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History of Ocean Ridge

This history was reproduced with permission from excerpts of "The History of Ocean Ridge" written by Gail Adams Aaskov. The book was first published in 1995 with all copies selling out. A newer edition is now available at the Town Hall for $5.

In 1931 the Town of Boynton Beach, later re-named Ocean Ridge, was created by an Act of the Legislature of the State of Florida. Prior to that date the area was part of the Town of Boynton, which at the time included what we know now as Boynton Beach, Ocean Ridge, Briny Breezes and the south portion of Manalapan.

In 1877 the Dexter Hubel family from Michigan had the only homesite in what we know now as Ocean Ridge. The homesite was located between A1A and the ocean by the end of Ocean Avenue.

The original Town of Boynton was named for Major Nathan S. Boynton, a Port Huron, MI resident, who in 1894 with US Representative William Seelye Linton toured the area, both being interested in establishing Colonies of Northerners on the east coast of Florida.

New settlers began arriving in large numbers in 1885, mostly from the midwest. In the 1890s the area was advertised as the "most tropical part of the State and insuring the most even temperatures."

Major Boynton purchased the Dexter Hubel property and by 1897 had completed construction of the Boynton Beach Hotel on the ocean site just south of the end of Ocean Avenue. The hotel was a showplace. It had 45 rooms and six cottages. Seventy-five percent of the guests were from Michigan and many of them used the hotel as their winter home.

In the early 1900s, Addison Mizner wanted to build a hotel on property he owned on Parker's Mile (later re-named McCormick Mile). The site was near the current Ocean Club. However, the residents of Boynton resented the idea so strongly that a gun was drawn at Mizner. He later bought property and built his hotel in Boca Raton.

The first bridge was built at Ocean Avenue in 1911. It was made of wood and had a foundation in the center of the canal and the bridge tender would use a wrench type pipe about four feet long to manually swing the bridge open in a northerly and southerly direction. The bridge tender lived in a small frame house where the Banana Boat Restaurant is today.

In 1920 with the boom, Boynton was incorporated as a town and in that year residents of the town approved a bond issue to purchase an oceanfront park not to exceed $6,000 in cost. In 1928 the Boynton Beach Casino was built on the present site of the Boynton Beach municipal beach, intended not for gambling, but to be used as a meeting place. It was torn down in 1967.

In 1926 the South Lake Worth Inlet (Boynton Inlet) was opened, connecting Lake Worth with the Atlantic Ocean. It had been constructed to relieve the water from Lake Worth, now known as the Intracoastal Waterway, and was basically used as a drainage canal. The first hint of salt water in the lake was when A.O. Lang dug a ditch across a very narrow part of land between the lake and ocean at the north end of the lake, later to become the Palm Beach Inlet.

After the 1947 hurricane A1A was moved to its present location and "Old A1A" became Old Ocean Boulevard. At the time A1A was known as "A1," the alternate route to Route 1. By 1932, Leon Robbins had cottages on the corner south of the Inlet.

In 1931, over a tax dispute regarding beach area properties and the rising debt load of the Town of Boynton, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, a new town by the name of Boynton Beach, three miles long and one-half mile wide, one third of which was under water, was created.

It was agreed that the property located in the Town of Boynton Beach known as the Municipal Casino would remain the property of the existing Town of Boynton and the same would be exempt from municipal taxes by the Town of Boynton Beach (Ocean Ridge) so long as the title to said property remains vested in the Town of Boynton.

All water lines, water mains and sewers located on, or in the Town of Boynton Beach (Ocean Ridge) were to become the property of the new town. It was agreed that the Town of Boynton would supply water to the Town of Boynton Beach for a period of twenty-five years. This policy remains in effect today. Due to lack of water pressure in the fire hydrants at the residences in the north end and in higher buildings, a water improvement bond was voted on by residents in February 1991.

The newly formed Town of Boynton Beach held its first town meeting on May 16, 1931 at the home of Albert A. Atwater at 6191 North Ocean Boulevard, with Frank Landon Humphreys, Albert A. Atwater, Walter N. Knauth, Edward C. Dunbar and Joseph Unger appointed the first Commissioners as per the Town Charter until the first election was to be held. There were twelve homes in town at the time.

