Charles I. Cragin, a Philadelphia businessman, first began spending winters in the Lake Worth area about 1885. Born at Boston, Massachusetts 31 March 1843, he married H. Frances Carpenter in 1864. They had no children.
The Cragins decided to build a permanent winter home on the lake in January 1887. They paid Moore W. Dimick $2,500 for about twenty acres of land in what was to become Palm Beach.
They had a beautiful home built and had the first artesian well in the area. Then they began planting an assortment of ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers which were soon thriving. Cragin also started and maintained a huge cactus garden of over five hundred varieties. Though they named their estate “Reve d’Etete” (Summer of Dreams), it became known locally as the “Garden of Eden” because of the abundance of lovely blossoms and rare plants. Thoughout his life, Cragin continued hunting for new additions to his estate grounds. Their home was the center of many society events.
Charles was a devout Episcopalian and served as rector’s warden from the organization of Bethesda-by-the-Sea from 1889 until his death.
A member of Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association, Cragin was active also in Property Owners’ Association of Palm Beach. He died of pneumonia at Philadelphia in 1915, and burial was at the Cragin Mausoleum in Washington.
Frances Cragin donated the cloisters of the new (1925) Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church in Charles’ memory. She lived the last nine years of her life in Jacksonville, where she died in 1931. She is buried with her husband.