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Loxahatchee Groves

The oldest of Palm Beach County’s western communities, Loxahatchee Groves, was part of the two million acres Southern States Land and Timber Company bought in 1902 for 25 cents an

The first house built on the West Palm Beach Canal

The first house built on the West Palm
Beach Canal, Loxahatchee, 1918.

acre. When the West Palm Beach (C-51) Canal was completed in 1917, Southern States sales manager—and later president—George Frederick Bensel (1876-1961) was inspired by the “waterfront” to plan a farming community. Company engineer Torvald Garfield “T. G.” Thorgesen (1888-1977) joined Bensel, and spent the next three years producing the first topographical map of Loxahatchee Groves, also called Loxahatchee Farms. Thorgesen, Bensel, and others formed Palm Beach Loxahatchee Company and bought the 6,500 acres—also known as Loxahatchee Farms—from Southern States Land and Timber Company.

By 1924 some of the western lake communities were disappearing, but Loxahatchee Groves remained, connected to West Palm Beach by a road alongside the West Palm Beach Canal, which became Southern Boulevard (S. R. 80), and by Okeechobee Boulevard. The company built nearly 30 miles of parallel canals and roads, which the Loxahatchee Groves Drainage District, forerunner of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, was established to maintain. In 1925 Bensel was instrumental in opening a combined grocery, gas station, and post office.

Although the hurricane of 1928 delivered its most severe blows to the towns surrounding Lake Okeechobee, Loxahatchee Groves had severe damage 32 miles to the east. Nearly all the houses were knocked off of their foundations; the Thorgesen house was spared.

The sparsely populated D Road, Loxahatchee, 1956.

The sparsely populated D Road,
Loxahatchee, 1956.

Agriculture prospered into the 1930s. Bensel’s brother Thomas Keats Bensel (1884-1940) initiated a citrus project that encouraged residents and led to the planting of 56,000 more trees. A packinghouse shipped fruit on a small railroad built at S. R. 80 and what is now I-95. A pump on “D” Road started drawing water from the West Palm Beach Canal, and soon electricity followed. With help from George Bensel, the Southern Baptist Association, and local residents, Loxahatchee Baptist Church opened in 1949.

Loxahatchee Groves was sold in 1958 to Loxahatchee Investments, related to the developer of the Village of Royal Palm Beach on Loxahatchee Groves’ east boundary. After George Bensel died in 1961, the citrus and tomato production, managed by Bensel's son and grandson, gradually came to an end.

Development of Wellington to the south and The Acreage to the west and north during the ‘80s and ‘90s threatened the rural and sometimes unusual lifestyle of members of the Loxahatchee Groves Landowners Association, established in 1969. Their motto, “Love it and leave it alone,” discouraged streetlights, sewers, and paved roads. To avoid unwelcome changes in the town known as “Florida’s Last Frontier,” Loxahatchee Groves incorporated in 2006 and became Palm Beach County’s 38th municipality.
 

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