Of the three islands, Sabal Island was the only naturally formed land, the other islands were formed from the dredgings of the South Lake Worth Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway which was widened and deepened in 1934.

In 1933 Mayor Humphreys and the Commission appointed A.R. Cook as Fire Marshall. In March of the same year the Commission authorized the purchase of a heavy duty bicycle at a cost not to exceed $50 for use of the police officer in making his rounds.

In April 1937, a special emergency meeting of the Town Commission was held for the purpose of discussing a change in the name of the town. Commissioner Murray explained that when writing the names of Boynton Beach and Daytona Beach they were so similar in appearance that mail intended for Boynton Beach was missent by the postal clerks with resultant delay and possible loss. He also stated that should postal facilities be established at Boynton Beach in the future confusion between Boynton and Boynton Beach would be even greater. Mayor Michael White declared a contest to select a name for the town with a prize of $100 to the person who selected the name that was chosen. Marion White Bird, his daughter, suggested the name of Ocean Ridge and won the $100, a sizeable amount of money at the time. The Town Clerk and the Town Attorney were authorized to publish a notice as required by the Constitution of the State of Florida that the town would introduce in the State Legislature at its 1937 session an act by the terms of which the name of Boynton Beach would be changed to Ocean Ridge. The change became effective in 1939 after a vote of fourteen town residents to change the name. In 1941 the Town of Boynton changed its name to Boynton Beach. At the time of the 1951 election there was again the issue of changing the name of the town. The ballot included "Would you favor changing the name of the town to South Palm Beach?" The vote was seven in favor with ten opposed.

In February 1944, arrangements were made with Manalapan to provide police patrol in the Town of Ocean Ridge for an annual fee of $750. The next month Thomas L. McGinty was appointed Chief of Police, with L.A. Robbins being Fire Marshall. In 1946, the Town Commission appointed a committee to determine and put into effect what would be the best police protection for the town. For many years thereafter Boynton Beach provided the police and fire protection to the Town of Ocean Ridge, until 1958 when the town renewed its contract with Boynton Beach on a month to month basis at a cost of $100 per month, as it was the desire of Ocean Ridge to have its own police department. In 1958 Ray Newman was hired as Chief of Police at a salary of $300 per month and due to the fact that he was on duty twenty-four hours per day, an Assistant Police Chief, L. O'Rourke, was hired for fifteen days a month at a salary of $150 per month.

In 1967 the 15th Avenue bridge (Woolbright) named for 1917 settlers of Boynton, was built. The original Woolbright bridge was supposed to come out farther south by what was known as Cameron Corners south of Briny Breezes. The dispute over the Ocean Ave. bridge location lasted 20 years with the controversy being between the extension of Boynton Beach Blvd. or the replacement of the current Ocean Ave. bridge.

In 1987, after many years of trying to resolve the disputed issue with the South Lake Worth Inlet District, the Town of Ocean Ridge filed suit as the only viable means of assuring the improvement and continuation of a substantially dry and sandy beach, approximately the size of the beach to the north. The case was heard in Circuit Court in 1993 and the Town of Ocean Ridge prevailed. The SLWID was directed to develop and implement a plan to provide and increase sand and to maintain the beach. The case was over-turned by the 4th District Court of Appeals which stated that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (then the Department of Natural Resources) was the only agency which had jurisdiction. A sand renourishment project to place 500,000 cubic feet of sand on the Ocean Ridge beaches has been approved and funded by the State of Florida.

Today the 1,675 year round residents and the approximate 1,000 more seasonal inhabitants of Ocean Ridge describe the Town as low-key, low-density and low profile. The solitude and seclusion are part of the life in this small town. Surprisingly enough, people only a few miles away do not know where Ocean Ridge is located. In a May 10, 1992 Palm Beach Post article referring to Ocean Ridge it was stated, "It may be dull, but the residents like it that way."

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