The Carlisle Palm Beach: History of Lantana and Palm Beach, Florida

Lantana in Palm Beach County, Florida, is known for its beautiful coastal views and relaxing beach activities. There’s plenty of sunshine in this modest town, which has a welcoming community feel with close proximity to the bustling city of Miami, only around 60 miles away.

Since before it even became a town in 1921, Lantana has cultivated a unique history in Florida and within the United States. It’s one of the oldest communities in Palm Beach County and, judging by the beauty of the area, it’s no wonder early settlers staked their claim on the area.

From Barefoot Mailman, to love-ins and the “world’s tallest Christmas tree,” here are some fun tidbits that illustrate the interesting history of Lantana Florida.

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The History and Stories of the Palm Beach Area

According to the official Town of Lantana website, settlers first came to the area that’s known as Lantana today at the end of the Seminole Wars, when Congress passed the Armed Occupation Act in 1842. These settlers populated surrounding areas that today include Manalapan, Florida.

One of the area’s first “settlers” was Hannibal Dillingham Pierce. He converted an abandoned lifeboat into a sailboat and sailed with his family down Lake Worth from Chicago to settle on a small Florida island. The family built a cottage and grew vegetables they shipped to Jacksonville.

After learning from Seminole Indians that the word “hypoluxo” meant “water all around, no get out,” he named his homestead after the word. His old homestead is known as Hypoluxo Island today, the northern two-thirds of which are part of Lantana.

The ‘Barefoot Mailman’ Journeys

Another one of the first settlers in the Lantana area was Edwin Ruthven “E.R.” Bradley, who also brought his family to the area from Chicago in 1877. Bradley was the area’s second mail contractor and became known as the “Barefoot Mailman,” since he carried mail 66 miles from Palm Beach to Lemon City (now Miami) by walking along the beach. The trip typically took three days to complete.

Bradley worked as a mail carrier from 1885 to 1887 with his son, Louie. Bradley wrote local columns and articles detailing news from Hypoluxo Island. He later served as a superintendent of Dade County schools.

The Naming of the Town of Lantana

Another one of the pioneer settlers was the Lyman family, including entrepreneur Morris Benson (M.B.) Lyman, a carpenter who came from Canada in 1884. The family members, who followed in 1887, filed a 160-acre homestead and are considered the town’s founders. Their original home, built in 1889, is a present-day waterfront tiki bar called the Old Key Lime House.

In 1889, Lyman created a post office, store and Indian Trading Post, where Seminole Indians traded with the settlers through the early 1900s. Lyman served as postmaster for the post office and named it Lantana Point, due to the abundance of the Lantana genus of flowering plants in the area.

The “Point” was later dropped from the name. Lyman continued to open general stores throughout Florida, including in Lemon City and Boynton Beach.

Why Lantanas?

Lyman may have been interested in lantanas because they’re so eye-catching and attention-grabbing for their beauty and scent. Lantanas look like flowers-within-a-flower. Each cluster has several mini-flowers in vibrant colors like yellow, orange, blue, purple and fuchsia.

Lantanas are native to tropical regions like south Florida and attract wildlife like hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Their citrusy smell is striking. Since they love the heat, Florida’s a perfect home for these beautiful plants.  

The Lantana Legacy Continues

In 1894, a public school was built in Lantana. The school later moved in 1903 and moved again in 1929 after a hurricane blew the school’s roof off. Today, the Lantana Elementary School resides in the same spot it moved to nearly 100 years ago.

Even though Lantana wasn’t technically a town, it did find a place in the 1896-1897 edition of the Business Directory, Guide and History of Dade County.

Lyman continued opening up Lantana-named enterprises, including the Lantana Fish Company. Due to the coastal surroundings, getting into the industry made perfect sense. In the early 1900s, selling oysters became a leading industry. Massive fish catches, up to 100,000 pounds, were also common.

In 1921, 22 of the area’s residents voted in the first election and incorporated the Town of Lantana. The town’s first mayor was Miss Ella Anderson.

Back then, the town had 100 total residents and took up 1 square mile. Today, the Town of Lantana covers nearly 3 square miles. The United States Census Bureau reported the Town had 12,030 residents, as of July 2021.

Other Lantana Notable Facts

  • In 1950, the Southeast Florida State Sanatorium opened as the state tuberculosis sanatorium. The state-run hospital had 100 beds and became a value-add that attracted people to the area. It featured Art Deco design and was renamed the A.G. Holley Hospital in 1969. The hospital was closed in 2012 and was demolished in 2014, making space for a shopping center and condominium housing.
  • Lantana was home to Florida’s first “love-in,” which occurred in 1967. The love-in was a communal gathering organized by local college students that featured music from local bands, discussions about the Vietnam War and artistic and creative activities. The goal of the gathering, where participants were encouraged to wear gold, was to bring people together and celebrate the beauty in being alive.
  • In 1971, the publisher of the tabloid magazine the National Enquirer, Generoso Pope, moved the magazine’s headquarters to Lantana. The company created one of the state’s most notable tourist attractions, “the world’s largest Christmas tree”. The tree was erected at the Lantana offices and brought thousands of visitors to see it each year until Pope passed away in 1988. The tree featured 7,000 twinkling lights and 400 ornaments.

Lantana in the 21st Century

Lantana continues to thrive today, as the town constantly evolves its amenities to boost the quality of life for its residents. Lantana’s home to boating and fishing excursions, nature preserves, seven parks, picnic areas, a recreation center and tennis courts, as well as several schools and the Lantana Public Library.

>> Read “15 Best Things to Do In the Lantana Area

In addition to the gorgeous 8-acre beach, breathtaking waterfront views and the splendor of those famed lantana plants and other flora in the area, Lantana residents are just a drive away from Miami and other notable Florida landmarks. The Town of Lantana remains a small, community-focused environment, with close access to noteworthy attractions and amenities.

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