In just 100 years, the pioneering efforts of our early settlers, and the dreams of architects and developers led to Boca Raton’s metamorphosis from a farming village to the alluring, international community of today. The Boca Raton Historical Society has worked diligently for almost 50 years to collect and preserve the rich stories that have shaped our community.



Henry Flagler’s F.E.C. railroad arrives in Boca Raton and later Miami, opening South Florida to development.

Thomas Rickards, surveyor and engineer, builds the first house on the north shore of Lake Boca Raton. He clears and plats the area for Flagler’s Model Land Company.

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Japanese colonists arrive in Boca Raton to farm pineapples on land purchased from Flagler. The Yamato Colony is formed. The colony numbers 40 by 1908. Later that year a blight destroys the pineapple crop. By the 1920s most of the colony has left Florida seeking other prospects.

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Boca Raton’s first wood-plank bridge is built across the Hillsborough River (today’s El Rio Canal) to reach land west of town.

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George Long’s packing house serves as Boca’s first classroom until a one-room schoolhouse is constructed by the end of the year.

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Palm Beach becomes Florida's newest county.

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Harley and Harriet Gates arrive in Boca Raton and purchase five acres along the canal (today’s Intracoastal), naming it Palmetto Park Plantation. The homestead gives its name to the principal east-west road.

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Pearl City, Boca Raton’s historic African-American community, is platted. Alex Hughes, pioneer and community activist, becomes its first resident.

A telephone line, the Board of Trade, and the Power and Light Company bring Boca Raton out of the pioneer era. 

                                          A Board of Trade forms to bring civic improvements to the little community.


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A manually operated drawbridge on Palmetto Park Road makes the beach easily reached.

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Boca Raton’s masonry elementary school opens. Farming is the area’s main industry.

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 Alex Hughes helps open a school for the children of Pearl City.

J. C. and Floy Mitchell move to Boca Raton and become successful in real estate during the land boom. J. C. is Mayor from 1939-1949. Later they lead a drive to build a community church on land donated by Floy’s father.

The first bridge at the Boca Raton Inlet is a fixed wooden span.

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Boca Raton is first incorporated as “Boca Ratone.” 

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The town of Boca Raton is incorporated.

Palm Beach architect, Addison Mizner, arrives in Boca Raton. He hopes to create an entire city with his Development Corporation. He plans to develop a 1600-acre tract of Mediterranean style structures for commercial and residential use.

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The Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce is organized. J. C. Mitchell is elected president and H. D. Gates is Vice President.

Mizner’s Cloister Inn opens as a Ritz-Carlton Investment Corporation project. Though his Development Corporation failed within two years, the opening of his hotel sparked a promotional build up that ultimately turned Boca Raton from a sleepy village into a resort community.

 Florida Power & Light brings electrical service to Boca Raton.

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Town Hall, originally designed by Mizner, is not completed as the architect goes bankrupt. Instead, it is scaled down and finished by Delray Beach architect, William Alsmeyer. It houses the volunteer Fire Department and its first engine, “Old Betsy.”

Clarence Geist buys the Cloister Inn for $71,000 at a courthouse door sale assuming $7 million of the Mizner Development Corporation’s debt.

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The first railroad passenger station in Boca Raton is constructed at Geist’s request at Camino Real and Dixie Highway. Enlarging the Cloister Inn, Geist creates the private Boca Raton Club. He builds the Cabana Club, south of the inlet, offering 200 private beach cabanas, informal dining rooms, and card lounges. The Boca Raton Inlet is dredged for clear passage.

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Boca Raton’s first airport is a New Deal WPA project obtained through the efforts of Clarence Geist.

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The U.S. enters WWII. Boca Raton’s airport and coastal locale make it ideal for an Army Base. The Army takes over the Boca Raton Club for offices, classrooms, and barracks. The U.S. Government acquires 5,860 acres from more than 100 property owners to construct an air base. The Boca Raton Army Airfield is the air corp’s only radar training school in the U.S. during the war.

