The original name "Boca de Ratones" appeared on eighteenth-century maps associated with an inlet in the Biscayne Bay area of Miami. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the term was mistakenly moved north to its current location on most maps and applied to the inland waterway from the closed inlet north for 8.5 miles (13.7 km), which was called the "Boca Ratones Lagoon." The word "ratones" appears in old Spanish maritime dictionaries referring to "rugged rocks or stony ground on the bottom of some ports and coastal outlets, where the cables rub against." Therefore, the abridged translation defining "Boca de Ratones" is "a shallow inlet of sharp-pointed rocks which scrape a ship's cables."
Residents of the city have kept the pronunciation of Boca Raton similar to its Spanish origins. In particular, the "Raton" in "Boca Raton" is pronounced as /rəˈtoʊn/ instead of /rəˈtɑːn/. The latter is a common mispronunciation by non-natives to the region.
The area today known as "Boca Raton" was originally occupied by the Tequesta tribe, a Native American people that occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida.
What Spanish voyagers called "Boca de Ratones" was originally located to the south, in present-day Biscayne Bay in Miami. By mistake since the 19th century, mapmakers moved this location to the north and began referring to the city's lake, today known as Lake Boca Raton, as "Boca Ratone Sounde." The area was largely uninhabited after the Indigenous people were cleared from the area by the Spanish and the British. The first significant European settler to this area was Captain Thomas Moore Rickards in 1895, who resided in a house made of driftwood on the east side of the East Coast Canal, south of what is now the Palmetto Park Road bridge. He surveyed and sold land from the canal to beyond the railroad north of what is now Palmetto Park Road. Early settlement in the area increased shortly after Henry Flagler's expansion of the Florida East Coast Railway, connecting West Palm Beach to Miami.
In the city's early history during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, several investors were interested in turning Boca Raton into a resort town. Most famously, Addison Mizner had several projects for resorts and mansions in the area. He first constructed his Administrative Buildings and a small hotel to house interested investors. His Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn was built in 1926, later renamed the Boca Raton Resort & Club, and is one of the only "5 star" hotels located in Florida. The 1969 addition of its "pink tower" hotel building is visible from miles away as a towering monument on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Japanese farmers of the Yamato Colony converted the land west of the city into pineapple plantations beginning in 1904. However, this colony never grew very large due to a blight that destroyed much of their crops and subsequent competition from Cuban production. By the 1920s, many of the colonists had returned to Japan.
During World War II, much of their land was confiscated and used as the site of the Boca Raton Army Air Force Base, a major training facility for B-29 bomber crews and radar operators. Much of the Boca Raton Army Airfield was later donated to Palm Beach County and became the grounds of Florida Atlantic University. Many of FAU's parking lots are former runways of the airbase. When viewed from above, the site's layout for its previous use as an airfield is plainly evident. Boca Raton Airport's runway was once part of the original airbase, and is still active to this day. Army School Building #3 (T-604) of the Army Air Forces Base has survived as the office building for the Cynthia Gardens apartment complex on Northwest 4th Avenue.
The Japanese heritage of the Yamato Colony survives in the name of Yamato Road just north of the airport and in the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, located northwest of the city limits.
Boca Raton was the site of two now vanished amusement parks, Africa U.S.A. (1953–1961) and Ancient America (1953–1959). Africa U.S.A. was a wild animal park in which tourists rode a "Jeep Safari Train" through the park. There were no fences separating the animals from the tourists. It is now the Camino Gardens subdivision one mile west of the Boca Raton Hotel. A red wooden bridge and remnants from the Watusi Geyser and Zambezi Falls, a 30-foot waterfall, from Africa USA can still be seen at the entrance to Camino Gardens. Ancient America was built surrounding a real Native American burial mound. Today, the mound is still visible within the Boca Marina & Yacht Club neighborhood on U.S. 1 near Yamato Road.
In the late 1960s, IBM announced their intentions to open a manufacturing plant in the area. In 1965, well before the extension of I-95 into Southern Florida, IBM working in secret with the Arvida corporation quietly purchased several hundred acres of real estate west of the CSX rail line and northwest of Florida Atlantic University. Originally situated in unincorporated Palm Beach County, the site was controversially annexed into Boca Raton almost a year following its dedication in 1970.
Construction of IBM's main complex began in 1967, designed by Marcel Breuer, and the manufacturing and office complex was dedicated in March 1970. The campus was designed with self-sufficiency in mind and sported its own electrical substation, water pumping station, and rail spur.
