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Boca Raton

A 1920s map of Boca Ratone town site

A 1920s map of Boca Ratone town site.

The name “Bocaratone,” which means “Thieves Inlet,” was mistakenly applied to Lake Boca Raton long ago, before the natural Boca Raton Inlet was improved from 1925 to 1931, to keep it open. Bocaratone actually referred to an inlet in the Miami area. Early records show the name spelled various ways, but the post office was registered as “Bocaratone” from 1899 to 1923.

The first settler in Palm Beach County’s southernmost city, Boca Raton, was Captain Thomas Moore Rickards, who bought 50 acres on Lake Boca Raton while surveying for the state in the 1880s. Rickards returned by 1895 and was hired by the railroad as their local agent; he drew the first known map of the area in 1900. Three years later, 18 people lived in the small farm community, including the Chesebro and Raulerson families. A hurricane that year destroyed Rickards’ groves and fields, which he called Black Cat Plantation; in 1906 he left Florida.

Frank H. Chesebro started with 60 acres, which he grew into a large pineapple plantation and vegetable farm. He was instrumental in building the first public school in 1908 on Northwest 2nd Avenue, north of Palmetto Park Road. Later Chesebro hired and housed teacher Laurence Gould from Michigan, who became a celebrated scientist and second-in-command to Admiral Richard Byrd on his first expedition to Antarctica.

George A. Long developed the three-block Pearl City subdivision in 1915 for African Americans near today’s Dixie Highway and Glades Road. Pearl City was named for a variety of pineapple, the Hawaiian Pearl. The community is now surrounded by commercial property, as Boca Raton has grown around it.

Pearl City, established in 1915

Pearl City, established in 1915, is now a
Boca Raton historic district located south
of Glades Road and west of US Highway 1.

Alex Hughes, who worked the Chesebro farm, was the first resident of Pearl City. He helped to establish two churches for the black community on land donated by Long. Also as a result of his efforts, a former school for white children was moved to Pearl City and reopened as the Roadman Elementary School for black children in 1923.


Also in 1923, residents of Bocaratone voted to incorporate, and the next year the new Town of Boca Raton was official.

Important Events (provided by Boca Raton Historical Society)

A group of workers along the FEC Railroad in Boca Raton

A group of workers along the FEC Railroad
in Boca Raton, 1895-1896. Thomas Rickards
is third from right.

1895: The Florida East Coast Railway arrives in Boca Raton. Thomas Rickards, surveyor and agent for the railway becomes the first known white resident. Rickards builds the first house in Boca Raton on the Intracoastal south of the current Palmetto Park bridge.


 1925: The town of Boca Raton is incorporated. Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner establishes the Mizner Development Corporation here with plans to create the “most wonderful resort city in the world.”

1942: The U.S. Army Air Corps establishes its only war-time radar training facility in Boca Raton, first taking over the Boca Raton Club, then acquiring more than 5,860 acres from more than 100 property owners to construct an air field.

1964: Florida Atlantic University opens in Boca Raton on the site of the old army air field after long time community efforts led by local resident Thomas F. Fleming.

IBM (International Business Machines) introduces the IBM PC

IBM developed the personal
computer in Boca Raton.

1981: IBM (International Business Machines) introduces the IBM PC from its Boca Raton factory in August of 1981, revolutionizing the computer industry. (COM008)


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