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Canal Point

Canal Point and its hotel, ca. 1917

Canal Point and its hotel, ca. 1917.

The unincorporated community of Canal Point, a census-designated place (CDP), covers less than two square miles on Lake Okeechobee. In 1909 it was the first white settlement on the east side of the lake.

Southern States Land and Timber Company planted the first sugarcane here in 1917—several varieties, as an experiment. The U. S. Department of Agriculture established a Sugarcane Field Station in 1920 to supply “seed” (sugarcane stalks cut in pieces) for Louisiana, although they also assisted local farmers. Canal Point was selected because the moderating temperature effect from Lake Okeechobee created conditions useful for their breeding program. In 1922 Frederick Edward Bryant and G. T. Anderson built the first sugar mill in the Glades; soon, 800 of the 900 acres of sugarcane growing in the Glades were in Canal Point. 

Buildings on Conner’s Highway (in the background), ca. 1925

Buildings on Conner’s Highway (in the
background), ca. 1925.

Completion of the West Palm Beach Canal at Canal Point in 1917 gave farmers a direct route to West Palm Beach, where they shipped their products to northern markets on the Florida East Coast Railway. Soon a series of canals provided access to the Gulf of Mexico as well. In 1924 the paved Conners Toll Highway, built by William J. “Fingey” Conners to reach his land east of Canal Point, enabled farmers to truck crops east, as well as north to Okeechobee City.

John Tyner from Kansas built and operated the Custard Apple Inn during World War I, the Glades’ first two-story building and a grand hotel by Glades standards, with its own electric and water plants. The town thrived until canal boat traffic ceased in the 1930s during construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike; the economy never recovered. The large, two-story Canal Point School, designed by Palm Beach architect William Manley King, operated from 1938 to 1988. Concerned citizens saved the building in 1992, hoping to convert it to the Glades Agricultural Heritage Museum; it was destroyed by fire about 2008.

Hurricane Wilma in 2005 destroyed several other historic buildings in Canal Point that had been weakened by Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne the year before.

Frederick E. Bryant

Frederick Edward Bryant (1872-1945) emigrated from England in 1894 to study agricultural methods beginning his experimental work in New Mexico. Bryant made his first trip to Florida in 1908, where he became interested in developing agriculture in the Everglades.

After the sugar shortage during World War I, Bryant convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a sugar cane breeding station at Canal Point. With E. T. Anderson, he started Florida Sugar and Food Products Company and built the first sugar mill in the Glades in 1921. To raise capital, Florida Sugar merged with the Southern Sugar Company. Bryant took charge of its Eastern Division, a position he retained after United States Sugar Corporation bought the business in 1931 and held until his death.

A company town called Azucar (sugar) evolved at the sugar plantation that was renamed Bryant after the founder’s death. Bryant provided his workers, primarily African-Americans, with decent housing and recreation areas, believing their comfort made for better workers. After the Julius Rosenwald Fund contributed to building a school on-site, Bryant installed plants from around the world on the school grounds to encourage interest in geography and horticulture. The vacant settlement of Bryant was demolished in 2006.

 

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