Among other noteworthy IT accomplishments, such as the mass production of the System/360 and development of the Series/1 mainframe computers, IBM's main complex was the birthplace of the IBM PC, which later evolved into the IBM Personal System/2, developed in nearby Delray Beach. Starting in 1987, IBM relocated its manufacturing for what became the IBM PC division to Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, and converted the cavernous manufacturing facilities into offices and laboratories, later producing products such as the OS/2 operating system and VoiceType Dictation, later known as ViaVoice voice-recognition software.
IBM maintained its facilities in the South Florida area until 1996, when the facility was closed and sold to Blue Lake Real Estate, who in turn sold it to T-REX Management Consortium. Today, T-REX has revitalized the facility and its surrounding real estate into a business/research park.
What used to be IBM's Building 051, an annex separated from the former main IBM campus by Spanish River Boulevard, was donated to the Palm Beach County School District and converted into Don Estridge High Tech Middle School. It is named after Don Estridge, whose team was responsible for developing the IBM PC. IBM later returned in July 2001, opening the current software development laboratory at Beacon Square off Congress Avenue.
It is noteworthy that still left standing inside the old IBM complex is the office and conference table where Bill Gates signed his historic deal to supply IBM with the Microsoft MS-DOS operating system for its personal computer line.
In the 1980s, because of an explosion of development to the west of the historical center of the city, some eastern areas began to decay, including the downtown corridor. For instance, the old Boca Raton Mall, a shopping mall in the downtown area, was beginning to experience higher vacancy, and occupancy by marginal tenants, owing to the opening of Town Center at Boca Raton west of the city in 1980.
In 1991, the new downtown outdoor shopping and dining center, Mizner Park, was completed over the site of the old Boca Raton Mall. It has since become a cultural center for southern Palm Beach County. Featuring a landscaped central park between the two main roads (collectively called Plaza Real) with stores only on the outside of the roads, Mizner Park resembles a Mediterranean suburban "town center" with a more contemporary look. It features many restaurants and is home to the Boca Raton Museum of Art, which moved to the new facility in 2001. In 2002, a new amphitheater was built, replacing a smaller one and providing a large-capacity outdoor venue where concerts and other performances are held.
Mizner Park has significantly aided downtown revitalization. Many new eight- to ten-story mixed-use buildings have been constructed, are currently under construction, or are proposed for the downtown area. The surrounding areas to the downtown have benefited from the downtown redevelopment.
The National Cartoon Museum built a 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) facility on the southwest edge of Mizner Park in 1996. Open for six years, the museum relocated to its original home in New York City in 2002. Building renovations for public uses, including the local public TV station, and private uses, such as a locally owned and operated bookstore, were completed in 2008. In addition to the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Association's theater and space, the building is home to the Schmidt Family Foundation.
As development continued to focus to the west of the city in the 1980s and 1990s, the mall area known as Town Center at Boca Raton became the geographic center of what is referred to as West Boca Raton, though this mall was not annexed into the city until 2004. This area, including the unincorporated area west of the city (discussed below), is now almost entirely built out.
A majority of postal Boca Raton lies outside of the actual city limits. This large unincorporated area to the west of the city limits is included in the Boca Raton mailing address and local telephone calling area. There are many large planned developments in the area, including gated communities, and a number of golf courses. This is a result in the later start of development in these areas, and the availability of large tracts of land. Many of these affluent communities are large enough to be designated as census-designated places, including Boca Del Mar and Boca Pointe, geographically in Central Boca Raton, with Avalon at Boca Raton, Boca Falls, Boca Winds, Cimarron, Hamptons at Boca Raton, Mission Bay, Loggers' Run, The Polo Club Boca Raton and polo club movers, Sandalfoot Cove, and Whisper Walk as West Boca Raton.
On November 2, 2004, the voters of the Via Verde Association, Waterside, Deerhurst Association (Boca South), Marina Del Mar Association, Rio Del Mar Association (both originally Boca Del Mar communities), and Heatherwood of Boca Raton Condominium Association approved annexation into the Boca Raton city limits, increasing the city land area to 29.6 square miles (77 km2).
Pearl City is a neighborhood in Boca Raton, immediately north of downtown. The neighborhood was originally platted on May 30, 1915 for the blue-collar African Americans employed at the Boca Raton Resort and similar establishments, on area farms, in construction, and various other jobs.
The City of Boca Raton has a Council-Manager form of government.
