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Cocoanut Grove House

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (State Historical Landmark)

Cocoanut Grove House was once the only hotel on Florida’s coast between Titusville and Key West. The hotel was originally built in 1876 by Elisha Newton “Cap” Dimick as a private residence for his family. The Cocoanut Grove House opened as an inn after Dimick added eight rooms to the building in 1880. In 1882, Dimick sold the hotel to Commodore Charles Clark. Approximately 4,500 guests visited the hotel between 1883 and 1895, arriving by a flat-bottom boat that sailed between the Indian River and Lake Worth. Hotel guests dined on fish, green turtle, venison, and vegetables for $1.50 a day or $6 by the week. In October 1893 the Cocoanut Grove House was destroyed by fire.

An influential figure in the region's early history, Dimick was one of the founders of the city of Palm Beach and served in the Florida legislature from 1890 to 1903. He also became Palm Beach's first mayor following the city's incorporation in 1911. 

The hotel is also connected to another influential Floridian, Henry M. Flagler. In 1893, Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railroad to Palm Beach and stayed at the Cocoanut Grove House during his time in the area. While visiting this beachfront hotel, Flagler envisioned that would become the famous Royal Poinciana Hotel. Flagler later rented the hotel for his workers while they were building the Royal Poin-ciana.

Elisha Newton 'Chap' Dimick brought his family to Palm Beach in 1876 and opened the first hotel, known as the Cocoanut Grove House. He became the first Mayor of Palm Beach and his statue stands at the entrance to the town on Royal Palm Way. He was a member of the State Senate and House of Representative and founder of Dade County State Bank.

The lives of the Dimicks and Geers were so intertwined that it is difficult to tell about each family sep-arately. The families were friends in Illinois.

In 1872 when the Pierce family was at the Jupiter lighthouse, some Dimicks came to Jacksonville seeking a warmer climate for Elisha's father, Moore Wellington Dimick who suffered from tuberculosis. They liked the beauty of the area and enjoyed the healthful climate. They returned to Illinois. The two families came to Palm Beach in 1876.

E.N. Dimick was known as "Cap". One version was that he always wore a cap. He was not a boat captain. His parents were Moore Wellington and Parthenia May Dimick. His sister, Marian, married Albert Geer, his brother, Franklin, married Anna Geer, and his wife was Ella Geer.

While the families were in Jacksonville E.N. & Ella were expecting a baby, so they waited until Belle entered the world before making the trip south. They had made the acquaintance of the Brown family who had come ahead and who made everyone welcome by housing them until homes could be built for all.

The schooner they had hired to bring their belongings and building supplies arrived and the lumber was floated to shore. Among the "supplies" was a mule. Not knowing just how to unload the animal, she was pushed overboard and she swam to the beach. The trip by the humans was a more circuitous one. They took the inland route on St. Johns River to Salt Lake, eight miles in a wagon pulled by a mule over palmetto roots and in deep sand to Titusville, then a small boat to Jupiter. They arrived in a hurricane. Elisha was in the group who chose Palm Beach as the name for the town. The name Palm City was first sent in to the postal service, but there was a town by that name elsewhere in Florida. He also is credited, along with Flagler, as being an important factor in developing Palm Beach. He was chosen as the first mayor of Palm Beach, a position he held for many years. He organized the first bank, Dade County State Bank, located on Flagler Drive near the north bridge (Flagler Bridge).

E.N. Dimick started the first drug store in Palm Beach and also in West Palm Beach. With E. M. Brelsford he established a hack line from Jupiter to Juno. It was operated for two years by them and then sold to Captain U.D. Hendrickson who ran it for two more years.

Cap Dimick was the first president of the Pioneers' Association which was organized in 1893 for all who made this section their home prior to that date. Mrs. Dimick succeeded her husband as president after his death. E.N. did not like farming so his wife encouraged him to become an innkeeper. He added eight rooms to his home making comfortable accommodations available.

His home was on the east shore of the lake about midway between today's Flagler Museum and the Four Arts Building. Thus the first hotel came into being named The Cocoanut Grove House. Later on it grew to 50 rooms. Room and board was $6.00 per person per day. Henry M. Flagler came to South Florida and decided to build a large resort hotel. He stayed with the Dimicks as it was the only tourist hotel. Dimick sold his property to Charles J. Clarke who sold it to Flagler. It burned down a few years later.

The first bridge to span the lake was just to the north of "Whitehall", Flagler's home. It was built to enable the train to cross from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach. The private railway cars were parked to the east of the Royal Poinciana Hotel. That was in 1895 or 1896. E.N. Dimick built the Royal Park Bridge in 1915 as the first public bridge. Today it is known as the "middle bridge". There is a statue of him at the east end of the bridge. Dimick built it to help develop his real estate venture. He was head of the Palm Beach Improvement Company which in 1910 arranged with Colonel L.H. Green to sell the 168 acre tract from the lake to the ocean which is now the beautiful residential section known as Royal Park.

When West Palm Beach was incorporated, Cap Dimick was the first mayor and held that position for seven years. In 1890 He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives for 6 years and in 1896 to the Florida Senate for two terms. A federal building on Datura and Sapodillo Avenue was named for him.

Cap Dimick was born in April 1849 and died in 1919 at age 70. His wife Ella died 21 January 1938 at age 86. She did historians a favor when she clipped obituaries and marriage notices of the pioneer community. Fortunately the scrapbook has remained with the family. It was an invaluable source of information for this book.

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