“West Palm Beach Canal 1940 Aerials and 1958 Topo,” Todd Thurlow

West Palm Beach Canal 1940 Aerials and 1958 Topo, Todd Thurlow

You will see:
0:06 1940 USDA Aerial Index of Palm Beach County
0:20 Eight 1949 and 1950 1:24K USGS Topo maps
0:45 Pinner Island (now known as Ibis Isle)
1:01 1940 USDA Aerial – West Palm Beach Canal outlet to Lake Worth
1:40 Lake Clarke area where the Palm Beach Canal now crosses under I-95
– The road “s” turning over the canal is actually the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (now CSX)
– The Florida East Coast Railway is 0.6 miles to the east (the next canal crossing downstream)
1:54 Lake Clarke – on the 1950 Palm Beach USDA Topo
2:54 Morrison Field Airbase (later renamed Palm Beach International Airport).
See: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/…
3:37 SFWMD Offices south (left) of the canal across from the airport
4:11 Wide fade-in of 1940 USDA Aerial Index – ponds and bogs of western Palm Beach County
4:21 The northern end of what is now the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
(aka WCA1 – Water Conservation Area 1)
4:41 1958 USGS 1:250K Topo Quad showing western Palm Beach County
4:49 Twenty Mile Bend
5:05 Eastern portions of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
5:46 Canal Point at the western end of the Palm Beach Canal

Palm Beach County is a fascinating place, especially, as in 1925, Martin County was born of it. We are connected, as is everything in this water-world of South Florida.

Today, I feature another incredible “Time Capsule Flight” by my brother, Todd Thurlow. I have recently been studying Palm Beach County and Todd’s flights help me understand what was, what is, and would can be. Palm Beach County is interesting as unlike Martin County, it has been developed very far west into the historic Everglades.

When I made a big deal out of this, my mother gave me a book published in 2000 entitled OUR CENTURY, a conglomeration of articles by the Palm Beach Post. A historian, my mother smiled saying, “Jacqui, Palm Beach County always planned on going west…”

The first article I came upon was about Louis Perini, the father of “Westward Expansion.” Eliot Kleinberg writes: “In the mid 1950s West Palm Beach was only a mile wide. But a single land deal set off a westward land rush now limited only by the Everglades…”

And to the Everglades it certainly went!

To learn some canals while were at it, you’ll see that Lake Okeechobee is connected to the historic West Palm Beach Canal, which is connected to the C-51 Canal, which in turn drains the C-51 Basins to the Lake Worth through Structure-155. Like the C-44 Canal, both lake water and basin water can be transported through the C-51 canal damaging the water quality in Lake Worth ~Sound familiar? Very similar to the plight of the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon. Tremendous amounts of precious fresh water wasted to tide, destroying ecological habitat and property values along the way. We must do better!

In any case, it is an amazing thing to really see that we are living in what once was indeed a beautiful marshy swamp.

Enjoy Todd’s flight “West Palm Beach 1940 Aerials and 1958 Topo;” it’s time-travel into Florida’s past and into her future. Again here is the video.


Links and References:

Our Century, The Palm Beach Post: https://books.google.com/books?id=TiC84R9yXgEC&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=elliott+kleinberg+perini&source=bl&ots=BNWQOIFp5X&sig=ACfU3U1TI15nVYF5P3rxi-ZiGrAMUHDTvQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihw_zh_JXhAhURwlkKHWtsCvMQ6AEwAXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=elliott%20kleinberg%20perini&f=false

Evolution/maps of Palm Beach County with Martin County’s creation by Florida Legislature in 1925: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/evolution-of-palm-beach-county

Todd Thurlow, bio: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/todd-thurlows-time-capsule-flights/).

Lake Worth, fading 1958 topo map to 1940 US Ag Dept. aerials ~outlet of  C-51 to Lake Worth. Looking west to 20 Mile Bend going north then west again as  West Palm Beach Canal leading to Lake Okeechobee. Todd Thurlow

12 thoughts on ““West Palm Beach Canal 1940 Aerials and 1958 Topo,” Todd Thurlow

  1. Greetings and Good Day Jacqui – It would be very helpful if the links to Todds stuff go direct to the flight you are talking about. – Love your stuff – GG

    George Gill …. ghgill@att.net Cell: (305) 588-2385


  2. Once again—notice how all the roads used to be shell and are now tar and asphalt. Now the rain washes over the tar and goes straight down into peoples drinking water.

  3. A few years ago they paved a road on Merit Island just north of Pineda Causeway where some of the most exspensive homes are. I noticed they put calcium carbonate sand and shell on both sides where rain would cause chemical reaction between carbonic acid and calcium.Why they don’t do this everywhere is beyond me.