The Mayor of Boca Raton has been chosen through a direct election since 1978. The offices of the city council and the mayor, currently Mayor Susan Haynie, Deputy Mayor Robert S. Weinroth, Council Members Michael Mullaugh, Scott Singer and Jeremy Rodgers are nonpartisan. The previous mayor was Susan Whelchel. As of February 2013, Democrats Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch both represent parts of the city in the United States Congress.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.1 sq mi (75.4 km2), of which 27.2 sq mi (70.4 km2) of this is land and 1.9 sq mi (5.0 km2) of it (6.63%) is water. Boca Raton is a "principal city" (as defined by the Census Bureau) of the Miami metropolitan area. Approximately 1 sq mi is located on the barrier island Deerfield Beach Island (DBI), also colloquially know as Deerfield Cay. Like most South Florida cities, Boca Raton has a water table that does not permit building basements, but there are several high points in the city, such as 4th Avenue which is aptly named "High Street." The highest point in this area is the guard shack at Camino Gardens, which is 24 ft (7.3 m) above sea level. The Boca Raton Hotel's Beach Club rests at 23 ft (7.0 m) above sea level.
Several small tunnels run under roads in Boca, but the roads are built up several feet at these locations, or are located on dunes. Several of these tunnels are under State Road A1A at Spanish River Park, from the west side of the road where parking is available to beachgoers, to the east side of the road, which is where the beach is located. A1A is already higher than the surrounding land here due to sand dunes formed by erosion and other natural features.
Boca Raton's climate qualifies as a Tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af), as its driest month (December) averages 62.5mm of precipitation, narrowly meeting the minimum standard of 60mm in the driest month needed to qualify for that designation. In general the climate is warm and sunny much of the year, although daily thundershowers occur in the hot season from June through September. Boca Raton is frost free. The warm tropical climate supports the growth of many tropical trees and plants.
Winter high temperatures are typically in the seventies and eighties, while summer high temperatures are in the high eighties to low nineties.
Boca Raton is known for its affluent and educated social community and high income demographic.
As of 2010, there were 44,539 households, out of which 17.4% were vacant. As of 2000, 24.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.81.
In 2000, the city's age distribution was as follows: 18.9% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.8 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $67,531, and the median income for a family was $92,057. Males had a median income of $52,287 versus $33,347 for females. The per capita income for the city was $45,628. About 4.1% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.
According to Forbes, Boca Raton has three of the ten most expensive gated communities in the U.S. The Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club holds the #1 spot, The Sanctuary takes #6, and Le Lac takes the #8 spot.
As of 2000, English was the only language spoken at home by 79.9% of the population, while Spanish was spoken by 9.3%, French by 1.5%, Portuguese by 1.5%, French Creole by 1.3%, and Italian by 1.1% of the population. Certain areas of Boca Raton, such as the Sandalfoot Cove community, have significant populations of Brazilian and other Latino immigrants.
Old Floresta Historic District has several historic houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Boca Raton was home to the Wick Theatre & Costume Museum. The Caldwell Theatre Company, which closed in 2012, was the longest-running professional theater in South Florida, celebrating its 34th season in the recently inaugurated Count de Hoernle Theatre on South Federal Highway.
The Boca Raton Bowl is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned Division I college football bowl game that features the Mid-American Conference (MAC) facing off against an opponent from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) or Conference USA (C-USA) in alternating years. Each conference participates four times during the six-year agreement, which began with the 2014 season. The Bowl is held at the FAU Stadium.
Additionally, the town hosts the "Festival of the Arts BOCA" annually during the spring, and the Brazilian Beat Festival in the fall.
Mizner Park is a lifestyle center in downtown Boca Raton. The area contains several stores and fashion boutiques, restaurants, an iPic movie theater, and housing. The Center for the Arts at Mizner Park is located on the north end of the development, which includes the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Count de Hoernele Amphitheater.
Town Center at Boca Raton is an upscale super-regional shopping center in Boca Raton. It is the largest enclosed and conventional shopping mall within Palm Beach County, and second largest by square feet in South Florida, behind the Aventura Mall.
In 1999, the Simon Property Group bought Town Center at Boca Raton and began redeveloping it. In late 2006, Simon began the construction stage of an outdoor lifestyle center near the new wing which includes a variety of restaurants, bar/lounge (Blue Martini), and a gym (YouFit Health Clubs).
Boca Raton's eastern coast has two-miles of beaches, notably Red Reef Park and South Inlet Park.
Red Reef Park has the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, an environmental education center. Founded in 1984, Gumbo Limbo is a cooperative project of the City of Boca Raton, Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, Florida Atlantic University, and Friends of Gumbo Limbo. In addition to the sea tanks, butterfly garden and boardwalk trail through the hammocks complete with an observation tower, Gumbo Limbo also houses a research facility run by FAU where students study sea turtles, sharks, sea grass and other marine-related subjects.
