The Palm Beach Farms Company, Percy Hagerman, and Colorado silver mining

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.

1959 Gold Coast Marathon from North Miami to West Palm Beach on the Intracoastal

1959 Gold Coast Marathon from North Miami to West Palm Beach on the Intracoastal
1959 Gold Coast Marathon from North Miami to West Palm Beach on the Intracoastal

From 1949 until sometime in the early 1970s, speed boat enthusiasts raced in the Gold Coast Marathon, an unlimited race with as many as 13 classes from the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club at the 79th Street Causeway to West Palm Beach and back the following day. The brainchild of Sam Griffiths, founder of the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club, Griffiths himself was a powerboat racer who won the first Marathon and two others. Top finishers completed the first 67-mile leg in one hour. The very best drivers in hydroplanes topped 100 miles per hour in the fastest stretches of the race course. In later years, the Marathon moved to the new Miami Marine Stadium amidst safety concerns when scores of small boats entered the race. Toward the end, the Marathon garnered the sanctioning of the prestigious American Power Boating Association. The long-abandoned Stadium is now in the hands of preservationists who hope to restore the Stadium to its former beauty and style along with educational programming.

1959 Gold Coast Marathon on the Intracoastal Waterway

1959 Gold Coast Marathon on the Intracoastal Waterway

Russell Fraser, Jr., racing an outboard motorboat in the 1959 Gold Coast Marathon on the Intracoastal Waterway between Miami and West Palm Beach and the return to Miami the next day. Some hydroplanes among the scores of boats of every class reached speeds approaching a hundred miles an hour. Many fast boats completed the two-day course at an average speed of sixty miles an hour. The brainchild of powerboat enthusiast Sam Griffith, the GCM ran from the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club at the 79th Street Causeway to WPB and back (134 miles) from 1947 through the 1960s. In later years, boat mishaps and injuries forced race committeemen to abandon the ICW for the modern Miami Marine Stadium, now in the hands of preservationists who hope to restore the abandoned stadium. Courtesy, Russell Fraser, Jr.