The Lake Worth Drainage District celebrated its (1915-2015) centennial yesterday. Between 1915 and 1935, more than 125 drainage districts formed in Florida to prevent flooding. Nineteen districts formed in Palm Beach County alone. These local districts (secondary drainage) are under the supervisory control of the South Florida Management District (primary drainage). Both monitor the weather closely and remain in close contact with each other. The SFWMD has the final say over whether the flood gates should be open or closed, based upon the total amount of rainwater expected each day.
One of the largest secondary systems, the LWDD manages the water in an area once called the Palm Beach Farms, an immense agricultural operation that resulted from the public lands granted the Florida canal company that built the Intracoastal Waterway and Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway and their subsidiaries from St. Augustine and Miami. In total, the Palm Beach Farms Company bought approximately 234 square miles of land from the Okeechobee Road to the south Palm Beach County line in 1912. That land now lies within the Lake Worth Drainage District. The principals behind the Palm Beach Farms Company in 1912 were silver mine owners and brokers from Colorado. Headed by Percy Hagerman (1869-1950), the Florida farming company had been incorporated in Colorado.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Hagerman graduated from Cornell University, and studied law for one year at Yale University. Adding to his family’s immense wealth, Hagerman invested in railroads and mines in Colorado Springs where he resided, in addition to his investments in Florida real estate. Old Percy Field at Cornell is named in honor of Hagerman; Hagerman Park at Colorado Springs is also named for Hagerman. Hagerman was a master rower while attending Cornell. At Colorado Springs, Hagerman became famous as an artist throughout the West for his mountainscape paintings.