Sugar Sand Park is a municipal park in Boca Raton. It contains the Children’s Science Explorium. Another park is the Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, located in West Boca Raton. The park contains several amenities, including the Osprey Point Golf Course, a dog park, the Sunset Cove Amphitheater, the Coconut Cove Waterpark, and the Daggerwing Nature Center. Spanish River Park is a family-friendly city park along the Intracoastal Waterway for picnicking, swimming & bird-watching.
Office Depot, a supplier of office products and services, has its global headquarters on a 28-acre campus in the city. The GEO Group, a company that operates prisons, also has its headquarters in Boca Raton based out of One Park Place. Media companies American Media and FriendFinder Networks, hotel company Luxury Resorts, consumer products company Jarden and e-retailers Vitacost plus BMI Gaming are also based in Boca Raton. The Research Park at Florida Atlantic University, anchored by healthcare software company Modernizing Medicine, supports an environment where companies engaged in the research and development of new and innovative products can thrive.
Previously, W. R. Grace and Company had its headquarters in unincorporated Palm Beach County, near Boca Raton.
According to the City's 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Public education is provided and managed by The School District of Palm Beach County, the thirteenth-largest public school district in the United States. Boca Raton is also home to several notable private and religious schools.
As of 2007, Boca Raton is served by four public high schools. Within the city's limits, Boca Raton Community High School serves the eastern part of the city. Spanish River Community High School serves the west-central part of the city limits and parts of unincorporated Boca Raton. Olympic Heights Community High School serves the western unincorporated areas. Finally, West Boca Raton Community High School serves the far-west unincorporated areas. Spanish River, Olympic Heights, and West Boca Raton also serve students from Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.
The area is served by five public middle schools. Don Estridge High Tech Middle School is a technology magnet school named for Don Estridge, the leader of a small group of engineers who developed the IBM Personal Computer in Boca Raton. The other four public middle schools are Boca Raton Community Middle School, Eagles Landing Middle School, Loggers' Run Community Middle School, and Omni Middle School.
The area is served by twelve public elementary schools:
Two alternatives to the Palm Beach County Public Schools in Boca Raton are the K-8 Alexander D. Henderson University School (ADHUS) and FAU High School (FAUHS). Both are located on the Florida Atlantic University campus and are organized as a unique and separate school district; they are not part of the Palm Beach County School System. Henderson School is recognized as Florida Atlantic University School District #72, under the College of Education’s administrative oversight.
University schools in Florida are authorized to provide instruction for grades K-12 and university students, support university research efforts, and test educational reforms for Florida schools. Both ADHUS and FAUHS are public schools and thus do not charge tuition. And they are open to children who reside in Palm Beach County or Broward County. ADHUS admission is by lottery, while FAUHS admission is determined by academic ability. Student characteristics of gender, race, family income and student ability are used to match the student population profile to that of the state.
FAU High School is a dual-enrollment program that involves itself primarily in collegiate classes. Students in ninth grade take advanced classes at the ADHUS sister campus, while students in higher grades attend only collegiate classes on Florida Atlantic University's campus, earning dual credit for both high school and college. A student who has successfully completed all four years at FAU High School will graduate having completed three years of university study on a college campus.
Florida Atlantic University, founded in 1961, held its first classes in Boca Raton in 1964. FAU is a member of the State University System of Florida and is the largest university in Boca Raton. It has over 29,000 students, 3,555 of which are residential students, and a Division I athletics program. In recognition of the rapid growth of Boca Raton's universities, in particular FAU, the city of Boca Raton has recently been referred to as a "burgeoning college town."
Lynn University (founded as Marymount College, then renamed the College of Boca Raton in 1974, and finally Lynn University in 1991) is a four-year co-educational institution renamed to honor the Lynn (Eugene & Christine) family who continue to be benefactors of the university.
Palm Beach State College has its main campus adjacent to Florida Atlantic University since 1983. When it was opened, it was named Palm Beach Junior College. In 1988 it changed its name to Palm Beach Community College, and in 2009, to Palm Beach State College.Digital Media Arts College, founded in 2001, offers bachelor's and master's degrees in computer animation and graphic design.
The Boca Raton Public Library serves city of Boca Raton residents. A second municipal library building on Spanish River Boulevard west of I-95 was opened in January 2008.
The Glades Road Branch Library and the West Boca Branch Library of the Palm Beach County Library System serve Boca Raton residents who live outside the city limits. The West Boca Branch opened on February 20, 2009. It is located on State Road 7 just north of Yamato Road. The Glades Road Branch Library, formerly known as the Southwest County Regional Library, is located on 95th Street and Glades Road, between Lyons Road and State Road 7. It closed for renovations in early 2009 and reopened as the Glades Road Branch Library on May 29, 2010. County library card holders may use any of the sixteen branches in the Palm Beach County Library System and have access to many databases and downloadable e-books and audio books.
