POST TIME: Palm Beach County’s oldest commercial structure turns 125

Dade County State Bank, the first savings institution in Palm Beach County, was once a part of Dade County in 1893, which at the time stretched to Stuart. Contributed

Readers: 125 years ago this week, on May 11, 1893, the Dade County State Bank opened.

The place where it sat isn’t in Dade County anymore. More importantly, in a region where historical preservation often isn’t a priority and a 30-year-old building is downright ancient, the tiny octagonal cone-roofed structure that housed the bank still stands. And in a prominent spot on the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront. It’s Palm Beach County’s oldest commercial structure. Here’s more from a feature story from last year.

The 584-square-foot building opened for business as the Dade County State Bank, the first savings institution in the region. At that time, Dade County — now Miami-Dade — extended to Stuart.

One article said the building’s first locale was Jupiter Island, and it later was floated down to Palm Beach. In 1897, it was floated to the mainland and to 223 Clematis Street, at the corner of Olive Avenue.

The Dade bank later would become Pioneer Bank, then First National Bank of West Palm Beach, according to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

The Dade bank built a new home, and by 1903, the little building was a barber shop. By July 1908, it was a dentist’s office. At one point, it was Sheen’s Real Estate office. By 1915, it had been moved to 112 Myrtle St., next to City Park. In 1920, it was a beauty shop.

Then it became Johnny’s Playland.

John R. “Johnny” Eggert, was born in 1899 in Denmark. The Playland, a “novelty and trick shop,” opened in 1935. By 1940, the building had moved to Clematis Street, opposite Flagler Park, now the site of the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront.

Johnny died at 71 on March 18, 1971. In 1975, widow Crystal Welch Eggert donated the iconic building to the city. Soon after, it moved to its current site on the waterfront at Fourth Street and North Flagler Drive, just south of the Flagler Bridge.

Since 1987, it’s housed the Palm Beach High Alumni Association’s museum, housing more than 1,000 items related to the venerable Palm Beach High School, which after integration became Twin Lakes High and which became the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts in 1997.

But because of its tough-to-reach location, and because someone would have to come down and unlock it if anyone wanted to view any of the yearbooks, trophies or photos, weeks or months might go by with no one visiting.

The group would like to move it to Yesteryear Village, a collection of historic homes at the South Florida Fairgrounds, where people could have access to it. Talks have gone on for years, but there’s been no movement for a while. The city, which owns the building and leases it to the school group, has refused to comment on its preference. But the building hasn’t moved.

Submit your questions to Post Time, The Palm Beach Post, 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Include your full name and hometown. Call 561-820-4418. EK@pbpost.com. Sorry; no personal replies.

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