Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk at Century Village®, Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Florida, USA

It should be noted that Century Village® is a registered trade mark, and reference to this place name has to be denoted accordingly.

The neighborhood of Suffolk at Century Village® is located at 26° 23’ 35” N  80° 10’ 60” W  in the unincorporated part of Palm Beach County west of Boca Raton, Florida. 

Population:- Suffolk neighborhood, based on seven condominium blocks, is estimated to be about 530.  The population of Century Village® in 2010 was 7,587.  The population of Boca Raton in 2020 was 97,422.  


How to get there:-

By Road: State Highway 91 runs through Boca Raton from north to south. It connects with Interstate Highway 95 at Palm Beach West in the north, & rejoins it again close to North Miami Beach in the south.

On the Ronald Reagan Turnpike (State Highway 91) take Exit 75 to Glades Road (State Highway 808).  Turn right at Glades Road towards the west and continue to next major intersection (Lyons Road); turn right (north) until Century Village® is reached on the right.  There are two gated entrances, one in the south (East Kimberly Boulevard) and the other in the north (East New England Boulevard).  Take the northern entrance and Suffolk neighborhood is immediately on the left.  

By Rail: Boca Raton Station is a Tri-Rail commuter rail station located on Yamato Road, just east of Congress Avenue (State Highway 807) and west of Interstate 95.  TriRail is a commuter line linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach run by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA).

The nearest major airport is Palm Beach International Airport. This airport has international and domestic flights and is 26 miles from the centre of Boca Raton.  Other major airports which have international and domestic flights are Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (28 miles away) and Miami International Airport (49 miles away).  Boca Raton Airport is a state-owned public-use airport located two miles northwest of the central business district of Boca Raton.  It is designated as a general aviation transport facility.   

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

History & Derivation of Name

Boca Raton

Palm Beach County

History & Derivation of Name

Attorney H. Irwin Levy, born in 1926, lived most of his adult life in Palm Beach, Florida, dealing mainly with real estate.  When a potential partner came to Levy in 1967 and suggested they build a retirement community called Century Village®, he realised the potential at once.  With annual average temperatures ranging from mid 60°F in winter to mid 80°F in summer, South Florida has one of the best climates in the country.  With endless summers in Florida, if an environment of leisure and recreation could be created, it would become a retirement haven.  In 1968, Irwin Levy bought 680 acres of ranch and swamp land in suburban West Palm Beach, created Century Village® and changed the face of Florida.

Century Village® became the first large-scale retirement community to offer not just a home but an entire way of life, however brief.  Levy’s formula was to sell condominiums (individual apartments) cheaply and make money by charging for the use of recreation facilities and services.  It worked.  The residents did not care that the buildings looked like concrete barracks, not when they had available a million-dollar clubhouse, live entertainment, a golf course, swimming pools, tennis courts and man-made lakes.  Irwin Levy sold nearly 8,000 one- and two-bedroom condominiums in about four years.  By 1974 he had sold the last of the 7,854 units in West Palm Beach.  He then went on to build three other Century Villages® in Florida between the 1970s and 1998, in Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton and Pembroke Pines, totaling 20,000 more units.  In October 1997, Irwin Levy formally sold the holding company and name to the First American Bank and Trust.  Soon afterward, the bank bought out the remaining stockholders so that it owned all shares of the company.  By then, Century Village® had become a metaphor for other copycat villages that sprang up around Florida.  The demographics of Florida had changed in a big way.  In 1980, according to the US census, 2 percent of retirement village residents were 85 or older, and this percentage figure continues to rise.  An ageing population has different demands from the rest of the community, and this has had repercussions in the political arena that cannot be ignored.

