History Happened Here

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Boca Raton

Palm Beach County

Year Founded: 1895Founded by: Thomas M. RickardsPreviously known as: Boca Ratone

History

The meaning of the name Boca Raton has always aroused curiosity. Many people wrongly assume the name is simply Rat’s Mouth. The Spanish word boca means mouth while raton is literally a mouse or small rat. The term boca ratones was once used as a navigational term for a rocky inlet. But the original Boca Ratones appeared on eighteenth century maps associated with an inlet in the Biscayne Bay area of Miami. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the term was mistakenly applied to Lake Boca Raton, whose inlet was closed at the time. The “s” and later the “e” were dropped from this title by the 1920s, yet the correct pronunciation remains Rah-tone.

The earliest inhabitants of the Boca Raton area were the Tequesta Indians—resourceful native peoples who populated South Florida until the eighteenth century. The completion of the Florida East Coast Railway in 1896 made the area accessible to modern pioneers. By the early 1900s Boca Raton was a tiny agricultural community, specializing in pineapple cultivation. Amongst these were a group of Japanese immigrants who formed a community along today’s Yamato Road in 1905. In the 1920s Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner envisioned Boca Raton as the world’s most beautiful resort—a number of his architectural masterpieces still survive. The hotel he built became the exclusive Boca Raton Club—later Resort & Hotel. During World War II, the tiny town hosted the Army Air Force’s only war time radar training base. In 1964, the site of the former airbase became home to Florida Atlantic University. The 60s were a time of tremendous growth for Boca Raton, as new developments sprung up to meet the growing demands of a new Florida land boom. IBM built a 300,000 square foot facility in the growing community—it was there the IBM PC personal computer was developed in the early 1980s. Today Boca Raton’s affluence, and recreational and cultural facilities belie its humble origins—yet it retains the charm of the tropical paradise her founding families once envisioned.

Story of City's Founding

The earliest known inhabitants of the Boca Raton area were the Tequesta Indians, who lived in communities near the ocean as long ago as one thousand years until the eighteenth century. The construction of the Florida East Coast Canal (today’s Intracoastal) and the Florida East Coast Railway in the 1890s made the region accessible to a group of resourceful pioneers. Thomas M. Rickards came in the 1890s to survey the area and act as agent for Flagler’s Model Land Company. By the early 1900s Boca Raton was a tiny agricultural community, many of the farmers specializing in pineapple cultivation. Amongst these were a group of Japanese immigrants under the leadership of Joseph Sakai, who formed a community near today’s Yamato Road in 1905.

Little Known Facts

Historical Sites

Name: Boca Raton Town Hall
Location: 71 N Federal Hwy
Historical Significance: historic city hall ca. 1927 and today home to the Boca Raton History Museum

Name: Boca Raton Resort & Club
Location: 300 East Camino Real
Historical Significance: originally designed by Addison Mizner, opened in 1926 as Cloister Inn

Name: Boca Raton Florida East Coast Railway Depot
Location: 747 S Dixie Hwy
Historical Significance: ca. 1930 FEC railway station now a property of the Boca Raton History Museum

Name: Administration Buildings
Location: 2 East Camino Real
Historical Significance: designed by Addison Mizner, HQ for Mizner Development Corporation

Name: IBM Main Complex building
Location: 1000 E Telecom Drive
Historical Significance: Designed by Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje, completed 1970 as IBM headquarters in Boca Raton

Name: BRAAF Post Headquarters
Location: 101 Pine Circle
Historical Significance: headquarters for Boca Raton Army Air Field WWII

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