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Palm Beach County Interesting Facts and Figures

 
Contents:  

County History (Back to Top)

  • A U.S. Army fort built in Jupiter in 1838 is believed to be the first permanent non-Indian settlement in the area. The fort was followed by the first civilian residents who cared for the Jupiter Lighthouse beginning in 1860.

  • In the late 1800’s, the Jupiter and Lake Worth Celestial Railroad and Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) began service, opening up Palm Beach County to tourism and interstate trade.

  • Also in 1889, a heavy turnout at the voting polls forced Dade County, which included Palm Beach County at the time, to move its center of government from Miami to Juno where it remained until 1899. The Oakbrook Square Shopping Center is located where the former Juno Courthouse once stood.

  • In 1894, West Palm Beach became incorporated making it the oldest municipality in the county.

  • Palm Beach County was carved out of Dade County in 1909 becoming Florida’s 47th county. The first county government meetings were held in an old four-room schoolhouse at the corner of Clematis Street and Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. At the time, only about 5,300 people lived in the new county comprised of portions of what are now Broward, Martin and Okeechobee counties. Broward County was established in 1915, Okeechobee County in 1917 and Martin County in 1925.

  • Until 1963, Palm Beach County’s borders incorporated all of Lake Okeechobee. The lake now is partitioned among the five counties that surround it.

  • In 1905, Joseph Sakai began the Yamato Colony in present-day Boca Raton. Sakai attracted fellow Japanese to the area with the promise of farmland. One Japanese immigrant farmer who prospered at the colony was George Morikami. In the mid-1970s, Morikami donated his home and part of his land to Palm Beach County for a museum and park.

  • Palm Beach International Airport, formerly known as Morrison Field, opened in 1936. The airport’s 24-gate jetway opened in 1988.


Economics (Back to Top)
  • The three major industries in Palm Beach County are tourism, construction and agriculture. There are also many high-tech industries such as bioscience that contribute to the growing economy.

  • Tourism accounts for more than 53,000 jobs in tourism-related businesses such as hotels, restaurants, stores and transportation services and others. More than 2 million people visit Palm Beach County annually, and they spend approximately $3 billion while they are here. Lodging accounts for around $80 million in revenue, food and beverage $353 million.

  • Palm Beach County leads the nation in the production of sugar and sweet corn. Eighteen percent of all sugar in the United States is produced here. Sugar cane covers some 400,000 acres or about one-third of the county’s overall land mass. The county is also the leading producer in the state of rice, bell peppers, lettuce, radishes, Chinese vegetables, specialty leaf and celery.

  • The Palm Beach County School District is the largest employer in Palm Beach County with approximately 22,000 employees and 37,000 volunteers. For the 2011-2012 academic year, 174,000 students were enrolled in pre-k through 12th grade at the county’s 187 public schools.

  • Florida’s Enterprise Zone Program provides tax incentives to businesses located within or hiring from within the zones. The state currently has 19 enterprise zones with two in Palm Beach County.

  • The county’s Department of Economic Sustainability (DES) administers programs for business development, affordable housing, and community initiatives that increase economic competition.

  • The county’s Office of Small Business Assistance maintains a banking consortium with local lenders to make millions of dollars in low-interest loans available for small businesses.


Demographics (Back to Top)
  • As of 2012, Palm Beach County’s base population is 1.33 million, making it the third largest county in Florida behind Miami-Dade (2.55 million) and Broward (1.77 million). Fifty-five percent of Palm Beach County residents (742,000) live in one of 38 municipalities. The remaining 593,000 residents live in unincorporated areas.

  • The largest city both in area and population is West Palm Beach, which covers 52 square miles and has an incorporated population of 101,668. Boca Raton is second with 85,413 residents, followed by Boynton Beach, 68,741, Delray Beach, 61,495, and Wellington, 57,514. The county’s smallest town in population is Cloud Lake with 133 residents. The smallest municipalities in land area are Briny Breezes and Cloud Lake, both at .06 of a square mile. For more information on population and demographics, please visit the Planning Division’s website and click on the Palm Beach County Profile link.


Geography (Back to Top)
  • Not counting Lake Okeechobee, Palm Beach County is the second largest county in area in the state covering 1,977 square miles. Collier County is the largest at 1,998 square miles; Miami-Dade is third at 1,898. Palm Beach County is larger in land area than two states: Rhode Island and Delaware.

  • The four largest lakes in Palm Beach County are Lake Okeechobee, 488,000 acres; Lake Mangonia, 540 acres; Clear Lake, 401 acres; and Lake Osborne, 356 acres.

  • The county’s 45-mile-long Atlantic shoreline was nicknamed Florida’s Gold Coast after the gold recovered from Spanish galleons that sank offshore.

  • Eastern Palm Beach County is a thriving urban area while the central and western areas are mainly suburban and rural.


