Left: Ye Tower Restaurant was a landmark along Dixie Highway in southern Lantana. Paul Dunbar operated the restaurant from 1925 until it was torn down in 1987. Photos courtesy of the Lantana Historical Society
By Liz Best
When the red carpet rolls out July 2 at the town of Lantana’s 90th birthday bash, residents will celebrate knowing that they have bragging rights to a pretty sizable chunk of Palm Beach County history.
Lantana was home to some of Palm Beach County’s earliest settlers. They populated the areas now known as Hypoluxo Island, Lantana and Manalapan.
The first settlers began arriving in 1842, after Congress passed the Armed Occupation Act at the end of the Seminole Wars. In 1887, the Lyman family — considered to be Lantana’s founding family — arrived and built a home on what then became Lyman Point. This home is now the location of the Old Key Lime House restaurant. The family patriarch, Morris B. Lyman, later opened a store called the Indian Trading Post and a post office in 1889 where he became the postmaster.
No history of Lantana would be complete without mention of the Barefoot Mailmen, who delivered mail from Palm Beach to Miami, on foot and by boat. The walking distance was a 66-mile route along the shore.
According to a 1959 Miami Herald article by Theodore Pratt, it took three days for the mailmen to make the often dangerous trek.
Lantana Town Manager Mike Bornstein has walked the route of the Barefoot Mailmen, and says it’s a daunting experience — but fun, at the same time.
“You just get a sense for what it was like,” he said.
The first school was built in 1894 at the east end of Lantana and Osborne roads, and moved by June 1903. After the 1928 hurricane, which blew the roof off the school, it was again moved in 1929 to where it stands today, on the property of the current Lantana Elementary School. The building now serves as a center for migrant workers and as a museum.
The old school was what sparked Rosemary Mouring’s interest in joining the Lantana Historical Society when it was established in 2003.
Now — with Mouring as the current president — the Historical Society is working to refurbish the Evergreen Cemetery, which has 18 marked graves dating from 1892 to 1950. Among those graves are sailors killed in the shipwreck of the S.S. Inchulva in the 1880s, as well as an unknown black family, believed to have been killed in the 1928 hurricane.
Money, of course, is an issue.
“We are trying to raise $27,000 to fix the fence at the cemetery,” said Mouring. She adds that Evergreen Cemetery is listed among the National Cemetery Archives.
Trying to save A. G. Holley Hospital, built in 1950 as the state tuberculosis sanitarium, also is a priority for the historical society.
The 100-bed state-run tuberculosis hospital, which is currently funded for 50 patients, is on land owned by the state of Florida and there is talk of demolishing the building.
Mouring does not want to see that happen.
“If it weren’t for A.G. Holley, Lantana would not be populated, let me clue you,” she said. “That is what brought 90 percent of the people to Lantana.”
Mouring would like to see the hospital building, with its original Art Deco design, preserved and used as a center for Homeland Security, or a Veterans Administration hospital or even a research hospital.
“I want to see it last forever because I see so much potential,” she said.
“I’d like to see it torn down, at this point,’’ he said.
A self-described history buff, Bornstein approaches his job as Lantana town manager with an eye on both the past and the future.
“It’s like being in a boat. There’s a lot of drift and you have to adjust accordingly.”
The town of Lantana was incorporated in 1921, with 22 residents voting in the first election. At the time of incorporation, the area of the town was 1 square mile with a population of 100 residents.
Another milestone in Lantana’s history came when National Enquirer publisher Generoso Pope moved the supermarket tabloid’s headquarters to Lantana in 1971. For the next almost 20 years, the Enquirer placed what it called “the world’s largest Christmas tree” at its Lantana offices each year, attracting thousands of visitors. The tradition died when Pope himself died in 1988. The newspaper later moved from Lantana to Boca Raton in 2000.
The Lantana Historical Society and the Lantana Chamber of Commerce contributed to this story. For more information on the historical society, visit www.lantanahistoricalsociety.org or email LH_Society@bellsouth.net.
Lantana historical timeline
1885 — The famous Barefoot Mailman route from Palm Beach to Miami was established. E.R. Bradley, the first Barefoot Mailman, had lived in the Lantana area since 1877.
1889 — Morris B. Lyman established the first business in Lantana, a mercantile located on a dock on the south side of Lantana Point. Indians traded at the store until 1910. The first post office was also established with Lyman serving as postmaster.
1894 — The first schoolhouse was built at the north end of Lake Drive.
1896 — The railroad came to Lantana and a packing house located west of Lake Osborne shipped produce, four cars at a time.
1921 — The town of Lantana was incorporated, with 22 people voting in the election. The first two mayors were women: Ellen Anderson and Mary Paddock.
1925 — The first bridge was built linking Lantana to the beach. Prior to that, going to the beach involved a boat trip and a hike through a mangrove swamp.
1950 — A.G. Holley State Hospital opened as the Southeast Tuberculosis Hospital.
1971 — National Enquirer moved its world headquarters from New York City to Lantana. The paper moved to Boca Raton in 2000.
Historic sites in Lantana
Lyman-Chafin House, 122 S. Lake Drive, built in 1887; it is the oldest house located on its original site in Palm Beach County.
M.B. Lyman House, 302 E. Ocean Ave., built in 1889. Now is the Old Key Lime House Restaurant.
William A. Hall House, 228 E. Ocean Ave., built in 1914.
Lakeshore Cottage, 210 N. Lake Drive, built in 1915.
Nellie King House, 127 S. Oak St., built in 1925.
Single-story house, 202 N. Lake Drive, built in 1925.
Single-story house, 318 S. Lake Drive, built in 1925.
The Ulas Piper House, 306 Atlantic Drive SW, built in 1925.
Ye Tower Restaurant, 916 S. Dixie Highway, opened in 1925.
Mary B. Lyman House, 209 S. Lake Drive, built in 1927
Casa Contenta, 314 N. Lake Drive, built in 1929
Single-story house, 814 S. Lake Drive, built in 1939.