Boca Historical Society expands museum’s experience

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By: Adrianna Matamoros Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
In an extensive display of collaboration among community members, the history of Boca Raton is restored through the renovation of one of two landmark buildings of Boca, coming to life for modern day residents and tourists alike.
The Town Hall and F.E.C. Railway Station, located just five minutes from each other in the heart of Boca, make up The Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum, offering residents and tourists an in-depth index of artifacts, photos and stories that make up Boca Raton’s historic past.
“We believe that if a person – whether it’s a visitor or resident – wants to learn about Boca Raton, they have to learn our history,” said Mary Csar, executive director of the Boca Raton Historical Society. “We wanted a place where [residents] can shop Boca Raton souvenirs and learn more about our community right now.”
Undergoing a years worth of restoration, the Town Hall has transformed into a newly renovated History Museum and Welcome Center, receiving guests of all ages with a variety of educational opportunities about Boca’s formative years, families and economy, along with rotating exhibits that highlight valuable archival material and guided tours of the city.
“Visitors to the museum and welcome center experience our historic building and can enjoy the current exhibits that feature a time period or topic related to Boca history, as well as permanent exhibits about Addison Mizner [renowned architect and Boca Raton visionary],” said Csar.
The Welcome Center makes up a portion of the Fire Bay Gift Shop, originally the garage for the city’s fire engine, in which sums of relics and information is made readily available for interested spectators.
“We have two brochure racks, a monitor with Boca videos, historical books, shirts and other Boca souvenirs,” noted Csar, giving a tour of the quaint space that encompasses the Welcome Center and gift shop, decorated with framed vintage photos, collectables and furnished antiques.
“It is not so much the space that the Welcome Center occupies that is important,” she said. “It is the service that folks are given.”
Since its restoration, the center has received a substantial number of visitors, with 40% being tourists from out of county.
“A lot of the time, people come into the center to get more information about events in Boca and Palm Beach County,” said Steve Bellanca, the Museum’s greeter and gift shop coordinator, who works individually with guests. “They leave here not only satisfied with all that the welcome center provides, including restaurant recommendations and public transportation schedules, but with the experience that the center, gift shop and exhibits provide. Our exhibits, like our Boca Raton in the 1960s exhibit, are both history and memories for a lot of people.”
By restoring Boca’s Town Hall, supported by both public and private funds, the center has become more than just the conservation of historic buildings, names and relics. It has become a reminder of the city’s progression, providing all of the community and surrounding areas an opportunity to be involved.
“Having a Welcome Center in the History Museum is a very natural ‘marriage,’” said Csar, walking along hallways of vintage portraits. “Our history has made us what we are and it is constantly influencing where we are going.”
Interested residents and tourists can visit bocahistory.org for more information.