Marion Eugene “M.E.” Gruber
Courtesy Historical Society of
Palm Beach County
Marion Eugene “M.E.” Gruber (1867-1956) was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Julia and Joseph Albion Clayton Gruber, a railroad engineer. Gruber joined his older half-brother, Joseph E. Gruber, and family in Titusville, finding work as a mail agent. Marion married L. Leon Nelson Decker (1867-1957) of Pennsylvania in 1888; their son, Charles Marcus Gruber, was born in Titusville three years later. Gruber first visited West Palm Beach in 1889 and moved here in 1895, where the birth of daughter Neva L. in 1904 completed the family.
Gruber established M.E. Gruber Hardware in 1896 on Clematis Street in what became the Harris Music building. Gruber’s provided the fledgling city with hardware, furniture, crockery, carpets, painting supplies, bicycles, and repair services through the 1920s.
Gruber served as mayor of West Palm Beach (1897-98), city councilman, and manager of the city’s baseball team, part of the East Coast League, in 1908. He was said to be “one of the sponsors and strongest influences” for the formation of Palm Beach County, and for West Palm Beach as its county seat.
As one of the original investors in the first telephone system in West Palm Beach, Gruber provided the capital to install sixty phones. Although the company lost money, Gruber optimistically became its sole owner in 1909. He continued to improve the system until 1920, when he sold it to the Bell Telephone Company.
With his partner, Bror J. Carlberg, Gruber developed the Providencia Park neighborhood between Good Samaritan Hospital and the Flagler Memorial Bridge during the 1920s real estate boom. Gruber was one of the original stockholders of the Farmers Bank & Trust Company and president of Gruber-Freeland Pharmacy, which was bought by the United Drug Company.