  4. My parents were true pioneers. My mother was born in West Palm Beach in 1913. Mt father was born in Ocilla, Ga in 1912 and moved with his family to WPB in 1920. Both went to Palm Beach high. They began buying land West of town in the late 1930s. By 1940 they began building their house. Looking at 3:52 you will see CJF 6121. The Back edge of the C is on the NE edge of their property. Construction was very difficult; dirt roads, my father carried supplies over the spillway to get in. the only other way was a loop South thru the bogs and not easy.
    By December 7, 1941 (note date), they were ready to move in. My grandfather drove out to tell them the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Rural electrification went out the window until 1946. Father was a pilot since 1928, and went to the Army Air Corps as a flight instructor, mother was a secretary for The Air Corps. Gasoline well pump for water, coal stove for winter, Kerosine lamps for light. No phone. Mosquitos thick enough to snuff a coleman lantern. Big rattlesnakes. Our neighbors (only 900 feet away) had a cow that came to a slope on the canal bank to drink, and one day a massive gator grabbed her by the face and drowned her.

    When I grew up on the South bank of C-51 the spoil bank was still intact, a lot mound running by the canal, about 20 feet high. The North did had been taken for the fill for SR80. After a good rain we would find sharks teeth, clam shells, coral lumps and so on. Quite normal for 20 feet deep in the ocean.C-51 was not dug that deep. When I was in my high school chemistry class we had a visitor ask us for help excavating a fossil dig of of Okeechobee Rd, and there we found the mastodon that is in the Science Museum. At the time we were told that the sea level was 350′ higher than now, this was by the estimate then around 11,000 years ago or so. There is only about 5 miles one site from the other. That is a sea level change of around 370 feet.

    Several years ago the Post had an article featuring a post card showing Palm Beach High before the 1928 hurricane. It had an observation tower (about 30 feet high). The hurricane of ’28 took it out. My father became a professional photographer after the war and collected many photographs for historic preservation. One such photo was taken around 1924 and showed a Western view. Nothing but sawgrass and tree islands. There was NOTHING west of the railroad. That photograph is in the historical society collection.
    I must comment that every person who wants to return South Florida to its natural state do not have the faintest clue what they are asking for.

    1. Dear Sam,
      This is an amazing comment you have written! Thank you so much for sharing. Just incredible to think about how much everything has changed. I will visit the Palm Beach Science Museum and look for the mastodon your class during the Okeechobee Road fossil dig. I also would like to see the photo you dad took in 1924 of the Palm Beach – just sawgrass and tree islands! WOW.

      1. Thank you most kindly;

        To clarify, the photo in question was collected by him . He was one of two professional photographers in West Palm Beach starting in the late 40s until 1977. He was a sheriffs deputy, and took pictures of crime scenes, as a pilot he took aerials. For many years he took the pictures for Palm Beach High schools annual.
        The Palm Beach Post had him as a photographer, check there. My mother donated very many of his files, negatives and prints to the Historical Society. Sadly a very large amount of his work was lost due to the elements, negatives were very vulnerable to breakdown.

        The Post had an article in Aug. 2021; “Travel in early Florida rife with peril”.
        It describes 4 friends crossing from Ft. Meyers to West Palm in 1893. It took them 15 days to do, and it was nearly fatal. They knew they had arrived when they came across a crew cutting ties for the railroad. This would be the FEC, so that places them East of Parker Ave.

        I believe that the Historical Society has a copy of the Army corps of engineers survey before C-51 was dug. I have read it in the past, please be aware that it would require editing for political correctness as the language is early 1900’s blunt. They
        were surveying from horses and small canoes, 20 mile bend is a correction to allow 2 construction crews to meet, one from the lake, one from the coast.

        I must apologize for becoming a little garbled in the first comment, I was getting tired.

        Sam Quincey

  5. One more item; June 4,2022

    The current rain event, that has the news services so worked up has a precedent. My father told me that in 1943 or “44 there was a tropical inversion, it rained about 3 feet in a 2 day period. As the event was split over 2 days the records are somewhat misleading. The Army air corps was landing seaplanes at Morrison field, the depth where the runways cross was more than 3 feet. You could not tell were SR 80’s edge was, C-51 was overtopping the road and it was a solid sheet of water. Imagine Wellington. The water came up to my parents door, but not into the house. When they picked where to build they used the highest ground, this was proven by the largest patch of scrub palmettos, they don’t like being too wet. Mind you, the had to dig them out to lay the foundation, very hard labor.

    Sam Quincey

    1. Sam these stories are INCREDIBLE! What images! I hope you will share more and more. I know 7 inches is “nothing” compared to many situations of the past. 1947 they say it rained over 100 inches. Please keep sharing.

  6. Followup;

    Some further research; the single day highest precipitation at Palm Beach was April 17, 1942.
    Total for that day is recorded as 15.22 inches. National weather service record,

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