If you know a little Spanish, the name Boca Raton might leave you with lots of questions. The Spanish word for mouth and mouse, boca and raton respectively, somehow ended up being the name of this beautiful city in Florida. Rat’s mouth is not the first image that comes to mind when you visit Boca Raton, so what gives? Well, if you want to know how the city ended up with its name, a history lesson is in order.
For starters, Boca Raton wasn’t intended to refer to a rat’s mouth in this context. The city’s name should be spelled as Boca Ratones, but someone decided to get rid of one syllable. Boca Ratones, or Boca de Ratones, is a reference for navigating the jagged inlet of Biscayne Bay next to Miami Beach, which was the original Boca Ratones settlement back in the eighteenth century. Fast forward to the early nineteenth century, and the name was mistakenly used to refer to the Boca Raton Lake. Although the “s” and the “e” were dropped in the twentieth century, people still pronounce it as “Rah-tone.”
Well before the naming controversy, the earliest settlers in Boca Raton were the Tequesta Indians. They lived on the shores of the ocean for close to a thousand years, before the construction of the Florida East Coast Canal and the East Coast Railway in the eighteenth century. Soon after that, the Boca Raton grew into a small agricultural settlement with most farmers growing pineapples. Japanese immigrants, under Joseph Sakai, were part of the community and their settlement there established the Yamato Road.
Boca Raton was incorporated in 1925 when the real estate market in Florida peaked. During the land boom, the council of the fledgling town hired Addison Mizner to design the jewel of the city, Mizner Park. The park heralded as a world-class resort community saw the construction of the exclusive Cloister Inn by 1926. Today, you might recognize it as the Boca Raton Resort & Club. The end of the land boom in the same year halted Mizner’s plans, but his architectural influences are still visible today.
In the 1930s and 40s, Boca Raton gained a reputation for its winter vegetable crop. The city’s green beans fetched a premium in the northern markets. A couple of years before the Second World War, Boca Raton saw the construction of the only military facility in the city’s history. The radar training school, located in the F.A.U and Boca Raton Airport, caused a swell in the city’s population, hitting an all-time high of 723 residents in 1940. The decades before the 1990s were relatively uneventful, apart from the land boom of the 1960s. Most of the city’s restoration began in the 1990s with the preservation of historic properties such as the original Town Hall and the F.E.C railway station. Today, the city is home to more than 98,000 people live here enjoying every minute of life in the coastal city.