Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Who is This Jones Guy?

At the request of one of my readers (thanks, Eric!), I’ve been digging to find out exactly who the “Jones” of Jones Creek in Jupiter, Florida, was and how he ended up with a creek named after him. The Town of Jupiter told me their information was that Jones was a squatter of unknown origin and they couldn't find anything more in their records. He could have been black, white or Indian as all three definitely lived in the area.

Jones Creek is the main tributary to the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter. In 1987, what is now known as the Jones Creek Hammock became the property of the town of Jupiter and was restored and opened to the public in 2007. The headwaters of the creek are considered historic and the cypress slough located there is home to 400 year old cypress trees. According to the Jupiter Parks and Recreation website,, in one twenty acre property, there are oaks, southern magnolia, wild olives, a mangrove swamp, pine flatwoods terrain and wetlands. If you can look beyond the well-tended paths, it’s a true peek back into the way Jupiter looked in the late 1800s.

        So that’s why the creek is an interesting bit of history. Here’s where I thought we might make this something more than just another story... I may have found out exactly who Jones was through a life-long native of Jupiter, but I don’t have the information in my hot little hands yet. While I’m waiting and hoping for an answer, I think we could have a lot of fun with this. Let’s hear some theories from you. I don’t care if your theory is serious, silly or even absolutely nuts!  Make something up. Who was Jones and why did the creek get his name? Post your theory under comments anytime between now and September 7, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. I’ll put all the entries in a hat and pick a winner!

           Not only could this be entertaining, but I’m even going to sweeten the pot and give the winner more than just applause. Since most of you who follow my blog have a thing for Florida history, I found a great book called “Forgotten Tales of Florida” by Bob Patterson. The review on says that it contains some “classic Florida tales…” and “capture(s) the wildness that still lurks in Florida’s more natural places.”  You win and I’ll ship it to your door. What do you say?  Up for a challenge?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just a little side note...

For all of my friends and followers who are writers and are blogging, I was just invited to the Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign and thought it sounded like a great idea. If you're looking to build your platform, this just may be the place. Click on Third Writers' Platform and follow the directions. Hurry, though, her deadline is tomorrow, August 31, 2011. If you don't make this one, keep an eye out for the next one and ask me - I'll let you know if it's been worth it. I highly suspect it will be :)

For all my history-loving followers, I have a regular post coming out tomorrow that includes a contest and an actual, real-life prize. Thank you for your indulgence in reading through this post!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Venetian Pool

          While this blog is mostly about Palm Beach County, most of us who grew up here have spent time all over the state. From time to time, I just have to write about something somewhere else that keeps popping up in my head.  Those of you who write know the feeling of getting that whisper in your ear in the middle of the night that says, “Hey, you need to write about this.” Since I doubt my cats have mastered English yet, I have to take the voice as a directive and subject you to an entry about somewhere else in Florida.
               When I graduated college in 1981 (go ‘Noles!), my first job was at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.  Even though the job didn’t work out in the long run, it was responsible for bringing me to Coral Gables. On a hot, sticky weekend like only Florida can provide, I was trying to figure out to do and where to go.  My roommate suggested the Venetian Pool.  This not commonly known gem is one of the few pools, if not the only one, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tucked deep in a residential section of Coral Gables, you’ll probably need GPS or a detailed map to find it at 2701 DeSoto Boulevard.
               I remember the joy of locating it for the first time after driving around in circles. As I walked through the gates and paid the admission, the first sight of it was breathtaking. A tropical oasis complete with waterfalls and grottos, clear, cold water and a well-kept jungle of tropical plants along the edges. Lying there on the sand beach off to one side, it was almost possible to totally forget that I was still in a busy city. I knew the pool had been there a long time, but I was very surprised to find out later that my dad had been driven there from Delray Beach as a child with his siblings in the thirties and forties.
               The Venetian Pool is a holdover from a much more elegant time. Originally, it was a quarry for the limestone needed to help build George Merrick’s vision of Italy’s Venice in Florida, Coral Gables. Merrick’s uncle, Denman Fink, an architect, designed the conversion to the beautiful pool it is today in 1924. He included waterfalls, grottos and gondolas in the design along with a beautiful Mediterranean building at one side.
The water, all 820,000 gallons of it, was drained and re-filled every night from a natural aquifer until the 1980s when the conservationist minded city invested in a re-cycling system. It’s been drained for concerts, lectures and opera and has hosted such dignitaries as William Jennings Bryan, orchestras famous at the time and even the Miami Opera. When filled, not only has its chilly water been enjoyed by thousands of hot Floridians, it’s also been the site of swimming performances by famous swimmers of the day. I had heard Johnnie Weissmuller of Tarzan fame also swam there, but I can’t find any proof so it may just be a hopeful rumor.
               It’s an incredibly peaceful spot and worth the trip and the safari through suburbia to find it. Because it’s in sunny South Florida, it’s open year round.  Make sure you bring your camera.
               For prices and hours, head over to 
(Picture courtesy of Stephanie L. on site. More beautiful pictures are at

