Here are some excerpts from Centennial History 1894-1994:
The town of West Palm Beach incorporated November 5, 1894. At the time there were more than 1,000 residents, a post office, town hall, school, newspaper, stores, and an ice factory. Seventy-eight voting citizens elected John S. Earman as the first mayor. Elected to the first board of aldermen were George Potter, J. M. Garland, J. F. Lamond, George Zapf, H. T. Grant, E. H. Dimick, and H. J. Burkhardt.
Burkhardt had gained local notoriety as the "naked mailman." Working as one of the famous barefoot mailmen, he had taken to walking the isolated stretches of beaches without any clothes so that he could obtain the beneficial rays of the sun over his entire body. He was always careful to dress as he neared populated areas.
The first major fire after the incorporation of West Palm Beach occurred on Thursday, January 2, 1896. At 2:00 p.m. fire broke out in the Midway Plaisance Saloon, a large wood frame building on the south side of Banyan Street. Flames quickly spread from one building to the next, resulting in extensive damage to the south side of Banyan Street and the Seminole Hotel located on Narcissus Street. The Alerts saved little of the involved structures. An explosion of a gasoline stove started the disasterous fire.
Flagler's winter resort suffered a major setback June 9, 1903. Fire raced through the Breakers Hotel leaving little more than a pile of ashes. West Palm Beach volunteers responded to the fire pulling their old hose reel loaded with 500 feet of hose. They were delayed by the toll keeper on the railroad bridge who wanted proper payment for their passage. As a large column of smoke billowed skyward from the island, a nickel toll was demanded from each of the men before they were allowed to cross.
The whiskey, beer, and wine were flowing early on the morning of January 25, 1916, and it wasn't a party. Grove's Warehouse, where more than $30,000 worth of spirits was stored, went up in flames. The fire was discovered by West Palm Beach Policeman Clarence Pierce at about 1:00 a.m. He immediately pulled out his revolver and fired it into the air before rushing to the fire station to sound the alarm. By the time firemen arrived at the warehouse, located at North Olive Avenue and infamous Banyan Street, the building was completely engulfed.
March 18, 1925, the Kettler Theatre in West Palm Beach was featuring the movie Inferno. At 4:20 p.m., less than an hour into the first showing of the film, a real inferno erupted only a short distance away in Palm Beach, and the West Palm Beach Fire Department again responded to assist the neighboring community.
Flagler's Breakers Hotel, a four-story wood frame building, was burning out of control and Palm Beach called desperate for help. Constructed of Dade County pine lumber rich in tar, the hotel had no chance once the fire entered the free burning stage. No toll was collected this time as the apparatus roared over the bridge. It appeared the entire island was burning.
Read the History
Centennial History 1894-1994
by Ronald E. Johnson
Fire History of the City of West Palm Beach
by Bennett T. Kennedy Jr.
Published January 24, 1980