COMMENTARY: Wellington needs a historical society; can you help?

If you blinked, you might have missed it toward the end of the most recent Wellington council meeting: Mayor Anne Gerwig mentioned she had received some documents on how to create a historical society for the village.

She turned to Village Attorney Laurie Cohen. “And I’m looking at Ms. Cohen, and she knows why,” Gerwig said, smiling.

Cohen then declared it would be her New Year’s resolution to get a Wellington Historical Society up and running.

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  • As someone who has lived in the area for 20 years, I can say it is time.

    Cohen said the idea came from former councilman Howard Coates and herself. In 2013, Coates took the step to make Wellington Historical Society Inc. an official nonprofit in Florida. But after his appointment the following year to the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Coates handed over control of the society to Cohen.

    “Basically, it’s just been sitting there for several years,” Cohen said.

    Between her job as village attorney and caring for her husband and children, there hasn’t been enough time to set up a board of directors, find office space — the steps necessary to get the project off the ground.

    She admitted time is running out to talk to longtime Wellington residents who helped form the village and its charter, draft the comprehensive plan, and draw in new businesses and industries to shape Wellington.

    “The most critical need … is really to take some of these oral histories,” Cohen said.

    The question then is: Can you help? Cohen is looking for people who would be interested in forming a board, to which she would hand over control of the Wellington Historical Society Inc. “I need somebody who really has the time to do it,” she said.

    If you’re able to help as well, you can contact Cohen via email at

    How to get the Historical Society started? Here’s three questions:

    1. Is there any evidence of indigenous people in Wellington?

    I asked Cohen this question in our discussion Monday. She said there is: Within Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club, there is an Indian refuse heap. Its history may be less than illustrious: “Basically, it’s a garbage dump,” Cohen said.

    2. Where do Wellington’s street names come from?

    Many of the streets in Wellington were named for cities in the Northeast. But some might confound you. I recently ran across this while writing a column on South Shore Boulevard. One Wellington staff member said the origin of that street’s name may be from its proximity to the south shore of Lake Wellington.

    Then there is Wellington’s Big Blue Trace — named for the Big Blue Cypress Preserve, which sits on the south end of Palm Beach Polo.

    3. Where can people find the original marketing materials for Wellington?

    When developers were building Wellington in the 1970s, they often marketed the budding community to northerners as a place to get away from the chaos of city living. Cohen said some of the original marketing materials are hanging in Village Manager Paul Schofield’s office.

    But there are others out there she hopes people will donate once the Wellington Historical Society is fully formed.

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