|Palm Beach County, Florida|
West Palm Beach, looking northeast
Location in the U.S. state of Florida
Florida's location in the U.S.
|Founded||April 30, 1909|
|Named for||Palm Beach|
|Seat||West Palm Beach|
|Largest city||West Palm Beach|
|o Total||2,383 sq mi (6,172 km2)|
|o Land||1,970 sq mi (5,102 km2)|
|o Water||413 sq mi (1,070 km2), 17.3%|
|o Density||747/sq mi (288/km2)|
|Congressional districts||18th, 20th, 21st, 22nd|
Palm Beach County is a county in the state of Florida that is directly north of Broward County. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,320,134, making it the third-most populous county in Florida. The largest city and county seat is West Palm Beach. Named after one of its oldest settlements, Palm Beach, the county was established in 1909, after being split from Dade County. The county's modern-day boundaries were established in 1963.
The area had been increasing in population since the late 19th century, with the incorporation of West Palm Beach in 1894 and after Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railway and built the Royal Poinciana Hotel, The Breakers, and Whitehall. In 1928, the Okeechobee hurricane struck Palm Beach County and caused thousands of deaths. More recently, the county acquired national attention during the 2000 presidential election, when a controversial recount occurred.
As of 2004, Palm Beach County is Florida's wealthiest county, with a per capita personal income of $44,518. It leads the state in agricultural productivity; agriculture is Palm Beach County's 2nd largest industry, after real estate development.
Approximately 10,200 years ago, Native Americans began migrating into Florida. An estimated 20,000 Native Americans lived in South Florida when the Spanish arrived. Their population diminished significantly by the 18th century, due to warfare, enslavement, and diseases from Europe. In 1513, Juan Ponce de León, who led a European expedition to Florida earlier that year, became the first non-Native American to reach Palm Beach County, after landing in the modern day Jupiter area. Among the first non-Native American residents were African Americans, many of whom were former slaves or immediate descendants of former slaves. Runaway African slaves started coming to what was then Spanish Florida in the late 17th century and they found refuge among the Seminoles. During the Seminole Wars, these African-American slaves fought with the Seminoles against White settlers and bounty hunters. Portions of the Second Seminole War occurred in Palm Beach County, including the Battle of Jupiter Inlet in 1838.
The oldest surviving structure, the Jupiter Lighthouse, was built in 1860, after receiving authorization to the land from President Franklin Pierce in 1854. During the American Civil War, Florida was a member of the Confederate States of America. Two Confederate adherents removed the lighting mechanism from the lighthouse. One of the men who removed the light, Augustus O. Lang, was also the first white settler in Palm Beach County. He built a palmetto shack along the eastern shore of Lake Worth in 1863 after abandoning the cause of the Confederacy. After the Civil War ended, the Jupiter Lighthouse was re-lit in 1866. Thirteen years later, a National Weather Service office was established at the lighthouse complex. However, the office would be moved to Miami in 1911 after that city's population began to rapidly grow.
In October 1873, a hurricane caused a shipwreck between Biscayne Bay and the New River. The crew survived, but nearly died due to starvation because of the desolation of the area. In response, five Houses of Refuge were built along the east coast of Florida from the Fort Pierce Inlet southward to Biscayne Bay. Orange Grove House of Refuge No. 3 was built near Delray Beach in 1876.
Henry Flagler, who was instrumental in the county's development in the late 19th century and early 20th century, first visited in 1892. He subsequently purchased land on both sides of Lake Worth. Other investors followed suit, causing a small boom and bringing in existing businesses and resulting in the establishment of many new businesses. The Royal Poinciana Hotel, constructed by Flagler to accommodate wealthy tourists, opened for business in February 1894. About a month later, the Florida East Coast Railway, owned by Flagler, reached West Palm Beach. On November 5, 1894, Palm Beach County's oldest city, West Palm Beach, was incorporated. In 1896, another hotel built by Flagler was opened, the Palm Beach Inn, later renamed The Breakers. He also constructed his own winter home beginning in 1900; he and his wife moved in on February 6, 1902. Flagler died there on May 20, 1913, after falling down a flight of marble stairs.
