From 1889 to 1903, Fannie A. Jones James maintained the Jewell Post Office at the Florida East Coast Railway for the few households between West Palm Beach and Lantana. James and her husband, former slave Samuel James, homesteaded 186 acres from present Dixie Highway to Lake Worth, and from Lake Avenue to 12th Avenue South. In 1911, a year after Samuel James died, Fannie sold most of her land to Palm Beach Farms Company, who had purchased several hundred more acres nearby and thousands more in the Everglades.
The owners of Palm Beach Farms Company—Frederick Edward Bryant, his brother Harold J. Bryant, and William Greenwood—formed Bryant and Greenwood, which marketed the land throughout the U.S. and Canada. They offered five-acre farm tracts in the Everglades for $250 each, $10 down and $10 per month; a 25x25-foot lot was thrown in free at the Townsite of Lucerne on the shores of Lake Worth. A drawing was held by the lake in April 1912. When many purchasers found their farmland under water, they chose to live on their free property by the lake, where surveyors laid out 55 miles of streets and 7,000 lots. A school was ready in the fall on M Street between Lake and Lucerne Avenues.
News arrived in October that another post office had claimed the name of Lucerne just a month sooner, and the townsite became the City of Lake Worth, named for Colonel William Jenkins Worth, who had ended the Second Seminole War. In December a census recorded that Lake Worth had accumulated 308 residents, 125 houses, ten wagons, seven automobiles, 36 bicycles, and 876 fowl.
George Greenberg remembers growing up in Lake Worth
Max and Rose Kalb Greenberg were among the first residents of Lake Worth in 1912. Greenberg sold lumber, hardware, and furniture in Lake Worth; later he opened Pioneer Linens, one of the oldest businesses in West Palm Beach today.
During segregation, African Americans lived in the Osborne Colored Addition platted in1917, probably the only neighborhood in Palm Beach County to be legally designated as “colored.” A concrete wall was added in 1954 to separate Osborne, west of Dixie Highway at the southern end of town, from the Whispering Pines neighborhood to the west. In 1994 the city renamed the plat Osborne Addition; the Florida legislature unanimously amended state law to allow local governments to remove derogatory racial terms more easily.
The Greenbergs’ son, George (1915-2007), was born at home on North M Street, currently the site of Lake Worth Public Library. In 2006 George described his childhood in Lake Worth, where “it just seemed like we knew everybody.” Although his family shopped at Mrs. Schmidt’s Illinois Grocery, a butcher shop, and Wonder City Bakery, George recalled vendors in wagons with vegetables, chickens, hot bread, or ice. “There was a big card we used to put out [every day] and it had how many pounds of ice you wanted: 25, 50, or 10 or 15…. It depended on how your ice had melted during the night. My job every morning was to take the drip pan under the icebox and empty it.”
Laundry was done in the back yard, where a washtub sat on three large rocks. “You built a fire underneath the washtub and boiled the clothes …. You had a washboard to rub the dirt out [and] a clothesline to hang the clothes. That was a weekly ritual.”