History of the Boca Raton Cemetery
We welcome you to the Boca Raton Municipal Cemetery and Mausoleum website. The cemetery has a long and unusual history. The town of Boca Raton was established in 1896 along Henry Flagler’s newly completed Florida East Coast Railway. Boca Raton remained a tiny farming town for several decades.
In 1916, pioneer Frank Chesebro allowed a burial to be made on his property located in what is now the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club south of present Camino Real. The site became Boca Raton’s first cemetery, and a private cemetery association formed to help fund maintenance.
During the nineteen twenties there was a tremendous boom in land speculation in South Florida. In 1925, Palm Beach society architect Addison Mizner and the Mizner Development Corporation initiated the ambitious “Boca Raton” project to create the “world’s greatest resort community.” To accommodate prospective investors, Mizner designed the Ritz Carlton Cloister Inn, which opened on the western shores of Lake Boca Raton in 1926.
By 1927, the Florida land boom had gone “bust,” and with it Mizner’s dreams for Boca Raton. One of Mizner’s original backers, Clarence Geist, purchased the assets of the Mizner Development Corporation for less than $72,000. The principal asset for Geist was the Cloister Inn. An avid golfer, Geist wished to create a wintertime golf resort. He hired hotel architects Schultze and Weaver to triple the size of the Cloister Inn in 1928; it reopened as the Boca Raton Club in 1930.
RelocationThe Boca Raton Club was to have two golf courses, one on either side of Camino Real. The old cemetery site was hence in the way of the planned expansion, and Mr. Geist donated land north of the current Glades Road along what is now Boca Raton Boulevard for a new cemetery and the graves were relocated there in 1928.
World War II
In May of 1942, the Army Air Force Technical Training Command brought its airborne radar training base to Boca Raton. The Boca Raton Army Air Field extended from Palmetto Park Road on the south to north of Yamato Road, and from the Florida East Coast Railway on the east to the present Amtrak tracks on the west. The 1928 cemetery was well inside the new base limits. Base engineer Arnold McSpadden oversaw the disinterment of the graves and relocation to the present cemetery site, south of Palmetto Park Road. Work was completed by 1943. Ironically, the new cemetery was located on what the early pioneers named “Sunset Hill.”
In 1948, the operation of the cemetery was turned over to the City of Boca Raton and the Fire Chief was the first cemetery sexton. He sold, marked, and measured the graves.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Boca Raton slowly became a popular resort town and many visitors returned to call Boca Raton their home. In the 1980s, the growth of Boca Raton and south Palm Beach County was phenomenal. At this time, extra land for burials was purchased and the first of many mausoleum buildings was erected. Presently the cemetery consists of fifteen acres of developed land, five and a half acres of land for future cemetery expansion, three and a half acres that have been set aside for 27 mausoleum buildings, and expansion area for a total of 32 buildings of crypts, niches, columbaria, and sarcophagi.
Today you will find that the cemetery is no longer on the outskirts of town. Boca has grown in every direction and now surrounds us at our location on 451 SW 4th Avenue. Like the city itself, the park-like nature of the cemetery offers many residents a place to stop and relax and reflect.
We offer all residents of Boca Raton the opportunity to purchase burial rights and perpetual care for their loved ones. For those city residents that prefer mausoleum entombment and for those that live outside the corporate city limits, we offer a wide variety of crypts and niches that include indoor and outdoor locations with several chapel areas to hold services or just relax. Feel free to visit a part of Boca Raton’s history.