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J. Myer Schine buys the Boca Raton Club and the Spanish River Land Company from Geist’s estate. The Club reopens as the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in 1945.

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The City buys 2,404 acres of the former airfield. In a contract with the Federal Government the City agrees to operate a civilian airport west of the El Rio Canal.

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The Art Guild of Boca Raton is established. The group displays art exhibits at the old Town Hall and the Boca Raton Hotel and Club.

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Africa U.S.A., a 177-acre park with free-roaming, African animals opens. It closes by 1961 due to an infestation of African red tick. Today it is the Camino Gardens neighborhood.

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Arthur Vining Davis, founder of the Aluminum Company of America, purchases the Boca Raton Hotel and Club. He creates Arvida Development Corporation and sets aesthetic precedence for future commercial and residential development in Boca Raton.

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J. C. Mitchell Elementary School opens as the fourth school in Boca Raton.

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The State Cabinet approves the construction of the fifth state university, Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton. Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School, founded by the Sisters of Mercy, opens.


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Saint Andrew’s School, founded by the Episcopal School Foundation, opens.

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Royal Palm Plaza opens as the town’s first shopping center. It is affectionately known as “The Pink Plaza.”

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The F.E.C. Railway stops passenger service at the train depot. Boca Raton High School opens. Up to now, students have traveled to Seacrest High School in Delray Beach. Marymount College opens as a two-year women’s college.

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Florida Atlantic University opens and is dedicated by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The efforts to establish this school by local resident, Thomas F. Fleming, are recognized with the University’s first Distinguished Service Award.

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The International Business Machine Corporation (IBM) buys 550 acres of land from Arvida. In 1967, construction begins on a novel Marcel Breuer-Robert Gatje designed facility surrounding a large circular man-made lake. Boca Raton is the birthplace of the IBM PC and home of OS/2 Warp.


Boca Raton citizens pass the first of a series of bond issues (totaling millions of dollars) to purchase beachfront land to create a series of municipal parks and save Boca Raton’s beaches for public use. Spanish River Park, Red Reef Park, and South Beach Park are the result of these purchases.

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Boca Raton Community Hospital is dedicated. It was built entirely by community money, raised through special events such as the annual Fiesta de Boca Raton.

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Arvida builds the twenty-six story tower at the Boca Raton Hotel.

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Marymount College is renamed the College of Boca Raton.

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The Boca Raton Historical Society (BRHS) is founded as a project of the Junior Service League.

Concerned voters pass a referendum imposing a 40,000 dwelling-unit “growth cap” to curb the City’s expansion. The cap is struck down in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in 1976 when a judge rules it an arbitrary figure. However, the judge allows the cap to remain until all legal appeals are exhausted.

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The City adopts a land-use plan placing density ceilings on all properties. The plan achieves the goals of the growth cap while the issue is pending in higher courts. In 1980, after spending over $1,000,000 in appeals to the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts, the City admits defeat on the growth cap issue.

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The City Council creates the Community Redevelopment Agency to return economic vitality to the downtown. Its first project is the beautification of Sanborn Square.

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IBM introduces the P.C., designed at its Boca Raton plant, and revolutionizes the personal computer industry.

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City officials lease Town Hall to the BRHS and authorize its restoration. Through state grants and private funding the building is restored by 1984. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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BRHS purchases the F.E.C. Railway Station and begins its restoration, completed in 1988. The station is named the Count de Hoernle Pavilion in recognition of a generous donation from the Count and Countess de Hoernle. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The BRHS receives the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Outstanding Achievement Award in the Field of Preservation for the restoration of Town Hall.

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The Art Guild changes its name to the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

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The BRHS receives the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Outstanding Achievement Award in the Field of Preservation for the restoration of the F.E.C. Railway Station.

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Old Floresta, site of twenty-nine Mizner designed homes, becomes the city’s first historic district.

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Mizner Park opens. Its concept is alternative land use for coastal, urban areas. It includes a concert pavilion, park, apartments, business offices, shop, and restaurants.

After acquiring University status, the College of Boca Raton becomes Lynn University, in honor of its major benefactor.

