Article By Lise M. Steinhauer

Palm Beach County 1916 Historic Courthouse

Have you reported for jury duty in Palm Beach County? Perhaps you enjoyed the view from the upper floors of the courthouse in down-town West Palm Beach, including the Historic 1916 Court House across Dixie Highway. Since it was restored in 2008, the neo-classic beauty has been home to the nonprofit Historical Society of Palm Beach County (HSP-BC), and its jewel, the Richard and Pat John-son Palm Beach County History Museum.

This is where the county’s children learn about the Barefoot Mailman, adults read bios of Notables, and visitors from hundreds of nations have learned how our paradise got its name after a shipwreck of coconuts grew into palms. They believe that children learn best about local history through experiences and involvement. This is a primary focus at the museum, where stories about our past come alive in a building that is itself a part of local heritage. Since 2003, the HSPBC has impacted more than half a million children with educational curriculum, museum tours, summer camp, mock trials, and the loan of traveling trunks and indoor-outdoor pop-up exhibits. 

Behind the scenes, the archives of the Historical Society is at the core of its mission to collect, protect, and share the county’s history. It has been growing since 1937, when the Florida Historical Society decreed that any Florida county could set up a unit of the state society. Early officers had names like Halsey, Chillingworth, and Butler. As the donations of items to preserve slowly grew, they were displayed or stored at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Society of the Four Arts, Whitehall, and the county library. By the time the HSPBC moved from its last home, the Par-amount Building in Palm Beach, to the 1916 courthouse, its archives were extensive. Four million images are among the many millions of items that document the story of this paradise. The archives contain more than a hundred voices in recorded oral history interviews, and collections named for families that have contributed their stories.

If you have been fortunate enough to dance in the VIP tent at Evening on Antique Row, dine at Archival Evening, or “CIP” at Cocktails in Paradise, you have supported and been entertained by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County (HSPBC). Those who attend these events receive a serving of local history with their food and drinks. At the 19th Annu-al Archival Evening gala in December, guests were treated to themed vignettes and exhibits of items from the HSPBC’s archives, from Seminole dolls to cameras.

Hobe Sound Social | Hobe Sound, FL

Pictured: Pat Johnson, namesake of the Museum, and Jeremy Johnson (unrelated), HSPBC President and CEO. Photo by Capehart Photography

The most recent Cocktails in Paradise, host-ed by HSPBC’s Young Friends at The Colony Hotel, featured an exhibit of vintage Lilly Pulitzer and the premiere of the first entry in the HSPBC video series “Beneath the Palms,” produced by Kilo Content and hosted by Kent Anderson. The Young Friends’ signature event, Evening on Antique Row, returns on April 9 with more doses of Palm Beach Coun-ty history in surprising formats.
There are many ways to engage with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, so choose several. Become a member at one of several levels from Archivist to Young Friends to The 1916 Society, attend lectures or the events above or visit the museum, join the Planned Giving Program, sponsor an exhibit or event, support the Annual Fund or offer a grant from your private foundation, contribute artifacts, and/or volunteer at the museum or events.

Would you like to learn more about the Historical Society’s programs, events and more? Contact: Taylor Materio, Director of Development tmaterio@pbchistory.org; 561-832-4164 x103

Hobe Sound Social | Hobe Sound, FL

Pictured: Children learn their local history at the Museum. Photo by Capehart Photography


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