Deerfield Beach is the northernmost city in Broward County. Boca Raton in Palm Beach County is the north neighbor. Deerfield goes north to the Hillsboro River just north of Hillsboro Boulevard, west to Florida’s Turnpike, south to Sample Road and for the most part, east to the ocean north of NE 54th Street which is the north /south border for Lighthouse Point and Deerfield Beach.
Deerfield was a lush area. Back in the late 1870’s was when folks began to realize the potential of this swampy coastal land, dense with vines and foliage; wild fig trees, saw palmetto, cabbage palms and beautiful pine groves that grew alongside the lovely Hillsboro River. By the late 1890’s there were a few homes nestled along the meandering Hillsboro River. This river was named in the late eighteenth century after the Earl of Hillsboro to whom his land was granted by King George III of England
Henry Flagler was busy bringing his railroad south, which extended south to the coastline of Miami in the spring of 1896. By that time, Key West and Miami were both flourishing villages. Palm Beach was gaining notoriety as a chic winter resort. With the introduction of train travel this tropical area of SE Florida was exposed to others than the native Seminole Indians who lived inland. On June 22, 1898 the very first post office in Deerfield was established to serve a total of 20 settlers. The name Deerfield is said to be indicative of the native population of deer that grazed along the Hillsboro River. It was said that there was a small wooden bridge that crossed the stream west of the railroad tracks and that led to what would later become beautiful Boca Raton.
The economy was driven by sales of local produce. Deerfield tomatoes were among the best in the state. In 1911 the Hillsboro River was dredged and renamed the Hillsboro Canal and connecting it to Lake Okeechobee over 45 miles to the northwest. The town was incorporated June 11, 1925 and a public library was opened to serve the towns approximately 1,300 residents. In 1939 the name of the town was changed to Deerfield Beach and the residents numbered around 1,800. The name Deerfield was chosen as many deer roamed and lived around the Hillsboro River.
After World War II the landscape began to change as tourists arrived to enjoy the beautiful coastline and tropical temperatures. Many hotels and motels were built along the coastline at that time, many still standing now. In 1947 the Lion’s Club was formed and their first project was to create Pioneer Park along the banks of the Hillsboro Canal. They cleared the land, made an area to barbeque and to picnic, a baseball diamond with spectator stands. Since then the park has been expanded and now is home to boat ramps, several recreational buildings and lighted tennis courts. To raise funds for the project the Lions club had several chicken and rib barbeques. They were so popular and successful that this is now held as an annual celebration called “Founders’ Day”.
In 1951 the name was once again changed to The City of Deerfield Beach. As tourism picked up and agriculture took a bit of a back seat, the population became more diversified. As of the 2020 census the population of Deerfield is approximately 89,000 or so and the economy is more diverse including tourism, manufacturing, office employ and distribution to name a few. For some wonderful historical information and wonderful photos of Deerfield Beach please visit The Deerfield Beach Historical Society.
The Deerfield Beach Historical Society has a wonderful presentation on their site of 52 Deerfield Moments. Here’s a link: https://www.deerfieldbeachhistoricalsociety.com/52moments/
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