Tales from the Archives
Pearl City - Part Two of Six
Note from the Curator: It seems likely that there were African American residents in Boca Raton before Pearl City was founded; but I am uncertain where they might have lived. What we know is that Pearl City was established in 1915 specifically for the African American community . - Susan Gillis
Pearl City is not an actual city, but a subdivision laid out specifically for African American residents in 1915. The land belonged to Boca Raton pioneer Tom Rickards working through his land agent George Long. Pearl City was established so that farm workers who had to make the long walk from Deerfield could live closer to their work. It is likely that Pearl City got its name from the Hawaiian Pearl, a popular variety of pineapple grown in Boca Raton during the time. We know that Pearl City was the site of an old pineapple packing shed.

Pearl City is located south of Glades Road between Dixie Highway and Federal Highway. The streets were originally named Pearl, Ruby, and Sapphire and have been renamed so in recent years. (Pearl Street is Northeast Eleventh Street for instance.) Many of the lots in the subdivision were purchased by unknown investors rather than local citizens. It is possible that many of the first residents rented rather than owned their land. Pearl City grew to be an independent community in many ways. It had its own churches, businesses, school, and entertainments in those days of segregation.

One of Pearl City’s earliest residents was Alex Hughes, who had come to Deerfield with his wife Florence to seek their fortune in the newly developing South Florida. He found work on the Chesebro farm. Hughes bought one of the first lots in the new Pearl City for $25, with $10 down. He recalled, “All that was here when I first came was a lot of palmettos, spruce pines and mosquitoes.” In Pearl City he built a small wooden house with his own hands. 

To be continued…

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