7960385300?profile=original

Bathers relax on the beach at the old Boynton Beach Hotel, probably around 1920. Images courtesy of the Boynton Beach Library

By Ron Hayes

In the winter of 1899, it was “a quiet place with pleasant surroundings … away from the hurly-burly of large, fashionable hotels. No formality, no stiffness, everything pleasant and sociable.”
And all for only $2 a day!
Now through June 2, that long-gone hotel is a fascinating exhibit at the Boynton Beach City Library, three cases filled with obscure newspaper articles and photographs that resurrect “The Boynton” in all its Florida land-boom glory.
“The Flagler hotel in Palm Beach was so very well known,” says library archivist Janet DeVries, “but Boynton Beach had a hotel that was fairly well-known, too.”
For three months, DeVries searched the archives of the Palm Beach County Courthouse, The Palm Beach Post, the Library of Congress and others, panning for nuggets of historical gold, tiny news items and government records, faded photos and property deeds to tell the hotel’s story.

7960385658?profile=originalMaj. Nathan Smith Boynton, who had served on the Union side in the Civil War, came to the area in 1894 and built the Boynton Beach Hotel in 1895.

Nathan Smith Boynton, a Union major in the Civil War, came to the area from Port Huron, Mich., in 1894 and bought 90 acres of oceanfront land.
A year later construction began, and in 1895, The Boynton opened for business, just south of what is now Ocean Avenue. It had 45 rooms, six small cottages, a bathhouse, a dining room and a wraparound porch.
And oh, the water!
“DRINKING WATER UNSURPASSED,” the ads promised. “Medicinal properties shown by analysis of state chemist. A CERTAIN CURE for Kidney troubles.”

7960385671?profile=originalThe Boynton Beach Hotel was around 5 years old when this photograph was taken circa 1900.


Twelve miles north, the Palm Beach hotels attracted celebrities and millionaires. The Boynton’s most famous guest appears to have been Edgar Guest, “the people’s poet,” whose folksy poetry few people honor today.
In the exhibit’s photographs, The Boynton appears as an unpretentious, two-story, clapboard structure, pleasant and sociable, as the ads promised, but no match for Flagler’s Gilded Age excess.
In one fading photograph, a group of seven young women and a man poses in the sand, the hotel in the background, a friendly dog by their side.
Recently, DeVries hosted a group of schoolchildren, one of whom stared at the photo in amazement and exclaimed: “Gee, I didn’t know they had dogs way back then!”
Alas, way back then didn’t last long. Maj. Boynton died in 1911, at 73.
His son-in-law, Albert E. Parker, later the city manager of West Palm Beach, managed the hotel.
Finally, in 1925, another small advertisement appeared in The Palm Beach Post:
Attention
Contractors and Builders, Tuesday, April 21, will start work on wrecking the building known as the Boynton Beach Hotel in Boynton, Fla. The following materials will be
sold …
A new hotel, bigger and better, would replace it.
A year later, the 1926 hurricane struck, and the Florida land boom went bust. The new hotel was never built, and the old one was a ghost.

7960386052?profile=originalThe Atwater Cottage, which adjoined the old Boynton Beach Hotel, survives, though much renovated, in Ocean Ridge.


Except for one home in Ocean Ridge.
In 1921, one of the six original cottages adjoining the hotel was bought by a man named Albert Atwater and moved a few blocks south of the hotel. That cottage survives, much renovated, expanded and still privately owned.             


Archivist Janet DeVries will present a lecture and slide show on Maj. Nathan Boynton and his hotel at 6:30 p.m.  April 16, at the Boynton Beach City Library, 208 S. Seacrest Blvd.

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