The Florida Legislature voted to establish Palm Beach County in 1909, carving it out of what was then the northern portion of Dade County and initially including all of Lake Okeechobee. The southernmost part of Palm Beach County was separated to create the northern portion of Broward County in 1915, the northwestern portion became part of Okeechobee County 1917, and southern Martin County was created from northernmost Palm Beach County in 1925. The boundaries remained the same until 1963, when about three-quarters of Lake Okeechobee was removed from Palm Beach County and divided up among Glades, Hendry, Martin, and Okeechobee counties. This was the final change to the county's boundaries.
Early on September 17, 1928, the Okeechobee hurricane made landfall near West Palm Beach as a Category 4 and crossed Lake Okeechobee shortly thereafter. Coastal cities were devastated, especially West Palm Beach, where more than 1,711 homes were destroyed. Further inland, wind-driven storm surge in Lake Okeechobee inundated adjacent communities, particularly Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay. Hundreds of square miles were flooded, including some areas with up to 20 feet (6.1 m) of water. Numerous houses were swept away and damaged after crashing into other obstacles. At least 2,500 deaths occurred, many of whom were black migrant farmers. Damage in South Florida totaled approximately $25 million. In response to the storm, the Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed to prevent a similar disaster. As a result of this hurricane and the 1926 Miami hurricane, Palm Beach County, along with the rest of South Florida, began suffering economic turmoil and pushed the region into the Great Depression, even before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Housing prices dropped dramatically in the county, as well as in the rest of the country.
The Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA), then known as Morrison's Field, opened in 1936. After the United States entered World War II, it was converted to an Air Force Base in 1942. During the war, thousands of servicemen arrived in Palm Beach County for training and supporting the war effort. Following the conclusion of World War II, a number of veterans returned to the area for work, vacation, or retirement. The base was closed and became a commercial airport again in 1962. Migration to the county by workers, tourists, and retirees continued into the 21st century.
The area's first television station, WIRK-TV Channel 21, signed on September 13, 1953. It went off the air less than three years later. However, NBC affiliate WPTV-TV and CBS affiliate WPEC first aired in 1954 and 1955, respectively – both of which are still in existence today.
Richard Paul Pavlick nearly attempted to assassinate then President-elect John F. Kennedy while the family vacationed in Palm Beach in December 1960. On December 11, Pavlick forwent his attempt because Kennedy was with his wife, Jacqueline, and their two children. Four days later, Pavlick's car, which had sticks of dynamite inside, was surrounded by police and he was arrested. Charges against Pavolick were dropped on December 2, 1963, 10 days after Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Additionally, a secret blast shelter was built on Peanut Island during his presidency because escalating Cold War tensions.
Hurricane David struck near West Palm Beach late on September 3, 1979, with sustained winds of 100 mph (155 km/h). The storm's winds shattered windows in stores near the coast and caused property damage. A few roofs were torn off, and numerous buildings were flooded from over 6 inches (150 mm) of rainfall. Damage in the county reached $30 million, most of which was incurred to agriculture.
The county became the center of controversy during the 2000 presidential election. Allegedly, the "butterfly ballot", designed by Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, led to an unexpectedly large number of votes for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, rather than for Democrat Al Gore. Due to the aforementioned "butterfly ballot" and the closeness of the statewide results between Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush, manual recounts were conducted. On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court voted 4-3 to mandate manual recounts in all counties with disputed results. However, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, allowing Florida Secretary of the State Katherine Harris to award the 25 electoral votes to Bush, as Harris's tally prior to the state-ordered recounts placed him ahead of Gore by 537 popular votes. In turn, this gave Bush victory in the national election.