After 126 years in New York, W.R. Grace & Co. moves to Boca Raton. The firm relocates 250 employees and their families to the City.

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The International Museum of Cartoon Art moves to Mizner Park.

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The state of Florida celebrates its Sesquicentennial.

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The BRHS begins the Great Train Restoration. Four historic rail cars, located at the Train Depot, undergo major exterior restorations.

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Palm Beach County Commissioners vote to designate Camino Real, the Camino Real Bridge, and the Porte Cochere at South Inlet Park as historic sites.

The Boca Raton Historical Society celebrates its 25th anniversary at the grand opening celebration of the Boca Raton Resort & Club’s Mizner Center.

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Boca Community Hospital expands again, becoming one of the best in southeast Florida.

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The Count and Countess de Hoernle Memorial Room opens at BRHS.

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Florida Atlantic University announces plans to field a football team, called "The Owls," in 2001.

The city contracts to purchase 310 acres from the former IBM site (a.k.a. T-Rex or Blue Lake), one of the most significant land aquisitions in terms of size and impact in city history.

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The Boca Raton Museum of Art opens its new 44,000 square foot facility in Mizner Park. The Boca Raton Resort & Club celebrates its 75th anniversary. FAU plays its first football season at Pro Play Stadium.

The American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton is one of four sites in the United States infected with the anthrax virus by means of the U.S. mail in the days following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Florida Atlantic University plays the first football game of their inaugural season on September 1.

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The International Museum of Cartoon Art closes its doors at Mizner Park.

Pearl City, Boca Raton’s historic black neighborhood first platted in 1915, is designated as the city’s second official Historic District.

Despite community-wide preservation efforts, the ca. 1939 Boca Raton Elementary School gymnasium, long time community center and site of many historic local events, is demolished by the county school board.

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Scandal rocks FAU’s fund raising arm, the FAU Foundation, over the gift of a Corvette to departing president Anthony Cantanese.

BRHS, in association with Boca Raton magazine, DCOTA, and DuPont-O’Neil and Associates celebrates the completion of the restoration of two 1947 streamliner rail cars at the F.E.C. Railway Station, Count de Hoernle Pavilion.

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Boca survives two September hurricanes, Frances and Jeanne, the worst storms to hit the areas since the 1960s. Extensive property and landscaping damage and extended power outages cause many businesses and residents serious financial losses.

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Hurricane Katrina causes minor damage to the region en route to its catastrophic strike on the northern Gulf Coast in August. Late bloomer Hurricane Wilma arrives in October, the worst hurricane to strike Boca since 1964's Cleo. Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties suffer widespread and long term power outages and millions of dollars in property damage.

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Preservationists suffer a major setback when T-3, one of the surviving WW2 era buildings adjacent the FAU campus, is consumed by fire immediately after being restored in May.

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The city's new Spanish River Boulevard library opens its doors to the public on January 26.

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Six (6) Lynn University students and professors are killed in a terrible earthquake which strikes Haiti on January 12.

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On October 22, Lynn University proudly hosts the last of the presidential debates between candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Thousands of television viewers check out the BRHS&M website to find out how to properly pronounce "Boca Raton."                                                                

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The city opens a new main library building at 400 Northwest Second Avenue.

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  Downtown Boca Raton begins a controversial building boom not seen in
  decades. Four twelve story, massive structures are under construction in addition
  to other projects. 

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Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, threatens the entire state of Florida, with the eye forecast to pass over Boca Raton. Fortunately the eye moves to the west at the last moment and the southeast coast survives with minimal damage compared to the rest of the state and the Caribbean.

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Boca Raton Historical Society & Museum launches its History Alive! project to build new professionally designed permanent exhibits to its headquarters in historic Town Hall.

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Boca Raton's historic Town Hall, headquarters of the Boca Raton Historical Society, receives a new roof and its iconic gold dome is regilded.

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This history is happening now. Will you be a part of it?

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71 North Federal Highway|Boca Raton, Florida 33432
P: 561.395.6766 F: 561.395.4049| CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS
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