The Federal Writers' Project's state guide, Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, gives an imaginary tour around Belle Glade as a part of Tour 13, a tour that leads along State 25, which is the direct route from the Atlantic at Palm Beach to the Gulf Coast at Fort Myers (472). Consult map (you can move it to the side and leave it open, for later consultation).

The highway roughly follows the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, but its waters are hidden behind the massive dike, or levee, which rims the entire southern half of the lake...between the dike and the road are rich muck lands growing large crops of winter vegetables. Tall royal palms and Australian pines border the route (R), and beyond extend vast fields of sugar cane. At intervals along the railroad tracks parallel to the highway are loading platforms and warehouses, practically deserted 8 months of the year. Garages, filling stations, general stores; jooks advertising food, drink, and entertainment; and long rows of Negro shacks are scattered along both sides of the road under clumps of bright green banana trees, royal palms, and castor-bean plants... (475)

This land around Lake Okeechobee is considered part of the area known as the 'Glades, made arable by a long process of swamp reclamation and drainage. "The true Everglades, according to [Buckingham Smith, federal reclamation inspector who visited the area in 1848 and wrote of it], lie within a rock rim south of Lake Okeechobee, although any large marshy territory south and east of Lake Kissimmee is commonly regarded as part of the 'Glades, whether it lies within the rim or not" (473). Consult map.

Although many federal and state funds were appropriated for the project of draining the area around Lake Okeechobee and transforming it into cultivateable land, the balance between man and the elements was still uncertain. Thus the Florida Guide states:

BELLE GLADE, 42 m. (1,646 pop.), was hastily built in 1925 and virtually wiped out by the hurricane three years later in which hundreds of its citizens perished. The town has been rebuilt with more substantial structures; it has a municipal water plant, and for a short distance its main thoroughfare is brilliantly lighted at night. Belle Glade is a trading center for the fertile truck-growing area around Lake Okeechobee; from December to April tomatoes, green-beans, peppers, and other winter vegetables are harvested, packed, and shipped, for the most part by Negro labor. A municipal ordinance requires that all Negroes, except those employed within the town, be off the streets by 10:30 p.m. On Saturdays they are permitted to remain in the business district until midnight. (474)

* Map originally appeared in the back of Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State



Juliet Gorman, May 2001