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, an FBI investigation revealed that 12 of the 19 hijackers trained or resided in Palm Beach County during the months prior to the attacks. Later that month, during the anthrax attacks, a letter containing spores of this substance was mailed to the American Media, Inc. building in Boca Raton. Three people were exposed to the anthrax, including Robert Stevens, a photo editor who later died after an infection induced by exposure.
Several tropical cyclones impacted Palm Beach County in 2004 and 2005, especially hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma. On September 5, 2004, Frances made landfall in Martin County as a Category 2 hurricane. With wind gusts in Palm Beach County peaking at 91 mph (146 km/h), the storm inflicted structural damage on approximately 15,000 houses and 2,400 businesses. Six deaths occurred in the county. Jeanne struck near the same location as a Category 3 hurricane on September 26, 2004. The storm also brought strong winds, with an official wind gust of 94 mph (151 km/h). About 4,160 homes were damaged and 60 were destroyed. Jeanne left about $260 million in damage in the county. On October 24, 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck Collier County as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm moved northwestward, directly crossing Palm Beach County. Several locations reported hurricane force winds, including a wind gust of 117 mph (188 km/h) in Belle Glade. Over 90% of Florida Power & Light customers lost electricity. Two deaths occurred in Palm Beach County. The storm inflicted some degree of impact to more than 55,000 homes and 3,600 businesses. Palm Beach County suffered about $2.9 billion in damage.
In August 2008, Tropical Storm Fay brought generally minor flooding, with 7 to 9 in (180 to 230 mm) of rain over the county's eastern portions. Fay also spawned an EF-2 tornado in Wellington. About four years later, in August 2012, the outerbands of Hurricane Isaac dropped at least 15.86 in (403 mm) of rain near Lion Country Safari. The consequent flooding left neighborhoods in The Acreage, Loxahatchee, Loxahatchee Groves, Royal Palm Beach, and Wellington stranded for up to several days. As Hurricane Irma approached in September 2017, mandatory or voluntary evacuations were ordered for more than 290,000 residents of Palm Beach County. Although the storm would pass well west of the county, much of the area experienced hurricane force wind gusts, with a peak gust of 91 mph (146 km/h) in West Palm Beach. Impact was generally limited to widespread power outages and damaged trees and vegetation, though there were reports of isolated property damage. The storm left about $300 million in damage in the county, as well as five fatalities.
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is not native to Florida (nor anywhere else in the United States). Its presence in what is today Palm Beach County is due to the shipwreck of the Spanish ship Providencia in 1878, near today's Mar-a-Lago. It was traveling from Havana to Cádiz, Spain with a cargo of coconuts. The shipwreck was within walking distance of the shore--the Florida State Archives conserves a picture--and a deliberate grounding so as to obtain an insurance payout has been proposed. The coconuts were salvaged, too many to be eaten, and thousands were planted. A lush grove of palm trees soon grew on what was later named Palm Beach.
|Palm Beach, FL|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,383 square miles (6,170 km2), of which 1,970 square miles (5,100 km2) is land and 413 square miles (1,070 km2) (17.3%) is water. It is the second-largest county in Florida by land area and third-largest by total area. Much of the water is the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Okeechobee. The county has approximately 526,000 acres (213,000 ha) of farmland.
The eastern third of Palm Beach County is highly urbanized, while the central and western portions of the county are suburban or rural. Palm Beach County is one of three counties in the Miami metropolitan area. However, the county's western communities along Lake Okeechobee, such as Belle Glade, South Bay, and Pahokee, have also been considered part of the rural Florida Heartland.
The Atlantic coastline of Palm Beach County is approximately 47 mi (76 km) in length. It consists mainly of barrier islands and peninsulas, including Jupiter Island, Singer Island, and Palm Beach Island. These islands are separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway, with much of the waterway locally known as the Lake Worth Lagoon. The main barrier landmasses are split by four inlets: the Jupiter Inlet, the Lake Worth Inlet, the South Lake Worth Inlet, and the Boca Raton Inlet. Two of the four inlets are natural, but significantly altered – the Jupiter and Boca Raton inlets – while the Lake Worth and South Lake Worth inlets are man-made, with the former dug in the 1890s and the latter created between 1926 and 1927. Several other islands exist within the Intracoastal Waterway, including Hypoluxo Island, Munyon Island, and Peanut Island.