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Suni Sands and Dubois Park

            In the 1970s, when a Girl Scout was old enough to camp at the Outpost campsite in Camp Welaka in Tequesta, there was one event that was special and looked forward to by every camper—the canoe trip down the Loxahatchee River and across the Jupiter Inlet. We would pile in canoes and energetically head down the river. When the Scouts hit the inlet, the current rushing out to sea became much harder. We would push as hard as we could to avoid getting pulled out into the ocean. Alongside our canoes, dolphins cavorted beside us as we crossed, as if they knew we were nervous about the open ocean to our left.
            Across the inlet, we made landfall at Suni Sands, the mobile home park that sits nestled between State Road A1A and the water. There, we would enjoy a wonderful picnic lunch and relax before beginning the hard row back to camp.
            I recently attended a fascinating presentation by Christian Davenport, Palm Beach County Historical Preservation Officer and Archaeologist, and learned that the Suni Sands mobile home park is actually located on top of a prehistoric Indian village site—a rare “double platform mound” where the biggest of chiefs once lived.
            The Suni Sands property was at one time owned by William and Emily Sperry of S&H Greenstamps fame (for those of you who remember when Publix passed out little green stamps with every purchase). In the late 1800s, before Sperry bought the property, the main entrance of Suni Sands was the roadbed of the northern terminus of the Jupiter and Lake Worth Railroad, better known as the Celestial Railroad.
            Close by to the east is Dubois Park which was once called “Stone’s Point.” For two years, the Point had been occupied by a Major Stone and his crew who were trapped in the Intracoastal when their ship was forced to take shelter there by a storm. The Inlet closed when the storm re-arranged the sand, trapping the ship and requiring them to wait it out.  Harry Dubois arrived in 1892 and purchased the Point.
            The Dubois house was built in 1898 on top of a huge shell midden.  About two-thirds of the original midden was sold to create road beds in Harry Kelsey’s dream, Kelsey City (now Lake Park).  The big mound the house currently sits on is but a small portion of the approximately 600 foot mound, yet you can still see a gentle swell to the landscape where the mound was located.
            My friend, Kelly Farrell, who grew up in Lake Park, asked me if I remembered when the Dubois still lived on the property. One of the Dubois would come out when cars would pull up, and as Kelly and her brother Kip hung out of the windows, the Farrells would be charged a dollar for the carload to park and enjoy the beach.
            You can drive by Suni Sands, but it is private property. Dubois Park is now part of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.  The Dubois Pioneer Home, first restored by The Loxahatchee Historical Society in the early 1970s, was severely damaged in 2004 when Palm Beach County suffered four hurricanes and it has not yet re-opened to the public. Repair and restoration is ongoing thanks to the generosity of The Loxahatchee Guild.  The Parks and Recreation Department has a “Gift to Parks Program” and would be delighted to speak with you as to where you might volunteer your time, talents or dollars to help in the continued restoration of the park and buildings. Contact Tim Gramowitz at (561) 966-6651.  
            Dubois Park itself is open to the public…and you don’t even have to have a spare dollar.

This article was published as the August column of "The Florida You Don't Know".