Boca Raton (pronounced Boca Ratone, darling) is an upmarket city 45 miles north of Miami and 28 miles south of West Palm Beach. Located on the Atlantic coast, it was the dream of architect Addison Mizner who also created West Palm Beach, hence the similarities in architecture and style.
Boca Raton consists of high-end shopping malls, corporate HQs and country club estates with a range of luxury housing, from low-rise condos to ostentatious mansions. Most homes overlook immaculate golf courses or lakes with a tennis club onsite for added appeal. Catering mainly to middle and upper class retirees, Boca Raton has a median age of 45.4 years, according to the SunSentinel. Of the 84,000 inhabitants in 2011, just 3.9% were children under the age five, 3.5% were residents over the age of 85 and there were more women than men.
History of Boca Raton
Boca, as it is locally known, was incorporated in 1925, but the first peson to make his home in the area was T.M. Rickards who lived in a house made of driftwood from 1895. In 1904, Japanese farmers at the Yamato Colony farmed the land with pineapples. Incidentally, during World War II much of the land was impounded and became the site of the Boca Raton Army Air Force base. It is now the campus of the Florida Atlanta University.
Boca Raton is Spanish for “mouth of a rat” and the name appeared on 18th century maps at the closed inlet of the inland waterway known as Boca Ratones Lagoon. Initial advertisements for the newly developing city announced, “I am the greatest resort in the world”, however that did not manifest itself during Mizner’s lifetime.
The 1920s saw a land boom across Florida as the railroad opened up the possibility for wealthy East coast families to winter further south. Mizner developed the luxurious Cloister Inn in 1926, which became the modern-day Boca Raton Resort and Club. Located beside the Intracoastal Waterway, it is often referred to as the “pink hotel” and has retained much of its original Spanish style. The plan to create a masterpiece of city planning from this pineapple-growing area was curtailed when Florida’s real estate bubble burst in 1926. How quickly history repeats itself!
After World War II, Mizner’s plans were resurrected and today Boca Raton is one of Florida’s most affluent cities.
Highlights of Boca Raton
The Town Hall on Palmetto Park Road has some interesting exhibits relating to Boca’s short history. You can also book a tour of the original Boca Raton Resort and Club, organized by the Boca Raton Historical Society.
Just across the road from the Town Hall is the impressive Mizner Park with its pink shops and amphitheater, one of several dazzling malls serving the community. Beautifully designed, if somewhat sterile, it typifies the city’s status. Even more chi-chi is the Royal Palm Plaza with chic boutiques arranged around Spanish-style courtyards. It is very pleasant to wander around and window-shop.
Of most historical interest is the Old Floresta district about one mile west of the Town Hall. This is a collection of 29 Mediterranean style homes that Mizner designed and built for his company directors and it is a worthwhile place to explore.
Boca is one of those places you either love or hate. Almost too good to be true, it nonetheless offers an enviable lifestyle with glorious sunshine, shopping, restaurants, golf and beaches.
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