Historic Places In Boca Raton | Boca Raton History
The United States of America is one of the youngest countries in the world, and a developed South Florida is one of its late risers. With so much of South Florida blanketed in swampland, deciduous woods, and palmetto scrub, Boca Raton's history is largely truncated to a minute quantity of time compared to other states along the eastern seaboard. With such a humid and hurricane-prone climate, South Florida didn't truly shine as a tourist hovel for decades, yet now is the brightest beacon in the United States. For those looking to move to Boca Raton, or those just visiting, here are a few of the most prominent historic landmarks in Boca!
Boca Raton Old City Hall
Without centuries of Medieval History, American landmarks are often either the ruins of past civilizations or the artifices of post-industrial development. Old City Hall, also known as the Town Hall was one of the first significant structures in Boca Raton. Designed by legendary town planner Addison Mizner, his flair for elegance has been preserved, as have some antiques from his collection. The building was commissioned in 1926, and once housed Boca Raton's first police station, fire department, and library. Today, the fire engine bay is a gift shop, and the building has been converted to the Boca Raton Welcome Center and Boca Raton History Museum. In 1980, the Old City Hall was officially added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Fred C. Aiken House
Fred Aiken was a film executive who relocated to Boca Raton in the late 1920s. The arched exterior entryways, handmade clay roof tiles, and cypress doors are the pinnacle of Addison Mizner's Mediterranean revival style of architecture that permeated South Florida for decades. The Fred C. Aiken house is more than a shining example of early 20th Century Floridian architecture, with Mr. Aiken himself taking a prominent role in community politics. Fred Aiken served as the third mayor of Boca Raton, and a town clerk for a decade after, ultimately living in the home for over 30 years. By the end of his life, Fred Aiken became as much of an institution as this gorgeous home, which still headlines the Old Floresta District of Boca.
The Lavender House
The Lavender House, also known as the Hermann V. von Holst House, is just two blocks away from the aforementioned Fred C. Aiken house in the Old Floresta District. The colorful, Mediterranean-inspired architecture is often mistaken as the residential work of Addison Mizner, however, it was von Holst who put the finishing touches on the Old Floresta neighborhood. A renowned Chicago school architect, von Holst designed much of the early buildings in Boca Raton, including having a hand in the Old City Hall During Mizner's bankruptcy in 1926, von Holst sued successfully for defaulted payments to contractors. Thus, while the city plan and general contractual work were undertaken initially by Mizner, the actual architecture was completed by von Holst.
The Morikami Japanese Museum & Gardens
The incredibly picturesque Morikami Japanese Museum & Gardens may seem somewhat misplaced amidst the subtropical environs of Boca Raton. However contrarian to the established flora and fauna, the Morikami Gardens are as much a slice of Boca Raton's history as any plot of acreage in the community. The land the museum and gardens sit on today was once the brainchild of a 1904 agrarian project led by Japanese immigrant Jo Sakai. Following his graduation from NYU, he founded a colony with others brought from his hometown of Miyazu. Like the major roadway in Boca Raton, this colony was known as Yamato - an ancient name for Japan. The pioneers sought to experiment with varying crops, leveraging the potent heat and humidity of our rarified Boca Raton air. By the 1920s, the small colony surrendered its goals, never truly reaching the agricultural success Sakai sought. What's left behind is an intriguing connection between South Florida and Japanese culture, a people normally associated with the Pacific Coast and cities like New York. This is truly one of the gems among many in our beautiful Boca Raton landscape. Perhaps if Mr. Sakai saw the product of his folly, he would be proud nonetheless.
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