Boynton Beach, Ocean Ridge, and the Intracoastal Bridge

Boynton Beach, Ocean Ridge, and the Intracoastal Bridge


Boynton Beach and Ocean Ridge

In the mid-1920s, a series of unfortunate events befell the town of Boynton. Plans for a new hotel were abandoned by Addison Mizner and his brother Wilson who eventually built the Cloister Inn in Boca Raton. in 1925, citrus canker was discovered in the town’s orange groves which led to their destruction. The town also began to suffer from severe financial problems resulting in the bank refusing to honor checks signed by the City Clerk and salaries for municipal staff being cut by up to 50%. The Florida Land Boom was beginning to wane at this time and two hurricanes in 1926 and 1928, caused extensive damage which added to the town’s problems. As the Depression hit, Boynton’s financial problems continued to mount and, in 1929, the Bank of Boynton failed.

Concerned residents from the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway were worried about the debt and informed the town they wished to separate from Boynton and start a new municipality. When bond holders began to press for payment on nearly $1 million of indebtedness, Boynton and the eastside residents reached an agreement whereby, upon assumption of half of the debt, a new municipality would be established on the east side of the waterway. The agreement was finalized in on April 17, 1931 with the formation of Boynton on the west side of the canal, and Boynton Beach on the east. In 1939, the Town of Boynton Beach changed its name to Ocean Ridge and, within two years, the Town of Boynton changed its name to the Town of Boynton Beach1.

The Intracoastal Bridge

Lighter (barge) crossing canalLighter crossing East Coast Canal
Before a bridge was built over the East Coast Canal (now the Intracoastal Waterway), crossings were made by means of a hand-operated lighter (barge) located at Ocean Avenue. Once on board, passengers would haul on a chain to pull the lighter to the other side.

The first bridge was built over the canal at Ocean Avenue in 1911. The wooden swing bridge was operated by a crank in the center section, pushed by the bridge-tender walking in a circle until it swung open. In 1924, the bridge-tenders were Wilbur and Jessie Forrey. Jessie would crank the bridge while Wilbur lowered a chain across the canal and collected the toll2.

First bridge over canal at Ocean AvenueFirst bridge over canal at Ocean Avenue

Steel bridge with Scherzer rolling lift basculeSteel bridge with Scherzer rolling lift bascule
Construction of a new bridge began in 1935. The bridge was constructed from steel and was operated with a Scherzer rolling lift bascule, which was an unusual movable span found in only two other bridges in Florida. The span was designed by William Scherzer of Chicago and built by the Nashville Bridge Company. As the bridge was financed with Depression era relief funds given by the Federal Government, the design of the bridge was very plain3. The bridge was 121 feet long, 31 feet wide and carried two narrow lanes of traffic with sidewalks on each side4.

In 1970, project development started for the construction of a new bridge at Boynton Beach Boulevard; however, a property owner who would have been impacted by the bridge relocation filed suit and the resulting arbitration ruled in his favor. The project was put on hold for several years and then two proposals were studied. The first was to relocate the new bridge to Boynton Beach Boulevard and the second was to replace the bridge on Ocean Avenue. In 1994, the permit for the Boynton Beach Boulevard bridge was rejected which left the Ocean Avenue proposal as the only option5.

Construction of the new bridge started in November 1998 and the project was completed in March, 20016.

2001 Bridge2001 Bridge

  • 1. Research Atlantica, Inc. City of Boynton Beach, Florida, Historic Sites Survey. Coral Springs: 1996, p.34-40
  • 2. Farace V.K. et. al., Boynton Beach, The First 100 Years, Boynton Beach Historical Society & Friends of the Boynton Beach City Library, 1995, p.5-6
  • 3. Research Atlantica, Inc. City of Boynton Beach, Florida, Historic Sites Survey. Coral Springs: 1996, p.40
  • 4. Scott C. et. al., Cost Control on Bascule Bridge Construction; a Partnering Approach, Heavy Movable Structures, Inc., 2002, p.2
  • 5. Ibid., p.3
  • 6. Ibid., p.13