In 2007 it was reported that there were nine known gangs operating in Boca Raton.
Boca Raton has a connection to the Mafia. Although not known for violent crime, it is a popular hangout for many suspected Mafia members. According to a number of US Federal indictments, as of June 2004, the Gambino family continues to operate in Boca Raton. The television show The Sopranos featured the city in its plot ("Boca" and "...To Save Us All From Satan's Power"), and Mafia Wife author Lynda Milito resides in Boca Raton. Joey Merlino, the reputed head of the Philadelphia crime family, also resides in northern Boca Raton.The Boca Raton Airport (BCT) is a general aviation airport located immediately adjacent to Florida Atlantic University and Interstate 95. It has a control tower which is manned from 0700 to 2300. The Boca Raton Airport is publicly owned and governed by a seven-member Authority appointed by the City of Boca Raton and the Palm Beach County Commission.
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) is located to the north near West Palm Beach.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is located to the south in Dania Beach.
In addition, another option for short or long distance flights is Miami International Airport.State Road A1A is a north-south road lying between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.
U.S. Highway 1, locally known as "Federal Highway", is a north-south highway passing through the city’s downtown, commercial, and industrial districts in the eastern part of the city.
U.S. Highway 441, also popularly known as State Road 7, is a north-south highway passing through commercial and residential districts west of the city limits.
Interstate 95 bisects the city from north to south with four interchanges serving Boca Raton. A typical drive to Miami on I95 takes about 40 minutes traffic depending.
Florida's Turnpike is a north-south highway passing through unincorporated Boca Raton, forming part of the city limits in the north, with one interchange at Glades Road.
State Road 808 (Glades Road) is an east-west road between US 441 and US 1.
Other major east-west roads include Palmetto Park Road and Yamato Road.
Other major north-south roads include Military Trail and Powerline Road.
The Tri-Rail commuter rail system serves the city with its Boca Raton station located on the south side of Yamato Road just west of I-95.
CSX Transportation and the Florida East Coast Railway also serve the city.
PalmTran provides local bus service in the area.
Long before any settlers arrived, the original 1870 government survey of the area showed that just west of and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean's coastal dune was the "Boca Ratones Lagoon", which extended south for nine miles (14.5 km) measured from just north of the present location of Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Along the southern half of the lagoon were three wide areas each called a "Lake", which are now named (north to south) Lake Rogers, Lake Wyman, and Lake Boca Raton. At the southeast end of the lagoon was a short protrusion toward the south which would become the Boca Raton Inlet after a sandbar at its mouth was removed.
The lagoon and lakes were part of a half-mile (0.8 km) wide swamp, west of which was scrub land a mile (1.6 km) wide (part of the Atlantic coastal ridge) where the Florida East Coast Railway (1896) and Dixie Highway (1923) were built. To the west of the scrub was a half mile or wider swamp within which flowed north to south the "Prong of Hillsborough River", which is now the El Rio Canal. It now forms the eastern border of Florida Atlantic University and the Old Floresta neighborhood. The prong entered the "Hillsborough River" at the present eastern end of the straight portion of the Hillsboro Canal (dredged 1911–14), which is the southern city limits. The river flowed southeast in several channels along the western edge of the present Deerfield Island County Park, formerly called Capone Island (named for Al Capone who owned it during the 1930s), which did not become an island until the Royal Palm Canal was dredged along its northern edge in 1961. Flowing south from the lagoon to the river along the eastern edge of the 'island' was a "Small boat Pass into Hillsboro' River", also called the Little Hillsboro. The river continued due south about four and a half miles (7.2 km) just inland of the coastal dune until it emptied into the Atlantic Ocean at the "Hillsborough Bar", now the Hillsboro Inlet.
The lagoon was dredged in 1894–95 to form part of the Florida East Coast Canal from Jacksonville to Biscayne Bay with a minimum depth of 5 feet (1.5 m) and a minimum width of 50 feet (15.2 m). After 1895, the lagoon and canal were sometimes called the Spanish River. Between 1930 and 1935 the canal was improved to 8×100 feet (2.4×30.5 m) by the federal government and renamed the Intracoastal Waterway. It was improved again between 1960 and 1965 to 10×125 feet (3×38.1 m). All three versions were subject to shoaling which reduced their depths below the specified minimum. Forming part of the northern city limits is the C-15 canal, connecting the El Rio Canal to the Intracoastal Waterway.