Palm Beach County borders Martin County to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Broward County to the south, Hendry County to the west, and extends into Lake Okeechobee in the northwest, where it borders Okeechobee County and Glades County at one point in the center of the lake.
In addition the county has many coral reef patches along its coastline. The county has put in a lot of effort to preserve the reefs.
As of 2010, Haitians made up the largest population of immigrants, with Cuban exiled refugees coming in second, Mexicans in third, followed by Colombians in fourth place, then Jamaicans, Guatemalans, Canadians, Hondurans, ninth being Peruvians, and Brazilians being the tenth highest group of expatriates. British, Germans, and Polish, which had held spots in Palm Beach County's top 10 immigrant list of 2000, dropped off the 2010 list, which now no longer has any European countries in its top ten.
There were 664,594 households out of which 24.35% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.28% were married couples living together, 11.68% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.40% were non-families. 30.11% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.70% (4.02% male and 10.68% female) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.97.
The age distribution is 20.4% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 26.4% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.3 males.
In 2010, 22.3% of the county's population was foreign born, with 43.7% being naturalized American citizens. Of foreign-born residents, 71.3% were born in Latin America, 13.6% were born in Europe, 9.2% born in Asia, 4.0% in North America, 1.8% born in Africa, and 0.1% were born in Oceania.
As of 2010, 73.13% of all residents spoke English as a primary language, while 15.69% spoke Spanish, 4.03% French Creole (mainly Haitian Creole,) 1.06% French, 0.94% Portuguese, and 0.54% of the population spoke Italian. In total, 26.87% spoke languages other than English as their mother language.
Companies headquartered in Palm Beach County include Office Depot, The ADT Corporation, TBC Corporation, G4S Secure Solutions, BIOMET 3i, Campus Management Corp., Cross Match Technologies, NextEra Energy, The GEO Group, Globalsat Group, Bluegreen Vacations and Florida Crystals.
Although not headquartered in Palm Beach County there is a significant number of aerospace focused facilities operating in the northern part of the county. Aerospace companies with facilities located within the county include United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Sikorsky Aircraft, General Dynamics, Belcan Engineering Group and Lockheed Martin. Many of these companies rank among the top 100 employers for the county. 
A number of shopping malls exist throughout Palm Beach County, including the Boynton Beach Mall, The Gardens Mall, Town Center at Boca Raton, CityPlace, The Mall at Wellington Green and Mizner Park. Formerly, the Palm Beach and Cross County Malls operated in the county, though they closed in 1997 and 2010, respectively.
In undeveloped (central and western) Palm Beach County there is significant agricultural production, especially nurseries, truck crops (vegetables), and sugar cane. Palm Beach County has been called the "Winter Vegetable Capital" of the nation.
Previously W. R. Grace and Company had its headquarters in unincorporated Palm Beach County, near Boca Raton. Prior to its closing, the Boca Raton headquarters had about 130 employees. On January 27, 2011 it announced it was closing the Boca headquarters and moving its administrative staff out of state along with some employees.
For 2010 the median income for a household in the county was $53,242, and the median income for a family was $64,445. Males had a median income of $44,324 versus $37,337 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,610. About 8.6% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.5% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those aged 65 or over.
The county is governed by a Board of Commissioners. The Board consists of seven commissioners, who are all elected from single-member districts. One of the commissioners is elected Mayor and one of them is elected Vice-Mayor. Commissioners serve staggered terms, and Commissioners from Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7 are elected during presidential election years, while the Commissioners from Districts 2, 4, and 6 are elected in gubernatorial election years.
