Originally the eastern end of the Everglades, the land surrounding Howard Park was a very different landscape. Sawgrass marsh, open water, and small hammocks (islands) covered the region. Strangler Figs, Mahogany trees, and Live Oaks likely formed the border along the Eastern edge or the Atlantic Coastal Ride . The hill would have been a fire dominated landscape – likely Florida Longleaf Pine Sandhills – essentially sand dunes covered Long-leaf or Slash Pine.
While Native American settlements existed West of what’s now Clear Lake, settlers rapidly modified the environment to the East. Many of the dunes were cleared for wood or planted as Mango plantations. Very little of this habitat remains in its original state (Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area, being one example).
The FEC railway reached West Palm Beach in 1894, rapidly growing the region. In 1918, the West Palm Beach Canal was cut through just West of what is now Park Ave, and was the prime transportation route to transport fruits and vegetables from the farms in the Everglades. The lake in the Arboretum was once the turning basin and unloading dock for boats, and hosted a farmers market.
Conners Highway toll road, parallel to the main canal, opened in 1924 and was a much faster way to transport produce. The Stub Canal The 1928 hurricane destroyed the unused docks.
During the land boom area, it was used as camp grounds. Later, as a park, boy scouts camped in the same places settlers had before them. Now, a baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, as well as a dog park occupy the grounds.
It’s history as park dates back to first city superintendent of streets and parks, DD “Dad” Howard – a big proponent of tree planting and education. He and his wife were very involved with local tree education and Garden Clubs. During his tenure, the area near the old Garden Club (Lake Ave and Newark St) was used as a city tree nursery (both later moved to Dreher Park, named for Paul Albert Dreher, a German horticulturist, the first director of parks, and founder of the Palm Beach Zoo). DD Howard oversaw the distribution of tens of thousands of Royal Poinciana trees to citizens for planting, as well as organized a group to plant them along both sets of tracks – all the way from WPB to Miami. Many of the Arboretum’s trees date back to his tenure and show his dedication to research of unique and interesting specimens. Unfortunately, many of the Arboretum’s trees were lost due to neglect in the intervening decades, but the Arboretum hopes to begin funding replacements and a return to the original intent or the park.
BEAUTIFUL CITY PARKS LURE beautiful tropical settings, tourists are provided with innumerable recreational facilities. Howard Park, shown above, is one of these neighborhood centers. This 51-acre tract is built near the Stub Canal, which connects the basin shown above with the West Palm Beach Canal leading to Lake Okeechobee. Many interesting walks lead through this park, named in honor of D. D. Howard, superintendent of streets and public improvements. –
Palm Beach Post, Sunday, November 20, 1938 ( https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/130203211/ )
Anyone interested in gardening and horticulture and wishing to become a member of one of the new circles may register at the Garden Center in Howard Park, she announced. The Center is open to the public daily from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m. each day except Saturdays and Sundays and visitors are invited to make use of the extensive garden library. Jan. 25 has been designated as “Identification Day” and a table will be arranged with specimens of the most ordinary trees, vines and shrubs now blooming. The trees in Howard Park have all been labeled true to name by D. D. Howard, superintendent of .
he royal poinciana is not only the most gorgeous the most brilliant “tree in all of Florida, but In the tropic world and except within a small radius here in southern Florida it is not to be found anywhere else in the United States. Do you realize what that means? What an opportunity for attracting summer visitors during the blooming period! . . . “Portland has its roses, Washington its cherry trees, and Charleston has its magnolias and azaleas, but the beauty of all these could be eclipsed in South Florida in royal poinciana time.” Citizens here recall that after this movement started two years ago, through the cooperation of Superintendent D. D. Howard, 6,200 small poinciana trees were distributed free with instructions as to how to plant. Both the Florida East Coast and Seaboard Air Line railroads have planted the trees on both sides of their tracks from West Palm Beach to Miami so that in future years this will be an unusual and beautiful sight for arriving visitors. The importance of the move ment is recognized in an editorial in this same issue of Southern Life.
” It doesn’t have to be watered; it doesn’t have to be watched; it doesn’t have to be fertilized; it’s pretty, decorative and hardy, and blooms every day in the year. . Any one of which features should be enough to make the Tribulus the answer to a tropical gardener’s prayer. It’s Dainty Flower For the benefit of those uninitiated in horticulture, the Tribulus is the dainty yellow bell-shaped flower, which grows on the feathery green creeper known familiarly as the Florida buttercup. Although it has been growing here for several years, not until it “e-gan to appear prominently In parkway landscaping in the Palm Beaches did it achieve much notice. , The Town of Palm Beach last year put the Tribulus on the map when it planted the huge parkways down the center and along the south side of the newly created Royal Poinciana with this ground covering, transforming the several blocks into a mass of gold and green. In Tribulus , started experimenting with Tribulus in parkways in the north end of the city two or three years ago, now he’s using it more and more, especially as new streets are opened and the sides must be landscaped. ”