Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Florida History: Peanut Island - Kennedy, the Cuba Missile Crisis and beyond

Peanut Island
6500 Peanut Island Road
Riviera Beach, FL

Sail Fish Marina (Palm Beach Shores) tours and shuttle service

By Jane Feehan

Today a county park, Peanut Island literally rose from a 1918 Port of Palm Beach dredging project. The mission was to create Lake Worth Inlet, a shipping channel.  Discarded materials from Lake Worth formed a 10-acre “island” or spoil site.  Ownership and use of the island has been the subject of controversy over the years. The name was attached when Florida gave permission to use the site as a terminal for shipping peanut oil. The plan was abandoned in the 1940s but the name remained.

Of humble beginnings, Peanut Island boasts some lofty history.

The US Coast Guard opened a station on the island in 1936. President John F. Kennedy anchored his yacht,  Honey Fitz, at the station when he visited nearby Palm Beach.  During the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis, US Navy Seabees built a small bunker on Peanut Island to be used as the nation's command center if the crisis forced Kennedy and his family to seek shelter while visiting the "Winter White House."  After the president was assassinated, some officials suggested renaming the island to honor Kennedy. The motion failed.

Additional dredging expanded the island to 80 acres during the 1990s. Today, boaters dock at Peanut Island to picnic, take tours of the Palm Beach Maritime Museum (the old Coast Guard station) or to hike. Terms of the lease set by the Port of Palm Beach reserve the right to use the island for inlet and port maintenance and to deposit additional dredged materials.

Shuttle service (for a fee) to the island is offered at Sailfish Marina, 561-683-8294. For county park information, call 561-845-4445.  
Palm Beach Post, Dec. 9, 1963.
Palm Beach County History Online at: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org

Tags: Palm Beach County history, Palm Beach County parks, Sailfish Marina, history of Florida

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