Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I had a very good conversation with Mr. Buddy Tuppen last week

[Received several emails yesterday about this subject from those with memories of the C-51 Canal prior to construction of the S-155 Spillway structure (see first image below). One of those observations was this: the City of Lake Worth once faced the C-51 Canal. The canal was an integral part of our community. Since the S-155? Our City has turned its back on this once-important asset.

Prior to construction of the Spillway there was once boating and waterway access between the Intracoastal and further inland. Construction of the S-155 ended that. The Blueway Trail with a boat lift and canoe/kayak trail would restore an important part of this areas heritage and history as a boating, fishing, and tourism community.

And this is important as well: learning more about this history helps to explains Lake Worth’s steep economic decline starting in the 1960’s which you can still see to this day. It wasn’t just the construction of I-95 that choked off the once-vibrant Dixie Hwy in this City, there were other contributing factors as well. The C-51 Canal, for most people now, is just a waterway that defines the border between Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. It wasn’t always that way.

Hope you enjoy reading, “I had a very good conversation with Mr. Buddy Tuppen. . .”]

That would be Buddy Tuppen, the son of another Mr. Tuppen who founded Tuppen’s Marine and Tackle on Dixie Hwy. here in Lake Worth. It was an earlier conversation with Mr. Joseph “Jay” Fearnley at the Lake Worth Rotary that set all this in motion. To read about my conversation with Mr. Fearnley use this link.

The Blueway Trail project on the C-51 Canal between the city’s of Lake Worth and West Palm Beach has been getting a tremendous amount of attention on this blog and took an unexpected turn after speaking with Mr. Fearnley: the Blueway Trail in the context of history. There once was a marina on the C-51 Canal in Lake Worth. More on that below; first some images to put this in perspective:

Inside the hashed box: Spillway Park, C-51 Canal and the S-155 “spillway” structure as it is today. To see this for yourself take Maryland Ave. off Federal Hwy in Lake Worth.

Note the change in orientation and C-51 Canal (on right). This image is from 1937. In the center you can see the early platted streets of what is now the College Park neighborhood in Lake Worth.

This image is from the 1950’s. Compare with the first image above. See the marina on the Lake Worth side of the C-51? How many businesses supported this marina? Motels? Restaurants? Fishing supply stores?

Buddy Tuppen is in his 80’s now. His family used to live on 15th Ave. North and would ride his bike with other kids to fish around what is now Spillway Park. Doing the math that must have been around the late 1940’s.

He remembers the era when the picture was taken (see image above from the 1950’s). This was south and east of the previous Dixie Hwy. bridge. You can see that on the aerial. He said there was also a “lock” so that boats could pass through. He said the land was owned either by the City or the County (Jay Fearnley said the City owned that land). He remembered boats in slips that were perpendicular with the dock which ran parallel to the shoreline of the C-51.

The marina was run by a fellow named Bill Murrelle. After the City or County made him leave he set up shop in Lantana and had a place called Murrelle Marine which is still in business today. Murrelle sold that business but it kept the same name. He has since passed after moving to Sebastian.

Buddy Tuppen went on to give more interesting history: his Grandfather bought the land where Tuppen’s Marine is today. The business began in either 1936 or 1937. His grandfather bought the land for past due taxes, about $38. Buddy said his Grandfather had to borrow the money from friends to make the purchase and wondered how he was going to pay it back.

Prior to being Tuppen’s Marine that lot had been a Ford dealership that was wiped out by the 1928 hurricane. The property sat idle after that hurricane until it was purchased by the Grandfather Tuppen’s in the mid 30’s.

Do you have any more history and/or pictures of this area along the C-51 Canal is Lake Worth? Please feel free to contact me: 561-308-0364; email: WesBlackman@gmail.com

The showroom “Grand Opening” at Tuppen’s in the 1950s. Its still there at 1006 N. Dixie Hwy.

Will another marina open up on the C-51 Canal? If so, customers will be heading to stores like Tuppen’s, eating at our restaurants, and looking for hotels. Just like it used to be in the little City of Lake Worth.

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