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".

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