Within the village, the formula is always the same.  A Century Village® community consists of between 5,700 and 8,500 condominium residences in two to four storey buildings.  There is an age limitation in that residents have to be 55+.  Most of the residences have lake, golf, pool or garden views and offer spacious floor areas.  There are separate entrances to each apartment, and once the home owner has purchased the property it can be leased out, sold on or inherited.  However, the age limitation always applies to the home owners or tenants.  The community features fitness centres, tennis courts, a golf course and an Olympic-size swimming pool, as well as a clubhouse with its own theatre and activity rooms.  There are adequate car parking spaces for residents and their visitors, and residents have access to shuttle transportation to local shops and restaurants.  For extra protection, there is a medical-alert system in each condominium so residents can press a button and receive immediate attention from paramedics or full-time nurses on the premises.  Each Century Village® has 24-hour gated security entrances and frequent roving patrols.

All Century Village® communities are managed independently, except for the recreation facilities, which are run by a series of corporations owned by the Levy family.  Each village is subdivided into separate neighborhoods that contain a number of condominium blocks.  These form legally incorporated homeowner associations that are self-managing with their own board of directors elected by the home-owners.  Each association is recognised as a separate neighborhood community within the local administrative structure of the surrounding city and county under Florida law.  Everything within the boundaries of the neighborhood is the responsibility of the association, and each association contracts with an external management company that places a dedicated team in the Century Village®.  This team deals with the administration and arranges for a full-time staff to service the facilities, landscape the gardens and maintain the area.  

The Boca Raton community, commonly referred to as “Century Village® West”, was begun in 1981 and completed in 1984.   It is located on Lyons Road approximately 1 mile north of Glades Road.  It is to the northwest of the centre of Boca Raton and is actually outside the municipal boundary on unincorporated land within Palm Beach County.  The perimeter of Century Village® is by Lyons Road in the west, Yamato Road in the north, State Highway 91 (the Ronald Reagan Turnpike) in the east, and to the south it is bounded by Brentwood of Boca, another gated community.  A perimeter fence with a narrow water channel separates the Village community from the outside world and Century Village® can only be accessed by two controlled entrances on Lyons Road (see ‘How to get there’ above).     

There are 16 neighborhoods at the Boca Raton site built around the manmade Lake Windermere: Ainslie, Brighton, Cornwall, Dorset, Exeter, Fanshaw, Guildford, Hythe, Lincoln, Mansfield, Newcastle, Preston, Rexford, Suffolk, Wolverton and Yarmouth.  The 100 condominium blocks contain 5,720 units (apartments).  As with the other Century Villages®, the names follow an alphabetic sequence and seem to be mainly from locations in England, although of course towns and counties with these same names can be found all over the USA.  

The Suffolk neighborhood is located in the northwest corner of Century Village®. It is bounded on two sides by the perimeter of the Village itself: Lyons Road in the west, and Yamato Road to the north.  The eastern boundary of Suffolk is Suffolk Way and the southern boundary is East New England Boulevard.  Suffolk comprises seven groups of three adjoining three-storey condominium blocks built in 1981.  The condominium groups are known as “Suffolk A”, “Suffolk B”, etc. to “Suffolk G”.  Access to Suffolk blocks E, F and G is along East New England Boulevard immediately left after the entrance to the Village; for blocks A, B, C and D continue along East New England Boulevard to the first intersection, turn left up Suffolk Way and left again at its end to reach the car park.

The amenities in Century Village® include a clubhouse, theatre, health spa, arts and crafts, music and other facilities.  Outdoor activities include swimming pools, tennis, fishing and an 18-hole, par 70 golf course.  The demographics at a Century Village® are recorded as a median age of 78 with a population that is 98% white, compared with a median age of 42 and 89% white in the rest of Boca Raton.

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Boca Raton

Boca Raton Inlet is the southernmost inlet in Palm Beach County.  In Spanish “Boca” means “mouth” and “Raton” means “mouse”, so many people assume the name means “The Mouse’s Mouth”.  However, in Spanish nautical terms the word “Boca” refers to an inlet, and the word “ratones” was a maritime reference to “jagged rocks or stony ground on the bottom of ports and coastal outlets”.  Thus, Boca de Ratones or Boca Ratones  meant “an inlet of sharp-pointed rocks”.  The original location of Boca de Ratones was Biscayne Bay near present day Miami Beach, but that inlet was closed by infilling sand by 1822, and from about 1838 the name was mistakenly applied to an inlet much farther north.  This is the current Lake Boca Raton in present Palm Beach County, whose inlet had been closed throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  The ‘s’ and ‘e’ from Ratones were dropped from the name in the 1920s.