Weather (Back to Top)

  • The average winter daytime temperature in Palm Beach County is 74 degrees and 90 degrees in the summer. The average rainfall is 62 inches per year. The last time it snowed in the county was 1978.

Colleges and Universities (Back to Top)

  • There are a number of colleges and universities in Palm Beach County offering two-year and four-year degrees, as well as vocational and technical degrees.

  • Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Jupiter has undergraduate and graduate programs in art, architecture, education, engineering, business, early care, fine arts, health services, information technology, music, public safety and many others.

  • Palm Beach State College has five campus locations in the county offering associate and vocational/technical degrees, noncredit courses and workshops. Nearly 49,000 students are enrolled in over 100 programs of study including bachelor of applied science, associate in arts and associate in science degree programs, and short-term certificates. The school’s first baccalaureate program, Supervision & Management, started in 2009.

  • Palm Beach Atlantic University in downtown West Palm Beach is a Christian-based four-year liberal arts school. Northwood University specializes in business and management degrees. Other higher-education schools in the area include College of the Palm Beaches, and Barry, Lynn, Nova, South and Strayer universities.


Sports/Recreation (Back to Top)
  • Palm Beach County‘s Parks and Recreation Department operates 79 parks, including two water parks. Many county parks feature athletic facilities, camp sites, trails and beaches. For specific amenities and park locations, please see All Parks A-Z. County parks include more than 8,000 acres of land for residents to explore.

  • The Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management manages 35 natural areas encompassing more than 30,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands. The following natural areas have public-use facilities including a small parking lot, informational kiosks and hiking trails: Delray Oaks, Frenchman’s Forest, High Ridge Scrub, Hypoluxo Scrub, Juno Dunes, Jupiter Ridge, Leon M. Weekes, Ocean Ridge, Rosemary Scrub, Royal Palm Beach Pines, Seacrest Scrub, Sweetbay and Yamato Scrub.

  • Palm Beach County is often referred to as “The Golf Capital of the World™” with more than 150 public and private golf courses. It is the Spring Training home of the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, who train at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Class A Florida State League games are played there throughout the summer.

  • Polo and equestrian events are very popular in Palm Beach County. Polo tournaments such as the $100,000 World Cup and the Winter Equestrian Festival bring large crowds and international celebrities. The county-owned Jim Brandon Equestrian Center at Okeeheelee Park South hosts western and English horse shows throughout the year.

  • Saltwater and freshwater fishing enthusiasts alike enjoy some of the best fishing opportunities in North America. Other outdoor sports enjoyed year-round are tennis, softball, soccer, bicycling, in-line skating, shuffleboard, croquet, boating, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, surfing, wind surfing and kite boarding, beach volleyball, water skiing, kayaking and canoeing.

  • Palm Beach County’s Therapeutic Recreation Complex offers wheelchair sports, adapted aquatics, social skills training, sailing, leisure activities, team building, special events, and Special Olympics training for people of all ages and abilities, as well as a wide variety of visual and performing arts programs.


Entertainment and Leisure (Back to Top)

Palm Beach County offers a multitude of cultural attractions such as classical concerts, live theater, opera and ballet. Local performance venues include:

  • Royal Poinciana Playhouse
  • Delray Beach Playhouse
  • Watson B. Duncan Theater
  • Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center
  • Florida Ballet and the Palm Beach Opera

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach provides some of the finest professional cultural productions anywhere in South Florida. The Cruzan Amphitheatre at the South Florida Fairgrounds draws big-name pop, rock and country performers.

History buffs will enjoy touring the county’s many museums and gardens, such as:

  • American Orchid Society Visitors Center and Botanical Garden
  • Bink Glisson Historical Museum
  • Boca Centre for the Arts in Mizner Park
  • Boca Raton Museum of Art
  • DuBois Pioneer Home
  • Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
  • Loxahatchee River Historical Museum
  • Jupiter Lighthouse
  • Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
  • Mounts Botanical Garden
  • Norton Museum of Art
  • Old School Square Cultural Arts Center
  • Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum (1916 Court House)
  • S.D. Spady Museum

The South Florida Fairgrounds is home to the South Florida Fair and Exposition, an annual 17-day event held in January.

Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation operates three amphitheaters where live concerts, festivals, and special events are held. For schedules of upcoming events at Sunset Cove, Seabreeze and Canyon amphitheaters, please visit the Parks & Recreation website.

Lion Country Safari, located on State Road 80 west of Wellington, is one of the oldest and most popular tourist attractions in the county, offering close-up views of wild animals from other continents.

The Palm Beach Zoo is located at Dreher Park on Summit Boulevard in West Palm Beach. The zoo houses over 1,400 animals within 23-acres of lush tropical habitat.

The South Florida Science Museum, also located in Dreher Park, features interactive science exhibits and includes an aquarium and planetarium.

Last Updated: June 2013

 

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