By Jane Feehan
Palm Beach might not be the place it is today without its coconut palms. Some say it was the palms that attracted Henry M. Flagler, the Florida East Coast Railway builder, to the island.
In January 1878 (or 1876, depending on the account) the Spanish ship Providencia, en route from Havana to Spain with a cargo of about 20,000 coconuts, wrecked off the Florida coast. The crew and its cargo washed ashore near today’s historic Mar-a-Lago.
Providencia Park sits in West Palm Beach today, in commemoration of the ship, its coconuts and their contribution to the Palm Beach area landscape. Species of palm trees come and go with disease and time but they’ve become an iconic symbol of Florida and its tropical lifestyle.
The last surviving witness to the Providencia wreck is quoted in a 1938 Palm Beach Post story (see above) about Providencia Park and one of the original coconut palms. All rights reserved. ©Copyright 2011 Jane Feehan.
Tags: Palm Beach history, Florida palm trees, Mar-a-Lago