The first settler was the surveyor, Thomas M. Rickards, in 1895 who resided in a house made of driftwood.  With the completion of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway in 1896 (see below), families arrived from Georgia and South Carolina, and by the early 1900s Boca Raton was a tiny agricultural community, specialising in pineapple cultivation and winter vegetables for the northern markets.  Amongst these families were a group of Japanese immigrants under the leadership of Joseph Sakai, who arrived in 1904 and formed a community along today’s Yamato Road.   By the 1920s most of the Japanese had moved elsewhere, but they left the name which means “large, peaceful country”.  

In 1925 the town of Boca Raton was incorporated at the height of the Florida land boom.  That year Palm Beach architect, Addison Mizner, arrived with plans to develop a 1600-acre tract of Mediterranean style holiday homes.  Although he went bankrupt two years later, his efforts ultimately turned Boca Raton from a sleepy village into a resort community.  In the 1960s, South Florida experienced another great land boom, with developments pushing the Everglades and former farmlands increasingly westward.  Today Boca Raton is home to 84,000 residents within the city limits, and another 120,000 in the unincorporated “West Boca”.

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Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County is the largest county in the state of Florida in total area, and third in population.

Native American tribes of the Tequesta, Jeaga, Caloosa and later the Seminoles occupied this territory.  Among the first non-natives in Palm Beach County were African-Americans who had escaped to Spanish Florida from slave plantations in the southern United States during the 17th century.  They found refuge among the Seminole and were able to maintain themselves in the swamplands.

The few European settlers who ventured into the area followed the military who established the Fort Jupiter Reservation in 1838 after the Seminole Wars, and in 1860 settlers gathered near to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, built that year as an important navigational aid along this Atlantic coastline.  There were a few others who scraped a living from the sea on small plots along Lake Worth, then a 22 mile freshwater lake separated from the sea by a barrier beach ridge.  From 1866 settlers began making outlets to the ocean so that they did not have to haul their boats over the barrier beach, and by 1880 Lake Worth had become a saltwater lagoon.  The interior remained dense swampland vegetation until the late 1870s and 1880s.  The Homestead Act (1862) gave every head of family 160 acres of land to reside in as long as they cultivated it, and this prompted clearance and drainage of the land in the “Lake Worth Country” as the productive soil provided tropical fruit and winter vegetables which, by this time, could be kept fresh while being shipped to the northern markets.  

However, it was Henry Flagler who was instrumental in the county’s development.  Henry Morrison Flagler, the co-partner of Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller, visited the desolate barrier island of Palm Beach in 1892 and realised the potential for tourism.  He began buying tracts of land here and built the six-storey Royal Poinciana Hotel, which opened in 1894.  He then extended his Florida East Coast Railway to West Palm Beach with a spur line across the Lake Worth Lagoon to Palm Beach so that his wealthy guests could arrive directly at the hotel’s entrance in their own private railway cars.  Palm Beach became the premier winter resort in the USA for the wealthy.  West Palm Beach on the mainland was built as the service town and the place for the workers to live.  West Palm Beach was incorporated in 1894, two years before Miami, making it the oldest municipality in South Florida.

Because of the income brought in by tourism, this part of Dade County was soon paying 60% of the taxes but seeing little of this spent on the infrastructure in that part of the county.  Agitation by some powerful magnates resulted in Palm Beach County being carved out of the northern part of Dade County in 1909 with West Palm Beach as the county seat.  The name for the island and county is obviously derived from the palm trees and beaches in this area.  The county was originally far more extensive, and other parts were detached over the next few years: Broward County (1915), Okeechobee County (1917), and Martin County (1925).

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