Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Debunking the biggest myth of all about this little City of Lake Worth.

So. Is it true what you heard,

“Lake Worth is the next
Delray Beach”?

No. That is not true at all and I explained why last January at an event in — of all places — the fine City of Delray Beach in a presentation about The Cottages of Lake Worth. Part of that presentation was dedicated to comparing “apples to oranges”:

Who would have thought when the exits off I-95 were decided upon, those decisions would have such a dramatic effect on the future of cities such as the City of Lake Worth and the City of Delray Beach.

Learn more about comparing
“apples to oranges” below.

But first, let’s set the stage. . .

The photograph below (courtesy of Lake Worth’s Neighborhood Assoc. Presidents’ Council [NAPC] president Jon Faust) is of the vice president of the Delray Beach Historical Society giving the introduction prior to “The Cottages of Lake Worth” presentation.

Meet Michelle Donahue.

Michelle Donahue said, as quoted by Mary Kate Leming in The Coastal Star, “For me, we’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

In memory of Dean Sherwin. He lives on in our memories and in our history as well. Sadly, Dean passed away before seeing this book get published.

It was due to volunteers such as Dean, his hard work and dedication, that the story of “The Cottages of Lake Worth” was finally told.

Yes. Our City IS very much different than Delray Beach.
Continue reading to find out why.

Yours Truly (Wes Blackman) at the Old School Square Fieldhouse in Delray Beach giving The Cottages of Lake Worth presentation.

A view inside this tremendous community facility.

A view of the Delray Beach Historical Society’s “Heritage Lecture Series”.

Now back to “apples”
and “oranges”.

“Compare and contrast. Two cities, Lake Worth and Delray Beach. And you heard what! Lake Worth is the next Delray Beach?”

No. Not true at all. A myth and nothing more.

The proof lies in the historical context. But what Lake Worth and Delray Beach will always be are two very unique cities that both share a very long history and yes, enjoy a little friendly competition from time to time as well.

In addition to my usual presentation about the book — the activities of the Cottages group and Lake Worth’s history — I thought it would be good to include a little “Compare and Contrast” section.

Did you know that Lake Worth City Hall and Delray Beach City Hall, depending on the route taken, are only 11–12 miles apart?

Even though our cities share basically the same geography, being coastal cities within Palm Beach County, these two cities and communities are really very quite different.

Did you know the City of Delray Beach has about 2½ times the land area than the City of Lake Worth does?

First, let’s examine relative size:

Source, 2010 Census.

Why is Delray Beach so much larger than Lake Worth? This can be quickly explained by looking at the maps below and identifying the western extent of each city’s municipal boundaries.

First, the City of Lake Worth (see image below).

North of Lake Worth Rd. the City of Lake Worth’s border extends west to the L-4 (“Keller”) canal, the canal connecting Lake Osborne to the major C-51 Canal that then drains into the Intracoastal.

By the way, the ‘Spillway’ (aka, S-155 water control structure) on the C-51 Canal is the future site of the Blueway Trail linking the inland chain of lakes, waterways and “Creating Access For All” which includes Lake Ida in the City of Delray Beach, Lake Osborne and other lakes as well.

South of Lake Worth Rd. the border is the County’s John Prince Park and Lake Osborne, both in unincorporated Palm Beach County, or what’s referred to in the region as “suburban Lake Worth”.

Note the position of I-95:

Source, Official Palm Beach County municipal map.

Note that about ¾ of the City of Lake Worth is east of I-95, which is significant. A much different situation than in Delray Beach as you’ll see below.

Much of the City of Lake Worth’s western municipal limit, or footprint if you will, is blocked in the southwest by a County park (John Prince Park) and waterways in suburban Lake Worth. To the east is the Lake Worth Beach. In Lake Worth there is no private property east of the Lake Worth Lagoon (aka, the Intracoastal Waterway).

The western footprint of Lake Worth is due to many decisions made by past City Commissions that chose not to aggressively annex property after I-95 was completed. It was only since the early 2000s that Lake Worth annexed much of the area that makes up the Park of Commerce, particularly west of Boutwell Rd. We also have the incorporated Village of Palm Springs and Town of Lake Clark Shores that limit our City’s expansion to the west.

Now to the City of Delray Beach,
a very different situation.

Looking at the map of Delray Beach we find their municipal boundaries extend all the way out to Military Trail and in some places, even beyond. Unlike the City of Lake Worth where its western expansion was blocked in many places, the City of Delray Beach had no such problem.

Here you see I-95 nearly goes through the
center of Delray Beach:

Note the Intracoastal Waterway in Delray Beach is part of what was known as the East Coast Canal and is much narrower than the “Lake Worth Lagoon”.

There is a lot of high-value commercial and retail property on the barrier island from A1A to the west. Delray Beach also has two exits off of I-95 but their main downtown street, Atlantic Ave., has an exit off I-95 and therefore direct access through their downtown to the beach.

This is not the case in the City of Lake Worth and one of the main reasons I point out in the “Cottages” presentation is that neither of Lake Worth’s two main streets, the east-west pairs Lake and Lucerne avenues have direct access to I-95. This, in essence, provided what I refer to as a “protective bubble” around our downtown areas which helped to preserve this collection of historic beach cottages that we enjoy today and celebrate in the book, “The Cottages of Lake Worth”.

The Town of Delray was incorporated in 1911. Lake Worth became a city two years later, in 1913. Linton, the name of the Post Office in Delray, had a passenger rail stop on the Florida East Coast (FEC) railroad in 1896. That is only two years after the train arrived in West Palm Beach. Lake Worth would not see a passenger train stop on the FEC until 1912.

Then, in 1923, the land east of the Intracoastal “canal” incorporated as “Delray Beach.” Finally, in 1927, the two merged into one city called Delray Beach. I thought the addition of the ‘Beach’ came much later on until reading recently about this period of time in history.

Now let’s look at population growth throughout the 20th Century and see the ‘horse race’ between the two communities. Remember, these two cities are just about 11 miles apart from their center.

Lake Worth and Delray Beach were ‘neck and neck’ throughout the first half of the century. At one point Lake Worth actually had a larger population.

It’s interesting to note where the two lines cross.

That point in time is during the mid-1970s when Delray Beach’s growth curve jumps ahead of Lake Worth. What else happened at that time? The completion of that section of I-95 through the southern part of Palm Beach County. That then ushered in more growth and Delray Beach took advantage by reaching out westward.

Below is a United States Geological Service (USGS) map from 1958 that shows how the two cities compared back then. The tan areas on the map indicate the general municipal boundaries at that time. You can visualize the extent of growth — particularly by the size of Delray Beach 60 years ago — and the development that occurred since to become the present day City of Delray Beach.

Click on image to enlarge:

So. In conclusion. . .

As much as these two cities are compared quite frequently to each other, and people like to say that oft-told mantra that “Lake Worth is the next Delray Beach”, this look back at the history of Delray Beach and Lake Worth shows quite clearly that is not the case at all.

Comparing cities is a worthy and helpful exercise.

But in doing so one must keep in mind, in many ways, you’re really comparing “apples to oranges” in the context of history. Who would have thought when the exits off I-95 were decided upon, those decisions would have such a dramatic effect on the future of cities such as the City of Lake Worth and the City of Delray Beach.

‘Back in the day’ few probably wondered about the impact, but today it’s very apparent those decisions dramatically shaped the future of this City of Lake Worth. And Delray Beach too.