Elected county officers include a Clerk of Courts and Comptroller, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Supervisor of Elections. State officers serving the Florida judicial district include the State Attorney, and Public Defender. All positions are four year terms, requiring direct election by voters in presidential election years.
Five former county commissioners have been accused or found guilty of corruption from 2006 to 2009. A grand jury recommended a strong inspector general. This position was approved by county voters in 2010. A county judge found that the mandate covered municipal government in 2015.
|Palm Beach County Officials|
|District 1 Commissioner||Hal R. Valeche|
|District 2 Commissioner||Paulette Burdick|
|District 3 Commissioner||Dave Kerner|
|District 4 Commissioner||Steven L. Abrams|
|District 5 Commissioner||Mary Lou Berger|
|District 6 Commissioner||Melissa McKinlay|
|District 7 Commissioner||Mack Bernard|
|Clerk and Comptroller||Sharon R. Bock|
|Property Appraiser||Dorothy Jacks|
|Tax Collector||Anne M. Gannon|
|Supervisor of Elections||Susan Bucher|
|State Attorney||Dave Aronberg|
|Public Defender||Carey Haughwout|
In April 2017, the county had a strong Democratic plurality, with large Republican and independent minorities, respectively.
|Name||Number of voters||%|
Since 1992, Palm Beach County has supported a Democrat for the presidency. Prior to 1992, the county had been carried by a Republican every four years since 1948. Palm Beach County was the center of a nationwide media storm in 2000 when it appeared to have impacted the presidential election that year between eventual winner George W. Bush and Al Gore. A major source of controversy was the butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, a confusing ballot design which may have caused many voters to mistakenly vote for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore. Buchanan had an unexpectedly strong showing in the county. In the end, Gore carried the county, but Bush captured the state of Florida by 537 votes after the recount was effectively halted by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bush v. Gore.
In the 2004 presidential election, President Bush garnered more votes in the state, but trailed Democrat John Kerry by 60.35%-39.05%. During the United States Senate election, Betty Castor (D) carried Palm Beach County against Republican Mel Martinez by a slightly wider margin of 22.26%. In 2006, incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D) trounced Katherine Harris (R), receiving about 72.54% of the vote. Then-Republican Charlie Crist was defeated in the county by Jim Davis (D) by 59.71%-38.28%. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama increased the Democratic victory margin from four years earlier and took approximately 61.08% of the vote against John McCain (R) in the county.
In the 2010 gubernatorial election, Alex Sink (D) won Palm Beach County by a margin of 18.67% against Rick Scott (R). That same year, then-Independent United States Senate candidate and former Governor Crist carried Palm Beach County by just under 3,000 votes, or a margin of only 0.74%. President Obama, who was re-elected in 2012, won by a smaller margin in the county, with Mitt Romney managing to receive 41.18% of the vote. During the Class I United States Senate seat election in Florida, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson garnered 55.2% of the vote against challenger Connie Mack IV in Palm Beach County. Former Governor Crist, who became a Democrat, garnered 58.8% of the vote against Governor Scott in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
In the United States House of Representatives, Palm Beach County is represented by three Democrats and one Republican: Brian Mast of the 18th district, Alcee Hastings of the 20th district, Ted Deutch of the 21st district, and Lois Frankel of the 22nd district.
An advocacy group has criticized Palm Beach County's roadways for being dangerous for non-motorized users. Local municipalities are working to increase safety, but county and state authorities have been hesitant to modify designs.
I-95 and Florida's Turnpike are controlled-access expressways that serve Palm Beach county. Southern Boulevard (signed SR 80/US 98), which runs east-west through central Palm Beach County, is a partial freeway from Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach to US 441/SR 7 in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach. In the late 1980s, there were plans to construct two additional expressways in Palm Beach County. One was to be an 11.5 miles (18.5 km) toll freeway from Royal Palm Beach to downtown West Palm Beach. It would have run between Belvedere Road and Okeechobee Boulevard; necessitating the destruction of several homes and churches along its path. The other proposed route was a northern extension of the Sawgrass Expressway which was to be called "University Parkway". The University Parkway would have snaked around suburban developments west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and Boynton Beach; its path bordering the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Ultimately, both expressways were canceled due to opposition from county residents.
