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Boca Raton History

 

Boca Raton's earliest known inhabitants were the Tequesta Indians, who lived near the ocean around one thousand years ago until the 18th century. There still exists an ancient burial mound in todays Boca Marina neighborhood just off Federal highway.

The name of the City, Boca Raton has an interesting history. Many people wrongly assume the name is simply Rat’s Mouth. The Spanish word boca (or mouth) often described an inlet, while ratone (literally mouse) was used as a term for a cowardly thief. The "Inlet (of) Thieves," Boca Ratones, appeared on eighteenth century maps associated with an inlet in the Biscayne Bay area of Miami.

In the 1890s Florida East Coast Canal (the Intracoastal waterway) and the Florida East Coast Railway (built by Henry Flagler) made the region accessible to settlers. In 1895 Thomas More Rickards was the first to build a house and general store in the area. At the beginning of the 1900s Boca Raton became an agricultural community. Farmers grew vegetables, citrus and pineapples. Notable were Japanese immigrants under the leadership of Joseph Sakai, who formed a community by today’s Yamato Road which happens to be an ancient name for Japan.

In May of 1925, the Town of Boca Raton was incorporated. The town council commissioned society architect Addison Mizner to plan a world-class resort community. His exclusive hotel known as the Cloister Inn, was completed in 1926 and continues today as the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Many of Mizner’s plans for the community were ended by the demise of the land boom in 1926. Still a number of his homes survive today in the "Old Floresta" area. His architectural style still continues to influence the city. A recent monument was erected to Mizner himself topped by his statue with his pet monkey on his shoulder.

One of Mizner’s projects was a design for a city hall for Boca Raton. Completed by Delray architect William Alsmeyer in 1927, Old Town Hall at 71 North Federal Highway still bears the original footprint of the Mizner design, and was constructed using ironwork, tile, and woodwork supplied by Mizner Industries. Today the restored Town Hall is the home of the Boca Raton Historical Society.

Boca was known for its winter vegetables, particularly green beans. In 1942, the Army Air Corps established its only war-time radar training school at the site of what is today F.A.U. and the Boca Raton Airport. There were over 30,000 servicemen, families and civilian employees at the time when Boca Raton's population was only 723 in 1940.

In the 1950s, the still small town played host to a safari park called Africa USA which opened where the Camino Gardens subdivision stands now. The Winter Bible Conference Grounds now known as Bibletown was established in buildings of the former Air Field.

Starting In the 1950s, South Florida experienced another land boom, with developments pushing West to the Everglades. Boca's population grew to almost 30,000 residents by 1970, continuing to increase well outside city limits to this day. In 1962, Boca Raton attracted the newest state university, Florida Atlantic, to the site of the old army airbase. IBM moved one of its computer facilities to Boca Raton in 1967, and in 1981, it was there the first IBM PC, or personal computer, was developed.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the city focused much of its attention on downtown redevelopment, and a number of important historical properties, such as Boca Raton’s original Town Hall and F.E.C. Railway Station were restored and opened to the public. Many fine cultural facilities, such as the Boca Raton Museum of Art, have grown up to meet the needs of the growing population.

Credit for source material: Boca Raton Historical Society, City of Boca Raton and personal observation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Delray & Boynton Beach History

 

For over 100 years, Delray Beach has expanded and prospered. A group settlers, led by William Linton and David Swinton of Michagan began settling in the area in 1890's. Inspired by the natural riches of the area, they worked the land and cultivated crops year round. The environment provided plenty of fresh fish, crab and even lobster from the ocean.

Delray's begining history was dominated by agriculture. By the turn of the 1900's, a group of Japanese farmers came to the area to grow pineapples. They formed the Yamato Colony and farmed on land now occupied by the Boca Raton Airport and Florida Atlantic University (now part of Boca Raton). You can learn more of the Yamato Colony at the 200-acre Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, a scenic park that draws over 140,000 visitors a year.

In 1901 the area was named Delray, a Spanish derivative meaning "of the king". When the railroad system built by Henry Flagler expanded from West Palm Beach to Miami, farmers began exporting their harvest of pineapples, tomatoes, peppers, beans and other fruits and vegetables. The Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1925 and the town was booming with tourist trade and a healthy, self-supporting economy. The same is true today. The very reasons people came to our town in 1894 are the same reasons Delray Beach is such a nice place to live and grow today.

As the 20th century progressed Delray Beach grew from a farming community into a bustling city known for its unique architecture and thriving downtown. Delray Beach became a winter resort where artists, writers and cartoonists came to escape the brutal winters and hone their crafts. Nationally known cartoonists Fontaine Fox and W.E. Pat Enright were among the luminaries who called Delray home.

Today, history plays a big role in the city's identity and future direction. Delray Beach is considered a leading figure in the state's growing historic preservation movement. The city has designated several neighborhoods as historic districts; places where residents are encouraged to preserve old homes as a living link to Delray's illustrious past.

In the heart of downtown Delray Beach is Old School Square Cultural Arts Center, at 51 N. Swinton Ave. Once the Delray Beach High School, its grand buildings have been transformed in to the multi-million dollar centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district. Old School Square houses a museum and theatre (in the former Delray Elementary and High School buildings) as well as an outdoor entertainment pavilion. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a gathering place for the community. It is the centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district.

Adjacent to Old School Square is an emerging "artists colony" dubbed Pineapple Grove. The area includes sculpture designed by local artists. The downtown is chock full of art galleries and artists studios.

 

Boynton Beach History

In 1894, just after the last Barefoot Mailman walked along its sandy shores and two years before Henry Flagler built his famous railroad, Civil War major Nathan S. Boynton from Port Huron, Michigan visited the area that now bears his name.

So impressed by the natural beauty of what presented itself before him (the year-round sunshine and pristine beaches) that he returned a year later with a group of colonists and built the famous Boynton Beach Hotel to serve as his family's summer residence.

The first settlers soon realized that an unlimited assortment of fruits and vegetables thrived in the fertile climate. Cultivated pineapples, tomatoes, mangos, oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes were packed in crates and shipped by the ton on the newly built Florida East Coast Railroad to satisfy the appetites of hungry Americans across the country.

Boynton Beach remained a fairly unknown tropical paradise known for its perfect weather and delicious produce until the end of World War Two.

Soldiers returning home from the war discovered that the small town located only fifty miles north of Miami was an extraordinarilly healthy place to raise a family. In addition, Boynton's close proximity to the Atlantic's Gulfstream soon yielded a bonanza of world-record catches and guaranteed that the best kept secret on Florida's Gold Coast would be a secret no longer.

Since that time, Boynton Beach has grown steadily and never looked back. The city's population has risen from 5,000 in 1958 to a present number of approximately 60,000 residents. Most importantly, Boynton Beach has expanded wisely, retaining the charm of her orange groves, fishing marina and sandy beaches.

Major Boynton and his colorful hotel have long passed into the annals of history, but the irresistable qualities that attracted him and the city's first settlers remain as strong as ever to entice a new generation of visitors and residents.