visit flheritage.com. Additional information can also be found at: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/milesmedia/floridablackheritage/