Throughout this exhibit, the Boca Raton Historical Society has brought together its large collection of early photographs to create a subjective and impressionistic view of life in Pearl City, Boca Raton’s pioneering African-American community.
The origin of the name Pearl City is no longer known. Arthur S. Evans, Jr. and David Lee in Pearl City, Florida: A Black Community Remembers suggest several possible answers: it was named for the first black child born in the community; for the subdivision’s major street; or for the Hawaiian Pearl pineapple, which was processed in a shed on the site.
In 1915, Thomas M. Rickards, Henry M. Flagler’s agent and a large landowner in Boca Raton, moved to North Carolina and decided to sell his local holdings. He engaged George Ashley Long, his successor as Flagler’s land agent, to immediately survey and dispose of his property. Long immediately surveyed and began selling lots in what became Pearl City, an area along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks north of the downtown section of Boca Raton.
When George Ashley Long, Henry Flagler’s land agent in Boca Raton and a graduate of Harvard College, surveyed Rickards' land holdings, he created a three block subdivision with three streets: Ruby, Pearl, and Sapphire. Alex Hughes bought one of the first lots and quickly became one of the community’s leading citizens. On Long’s survey, the street along the Florida East Coast railway was called Poinsettia Avenue. It would be ten years before Carl G. Fisher, the developer of Miami Beach, would realize his dream of opening Dixie Highway, a new road that stretched from the Canadian border to Miami.