Today's Boca Raton is the product of a rich and fascinating
history, a study in utter defeat and extraordinary success; of Japanese farmers,
captains of industry, Hollywood stars - remarkable individuals with courage and
vision. And the story is far from over.
The Boca story begins with its
first residents, the Calusa Indians, for whom the Everglades and Boca Raton
represented a bounty of natural resources. The name Boca Raton, although first
associated with a Biscayne Bay inlet, was attached to the present site by 1838.
In 1895, in stark contrast to the prized real estate that was to come later, the
first house was built by civil engineer Thomas Moore Rickards. With the
completion of Henry Morrison Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway in 1896,
families arrived from Georgia and South Carolina, and the fledgling settlement
Life for these early pioneers was hard work. The small
community, which included several ethnic groups recruited by railroad magnate
Flagler, tackled the backbreaking work of growing crops of Florida oranges,
pineapples and vegetables to ship to Northern markets.
With daily train
deliveries, a grocery store in nearby Delray Beach, a general store opened by
Rickards, and a bit of trading with their Seminole neighbors, the first settlers
had no shortage of basic food supplies. They lived on deer, rabbit and fish, as
well as the fruits of the native palmetto, guava, cocoplum and sea grape trees.
Although in many ways the location was idyllic, 10 years of hurricanes, crop
failures, freezes and infestation eventually sent Rickards and his family to
Before Rickards left, however, he served as a mentor to a
group of settlers from Japan. Flagler knew the railroad would not be profitable
unless there was something more than passenger service; freight and produce was
needed. When Jo Sakai, a Japanese businessman with a degree from New York
University's School of Finance, got a glimpse of Boca Raton's potential, he sent
word to his countrymen. Sakai named the budding Japanese settlement Yamato -
"large, peaceful country."
The colony was not particularly successful.
There were disagreements between Sakai and the younger members of the colony,
and a pineapple blight destroyed their crop. One Japanese truck farmer, George
Morikami, spent his money buying up land. After becoming a U.S. citizen at age
82, Morikami presented the community with 150 acres just north and west of the
city - today the site of Delray Beach's Morikami Museum and Japanese
It was in the 1920s that the sleepy town of Boca Raton began to
change, marked by three important developments: the incorporation of the town;
the purchase of oceanfront property by a group of Palm Beach and Northern
investors headed by society architect Addison Mizner; and the announcement of
plans to build a giant, beachfront hotel complex, Mizner-style. (These plans
were soon scrapped in favor of the Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn.)
already built 40 homes in the Palm Beach area and established the Mizner
Development Corporation. At one time its stockholders included such high-rollers
as Paris Singer, Irving Berlin, Elizabeth Arden, W.K. Vanderbilt II and T.
Coleman du Pont. Film star Marie Dressler, the unofficial hostess of Boca Raton,
actually sold real estate for Mizner.
Fresh from turning Palm Beach into
a playground for the rich and famous, Mizner set out to transform Boca Raton
into his dream city. The result: Twenty-nine homes in Floresta, now an historic
area adjacent to the Boca Raton Museum of Art; and at least 12 smaller ones in
Spanish Village, north of Singing Pines and the Children's Museum and west of
Second Avenue. The 100-room, Spanish-style Cloister Inn opened its doors in
early 1926. Now the Boca Raton Resort & Club, the development's distinctive
Mediter-ranean Revival style set the standard for local
Although the land boom went bust and Mizner and company
went bankrupt even as the inn's first guests were unpacking their bags, by the
end of the decade, Boca Raton had become one of Florida's best-known
Then came World War II. Boca Raton set aside 5,000 acres of
facilities for 20,000 army personnel at what is now Florida Atlantic University.
Because of the German submarine threat and fear of invasion, residents
volunteered for four-hour shifts of spotter duty in a 30-foot-high wooden
observation tower on the beach.
After the war years, Boca Raton's
subtropical locale and beckoning business climate attracted the prestigious
International Business Machines (IBM) and Florida Atlantic University; both
set-up shop here in the mid-'60s. Other businesses with an eye to the future
soon followed suit. Between 1965 and 1980, newcomers in pursuit of the good life
tripled Boca Raton's population. Today, Greater Boca Raton's population is more
Forecast for Palm Beach Eastern County
Updated: 5:00 am EST on March 16, 2003
Partly cloudy. Chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 80s. Wind light and variable becoming east to southeast 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Chance of rain 40 percent.
Partly cloudy. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Lows from the upper 60s inland to the lower 70s. Southeast winds 10 mph becoming south. Chance of rain 20 percent.
Partly cloudy. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning then scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 80s. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40 percent.
Partly cloudy. Scattered showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Lows in the mid 60s to lower 70s. South winds 10 mph except 15 to 20 mph along the coast...becoming southwest. Chance of rain 40 percent.
Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 80s.
Wednesday through Friday
Partly cloudy. Lows around 70. Highs in the mid 80s.
Partly cloudy. Slight chance of showers. Lows around 70. Highs in the mid 80s.