Tri-Rail provides Commuter Rail service with stops from Miami and Broward Counties
All of Palm Beach County is served by the School District of Palm Beach County. As of 2006, it was the 4th largest school district in Florida and the 11th largest school district in the United States. As of August 2006, the district operated 164 schools, including 25 high schools, and, as of July 22, 2006 had an additional 33 charter schools, with seven more scheduled to open in August 2006. Newsweek listed three Palm Beach County high schools in the top 50 schools in the list 1200 Top U.S. Schools - Atlantic Community High School, Suncoast High School and the Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts, all public magnet schools. Private schools in the county include American Heritage School, Cardinal Newman High School, Jupiter Christian School, The King's Academy, The Benjamin School, Oxbridge Academy, Pope John Paul II High School, St Andrew's School and Weinbaum Yeshiva High School.
Palm Beach County Library System operates public libraries, the main one being the Main Library on Summit Blvd.
The city of West Palm Beach operates the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach for its residents. Other cities also operate separate public libraries for their residents, such as the Boca Raton Public Library.
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins conduct their spring training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Two teams in the Class A-Advanced Florida State League also play their home games at Roger Dean Stadium: the Jupiter Hammerheads, an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, and the Palm Beach Cardinals, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Prior to the construction of Roger Dean Stadium, the Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves held their spring training at Municipal Stadium in West Palm Beach. The West Palm Beach Expos, a Single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos, also played their games there.
Also popular are the Florida Atlantic Owls, an NCAA Division I school that participates in Conference USA. The FAU football team play at FAU Stadium, and averaged 17,941 fans during the 2017 season. The FAU basketball team plays at FAU Arena, and averaged 1,346 fans during the 2013-14 season.
The largest city and county seat is West Palm Beach, with an estimated population of over 105,000. Additionally, the approximate urban population is 250,000, when including adjacent unincorporated neighborhoods. Boca Raton, is the southernmost and second largest, bordering Broward and having a population approaching 90,000. Boynton Beach (in between Boca and West Palm), is the third largest city, with a population nearing 70,000 residents.
The county has 39 municipalities in total. The municipalities are numbered corresponding to the attached image, except for the newest municipality, Westlake. Municipality populations are based on the 2010 Census.
|#||Incorporated Community||Designation||Date incorporated||Population|
|2||Belle Glade||City||April 9, 1928||17,467|
|37||Boca Raton||City||May 26, 1925||84,392|
|33||Briny Breezes||Town||March 19, 1963||601|
|35||Delray Beach||City||October 9, 1911||60,522|
|23||Greenacres||City||May 24, 1926||37,573|
|7||Juno Beach||Town||June 4, 1953||3,176|
|6||Jupiter||Town||February 9, 1925||55,156|
|5||Jupiter Inlet Colony||Town||1959||400|
|20||Lake Clarke Shores||Town||1957||3,376|
|25||Lake Worth||City||June 14, 1913||34,910|
|38||Loxahatchee Groves||Town||November 1, 2006||3,180|
|9||North Palm Beach||Village||1956||12,015|
|14||Palm Beach||Town||April 17, 1911||8,348|
|8||Palm Beach Gardens||City||June 20, 1959||48,452|
|12||Palm Beach Shores||Town||1951||1,142|
|11||Riviera Beach||City||September 29, 1922||32,488|
|21||Royal Palm Beach||Village||June 18, 1959||34,140|
|26||South Palm Beach||Town||1955||1,171|
|22||Wellington||Village||December 31, 1995||56,508|
|15||West Palm Beach||City||November 5, 1894||99,919|