florida's real estate


Famed architect Addison Mizner in 1925.
photo courtesy of Boca Raton Historical Society

Addison Mizner was a self-taught architect and couldn't draw blueprints but his signature designs brought a new and exciting look to South Florida. Seventy-five years later, Mizner -style is still the most sought-after in South Palm Beach County.

Mizner was born in California in and 1872 and with his diplomat father, traveled around the world at an early age.

From San Francisco, where he started his career he moved to New York and then in his mid-forties, south to Palm Beach. There, Mizner introduced a style of Mediter-ranean/Spanish revival architecture which was so popular that he received commissions to build some 40 Palm Beach mansions for the rich and famous.

Then he turned his attention south and set out to transform the tiny unincorporated town of Boca Raton into his dream city. In the spring of 1925, he started Mizner Development Corp. and the company acquired 17,500 acres of Boca Raton property including two miles of beach, to create the "greatest resort in the world." Mizner sent out promotional material that boasted a 1,000-room hotel, golf courses, parks and a street wide enough to fit 20 lanes of traffic. His dream has been described as "A happy combination of Venice and Heaven, Florence and Toledo, with a little Greco-Roman glory and grandeur thrown in."

The 100-room, Cloister Inn (now the Boca Raton Resort & Club,) opened its doors in early 1926 at the unimaginably high cost of $1.25 million. Mizner designed an elegant Spanish style structure and furnished it with his private collection of rare antiques from old churches and universities in Spain and Central America. Even as the Inn's first guests were unpacking their bags, the land boom went bust and Mizner and company went bankrupt. But the development's distinctive Mediterranean Revival style set the standard for local architecture and by the end of the decade, Boca Raton had become one of Florida's best-known cities.

Mizner blended the traditions of many cultures into a fanciful Spanish Revival and Mediterranean architecture using arched entrances, Palladian windows, barrel-tile roofs and iron grill work among other elements. Many of Mizner's buildings, such as Old Town Hall, 71 North Federal Highway and the 1925 Administration building on the corner of Camino Real and Dixie Highway have been restored. There are 29 original Mizner homes in Old Floresta, now an historic area and at least 12 smaller ones in Spanish Village. Frank Lloyd Wright once said that many architects had imagination but only Mizner had the courage to let it out of the cage.

As for Boca pink which became his signature color, Mizner reportedly was inspired by a breathtaking sunset he witnessed one day. He decided that his hotel would be pink and pink has remained the essential Mizner color to the present day.

Boca Raton's first settler Captain Thomas Moore Rickards,
a land surveyor for the early railroads.
photo courtesy of Boca Raton Historical Society

Boca Raton has grown phenomenally in the last three decades, but it first went on the map in 1895. In that year, railroad magnate Henry Flagler decided to make the quiet farm community conveniently located between Miami and Palm Beach, a terminus for his new north to south railway line. By 1903 the area boasted five families; the following year when Japanese colonists arrived to farm pineapples at Yamato, the population
increased by 40.

The small fruit and vegetable farming community continued to grow slowly, reaching a milestone in 1920 when a brick elementary school was built to replace the one room schoolhouse.

The incorporation of the town of Boca Raton in 1925 marked a new phase. Boca Raton was slated to become a vacation paradise in a 16,000 acre project, proposed by noted Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner, that would include a monumental Spanish-style hotel, a Venetian Lake with gondolas, cabaret and casino. On the first day of sale in 1925 over $2 million in lots was contracted. Six months later the entire project collapsed.
Henry Flagler's east Coast railroad reached Boca Raton around 1895.
photo courtesy of Boca Raton Historical Society

Ground had been broken for a hotel on the west side of Lake Boca Raton. The fabled Ritz Carlton Cloister Inn opened as the centerpiece of a planned international resort and became a magnet for the glitterati who flocked to it in droves. Mizner's original cloister is still there, today as part of the five-star Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Boca Raton continued to grow slowly, its profile raised by the presence of an army base during World War 11. In the 1950s Boca Raton's upscale image was set by the well-planned, lavishly landscaped, expensive subdivisions developed by Arthur Vining Davis. His Arvida Corp. had purchased the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in 1956.

In the 1960s, Boca Raton was still a small town with winding roads and a quaint village atmosphere when Florida Atlantic University and IBM arrived; the population began to explode as numerous other high-tech industries and corporate headquarters followed. Today Boca Raton has become headquarters for several large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens Information and Communication Networks, Database Technologies (DBT), Hiway Technologies, NCCI, Sensormatic and Sony Professional Products. The Blue Lake Corporate Center, is being redeveloped as a prestigious office park with 1.96 million square feet of office space in a tropical landscaped environment. Opportunities for higher education have grown to include campuses of Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University and Palm Beach Community College.