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Become a DBHS Member Today

Using our secure payment system, for as little as $50 a year, you can enjoy the many benefits of being a Delray Beach Historical Society member! JOIN NOW »
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Explore the ESW Archive Learning Center

The Ethel Sterling Williams History Learning Center is open to visitors for history research and to view exhibits. EXPLORE NOW »
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Past and Present

When it was founded in 1964, DBHS set out to collect and preserve the stories, artifacts, and memorabilia from the area’s founding families to provide an authentic record of how we got started and where we are going. READ MORE »

Category Archives: Blog

The Ethel Sterling Williams History Learning Center & Archives

The core of our mission at the Delray Beach Historical Society is the maintenance, preservation and expansion of the historic archives of the City of Delray Beach. These archival materials are irreplaceable assets. The collection is housed in one of the City’s oldest buildings, itself a historic site to explore local heritage. Along with private donations, the City, County and State have invested in excess of $650,000 to ensure that Delray Beach historical records are secure, accessible and useful for educational and civic purposes. The Historical Society’s mission, the campus, the events and educational programs are essential to keep our history alive, encourage proper stewardship and to provide a legacy for future generations.

Our approximately 500 research and archival requests and visits per year come from individual citizens, writers, researchers, homeowners, the media, realtors, builders, students, businesses, other non-profit organizations and City groups such as The Delray Beach Public Library, Delray Beach Fire Service, Delray Beach Police Department, Parks & Recreation, Historic Preservation Department, the City Manager’s Office, the City Attorney’s office and the City Clerk/Records Department.

The Archive Collection features over 20,000 items, including photographs, real estate documents, architectural renderings, original charters, City of Delray Beach records, books, memorabilia, letters, newspapers, paintings, original drawings, rare artifacts, pioneer and family histories – both oral and video, clothing, and other three dimensional artifacts.

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Nostalgia: A Path to the Past

Nostalgic photographs

By Evan Bennett

Delray Beach Historical Society
2015 Annual Meeting Keynote
May 20, 2015

Good evening. Thank you for your presence here tonight; I greatly appreciate the opportunity to address an audience who is so clearly interested in the past, its preservation, and its interpretation. It’s not everyday that I get to speak to people who respond positively, not bemusedly, when I tell them I’m a historian. It’s nice that we might have a conversation go further than, “Oh, that’s great. I never really liked history in school.”

Before I say much more, I’d like to offer my thanks to Winnie Edwards for inviting me to speak to you. I’ve only recently come to know Winnie, but I feel sure saying that she is a real treasure for the Delray Beach Historical Society. Of course, you probably already know this. In South Florida, where it seems the bulldozers are constantly pushing the past aside and everyone seems to be from somewhere else, the value of an institution like this cannot be overstated. We are truly blessed when people with vision, energy, and passion, people like your members and your Board of Governors, take an interest in preserving the past.

The theme of tonight’s meeting is nostalgia, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about how academic historians have wrestled with the idea of nostalgia, point out some of its weaknesses, highlight some of its values, and suggest how local historical societies might use it as a tool to open paths to meaningful discussions of the past.

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Join Our Year-Long 50th Year Celebration!


What were you doing in 1964?

It was a pivotal year for America. Civil Rights took center stage, Dylan plugged-in, Ford unveiled the iconic Mustang, the US moved forward in Vietnam and Beatlemania took America by storm.

Amongst the excitement, a group of very caring, professional and amateur historians quietly created a legacy for Palm Beach County and the Delray Beach Historical Society was born on August 26th, 1964.

The original mission of the Society was “to be an organization that preserves the records and to form a significant and authentic history of the City of Delray Beach.”  Fifty years later, they have done just that.

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A Fish Tale Straight from the Archives!


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When you go fishing in the Delray Beach Historical Society archives, there’s no telling what you might find! During a recent research project to gather information about original Lake Ida homes, we re-discovered a collection of extraordinary handcrafted scrapbooks and diaries created by local fishing legend, Randall Wilson Davis, when he was a teenager way back in the 1930’s.

Randall’s family settled in Delray Beach in 1925, and his father, Jacob Davis, and older brother, Orville, started the Davis Transfer Co., in early 1926. (In fact, one of his Dad’s contracts was to deliver bailed hay from a side-track railroad box car in from of the old Delray Electric Power Station run by Doc Ranson.

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