'A place where neighbors still know neighbors'
By James McDavitt
Our community's land first appeared in property records on Sept. 24, 1890, an unnamed parcel in Dade County. Decades later, Boca Raton began sprouting up around a hotel founded by society architect Addison Mizner and incorporated in May 1925. Mizner planned to turn the area into a playground for the rich and famous.
Fast forward to the 1950s, when developers Burt F. Haft and Jack W. Gains created Imperial Point in Fort Lauderdale, using a row of model homes to entice buyers. They decided to bring the idea to Boca Raton.
They purchased the property from the Butts family on Oct. 1, 1959. A month later, Haft/Gains and the Lake Worth Drainage District agreed to establish a canal on the site.
In October 1960, Florida Power and Light agreed to install electricity on the parcel, marking the birth of Royal Oak Hills. Haft/Gains acquired a second parcel, the Southwest Seventh Street portion of the community, in 1962 when Africa USA closed.
The Haft/Gaines concept was unique with its “model row." Each of the 9 models located on Southwest Fifth Street (a tenth model was introduced in 1962) was elaborately decorated. Each model house was a state-of-the-art GE (General Electric) home with central air conditioning, custom draperies and high-end furniture. Most other developers built one or two “spec” homes with little or no décor and no air conditioning, selling for $12,000 to $18,000. Royal Oak Hills homes were higher priced, from $17,900 to $29,900, attracting mostly retired executives, doctors and lawyers from up North.
I can remember when I was in grade school, standing at the main entrance on Camino Real and being able to see all the way to Palmetto Park Road as the only homes were the nine models. Today we have 423 homes.
I and my family have been associated with Royal Oak Hills ever since! There were no fences or hedges back then. There were only two grocery stores in the area, no high school, no hospital, no mall and no Interstate 95!
It was a much simpler time back then, but Royal Oak Hills is still a truly great place to live, a place where neighbors still know neighbors!