Readers: If you’re a regular follower of this column, you know we maintain — and sometimes revisit — unsolved local historical mysteries. One of those is the name origin of downtown West Palm Beach’s Phillips Point, along Flagler Drive.
You’d think that when something sticks out into the Intracoastal Waterway like a sore thumb, there’d be a paper trail showing how it was named. But we, our readers and local historians all were stumped. Until a recent inquiry suggested an answer that ultimately was wrong, but which appears to have led to the solution!
Janet Murphy, who has been researching two homes on Dunbar Road in Palm Beach, found the early owner of both was Amy Lyman Phillips. She wondered if Amy was the namesake of Phillips Point.
We do find a reference to “Philips Point” — one L — all the way back in February 1916, the first month of publication of The Palm Beach Post. And we found 268 references to Amy in the Palm Beach Post since 1916, its first year, but none also included a mention of Phillips Point.
We reached out to Debi Murray at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, who like us remained stymied, although she found an undated but clearly older photo showing a sign at the spot.
Friederike Mittner to the rescue! The longtime historic preservation planner for the city of West Palm Beach did some digging and found the likely answer.
“So what I found was a plat for the subdivision that Phillips Point sits on,” she wrote in October. “It was platted and surveyed by L(ouis) ? Phillips Jacksonville Florida February 1909.”
And she included an image from the old land record that says that very thing signed by Mr. Phillips.
Interestingly, the document refers to nearby land owned by James R. Anthony, who with his brother A.P., started the Anthony’s store way back in 1895, when the city was one year old. Anthony’s is the oldest continually operating local merchant in West Palm Beach.
The site originally hosted the Royal Palm Hotel, one of many business hotels that sprang up during the real estate boom. It opened Nov. 23, 1922, on Lakeview Avenue at the Royal Park Bridge. In the 1950s, the point was the site of the Hut, a popular teen hangout so All-American that the Saturday Evening Post of June 22, 1946, featured a photograph of it.
And in the 1960s, a grassy area just to the north became “People’s Park,” a gathering place for what were then called “hippies” and are now grandparents. Four months of clashes with police followed.On July 7, 1970, police had had enough. They swept the park, posting “keep off” signs, and arrested 64 young people.
And what about Amy Lyman Phillips? She might not be the person behind “Phillips Point.” But she’s historically interesting in her own right.
Next week: Amy Lyman Phillips.
UPDATE: In 2013, we told you about Alexander “Sandy” Nininger, son of a Lake Worth movie house owner, who posthumously became the first man in World War II to earn the Medal of Honor. On Saturday, the native of Gainesville, Ga., was inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
Submit your questions to Post Time, The Palm Beach Post, 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Include your full name and hometown. Email EK@pbpost.com or call 561-820-4418. Sorry; no personal replies.