Slide background

Become a DBHS Member Today

Using our secure payment system, for as little as $60 a year, you can enjoy the many benefits of being a Delray Beach Historical Society member! JOIN NOW »
Slide background

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 »
Slide background

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 »

Quick view of Delray Beach History


1841
The first evidence of human habitation in this area is an 1841 military map drawn during the Second Seminole War that shows a Seminole camp in the area of a spread-out swampy lake now known as Lake Ida.
1876
Orange Grove House of Refuge built by U.S. Life-Saving Service in area then known as the Orange Grove Haul-over. Hannibal D. Pierce is appointed first keeper.
1885
Zion Post Office located at House of Refuge, an overnight stop for the “Barefoot Mailman.” Stephen Andrews and wife, Annie, were the second and last keepers of the House of Refuge, which closed in 1896.
1894-95

Town of Linton Settlement Begins
As many as 14 African American families already living in area petition Dade County School Board for school.

William S. Linton, US Congressman from Saginaw, Michigan, and David Swinton visit area to purchase land from the Gleason family and others.

Florida East Coast Canal completed to Miami.

Linton returns in October, 1895, with small party of settlers to develop town named for himself.

Survey of town completed by E. Burslem Thomson, civil engineer.

1896

First train arrives on tracks built by Florida East Coast RailwaySettlers establish farms to grow winter crop fruits and vegetables for shipping north on the railroad. (Agriculture and cattle ranching continue to be important facet of economy for over 7 decades.)

Henry J. Sterling and family arrive, and start first commissary (trading post or general store) Seminole Indians come to trade there. Trading helps settlers supplement their diet.

Adolf Hofman family moves into new home near the Intracoastal Waterway

African American families organize first church, Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Settlers (of European descent) petition school board and build a school.

Plat map of the Town of Linton recorded in Dade County records.

1897
Mt. Tabor, now the St. Paul AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, established.
1898

Town Changes Name

Linton’s mortgages are foreclosed; a few families remain; some purchase their land for a second time from Linton’s creditors.

In November, U.S. Post Office, at request of settlers, officially changes name of town to Delray.

1899
Free & Accepted Masonic Lodge 275 established by African American citizens.
1902

Ladies Improvement Association establishedChapman Inn built by Frank W. and Lucy LaSalle Chapman

Frank Chapman appointed 1st post master

1903

Methodist Church (now Cason United Methodist on N. Swinton Ave.) built at corner S. Swinton & Atlantic Ave.British Freighter, SS Inchulva, sinks off Delray in hurricane with loss of nine men.

1904
Trinity Lutheran Church constructed
1905

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church establishedJapanese farmers from the nearby Yamato Colony begin to visit Delray and participate in Delray civic events

1906
Ladies Improvement Association complete their clubhouse, which serves as first Town Hall.
1908
Telephones become available, but hardly anyone has one.
1909
Delray becomes part of the new Palm Beach County.
1910
First U.S. Census counts population of 904 in Delray.
1911

Town of Delray incorporates with John Shaw Sundy as MayorBank of Delray chartered with J.L. Troop as president

Bridge built over the East Coast Canal (Intracoastal Waterway)

St. Mathews Episcopal Church organized by Bahamian settlers

1912
Delray Progress, first newspaper, published by Mrs. J.M. Cromer and Mrs. T.A. Tasker
1913
Larger combination elementary and high School built at school square.
1914
Delray gets electricity and city water after passing the first bond issueBijou Theater built on Atlantic Avenue (silent films accompanied by piano).
1916
Enlarged and remodeled school completed in African American community under the guidance of Principal Clarence Walker
1917
Group of Delray men volunteer for World War I.
1920

End of Settlement/Pioneer Period

U.S. Census counts 1,501 people in Delray

Kentucky House Hotel constructed on Atlantic Avenue

1921-26
First real estate boom
1923
Area east of Intracoastal Waterway incorporated as Town of Delray Beach
1923-24
Seacrest Hotel and Delray Theatre built
1925

Chamber of Commerce formedKiwanis Club of Delray chartered

Hotel Casa Del Rey built on Atlantic Avenue

Town has 4 newspapers

First Presbyterian Church is formally organized

1926

New high school and gymnasium, designed by Delray’s first registered architect, Sam Ogren Sr., completedAlterepp Hotel (Colony Hotel) developed by Albert T Repp

Destructive September hurricane damages town

1926-41
Real Estate Bust and Great Depression
1927

City of Delray and Town of Delray Beach merge to form City of DELRAY BEACH

Seaboard Train Station built

School principal S.D. Spady builds Mission Style home in the “Sands” neighborhood.

1928
Destructive September hurricane damages town and surrounding area.
1930
Census counts population of 2,333
1930-39

Gladiolus become one of Delray’s largest crops.Architecture flourishes with building of resort cottage homes for Winter Colony.

Town’s reputation as Artists & Writers Winter Colony grows.

1940
Census population is 3,737
1941-45

World War II

Local citizens volunteer for the war effort.

Delray is crowded with people stationed at Boca Raton Airfield.
Shipping attacks can be seen from coast.

1946

Postwar

Naciremas (American spelled in reverse with s added) Club and Delray Voters League founded by African American citizens.

1947
Destructive hurricane damages and floods the town.
Gladioli Festivals begin.
1949
LaFrance Hotel built by Charles & Francenia Patrick provides only public lodging for African Americans.
1950
Census population is 6,312
1954-70
Civil Rights Era
1955
Delray Beach citizens of African descent organize civil rights campaigns.
1960
Census population is 12,230
1962
Peaceful demonstrations by African Americans attempting to use the beach and golf club.
Delray Affair (art & crafts show) begins.
1964
End of passenger service on FEC Railroad
Delray Beach Historical Society established
Several high-rise condominiums built on Intracoastal-height limits are initiated.
1970

Census population is 19,915

Seacrest High School and George Washington Carver High School merge to become Atlantic High School.

Development grows west of city limits.

1974
Temple Emeth, the first Synagogue in Delray Beach, is founded by a group of new residents of the Jewish faith living at the Kings Point Development..
1980

Census population is 34,325

Haitian emigration begins in earnest; thousands come to Delray Beach

1980-1989
Old neighborhoods in decline; property values fall
1980-2000
Decline & Renaissance
1985-86
CRA formed
1986

Citizens and city staff begin working on revitalization.City celebrates Diamond Jubilee (75 years since incorporation).

1987

Four Historic Districts are formed.Pineapple Grove concept is established for N.E. 2nd Ave.

1989

Cason Cottage Museum operated by Delray Beach Historical Society opens in January.Decade of Excellence Bond issue passes (for infrastructure improvements)

1990

Census population is 47,748

Sharing for Excellence in Schools begins.

Restoration of Old School Square begins.

1992
Heritage Month is established.
1993

Delray Beach wins All-America City Award.Art & Jazz Event begins monthly on Atlantic Ave.

1994
Visions 2005 Assembly
1995
Delray Beach celebrates Centennial of Settlement. DBHS restores surviving portion of F.E.C. Railway Depot.
1996

Expanding & Preserving Our Cultural Heritage (EPOCH) is founded.Sandoway House Nature Center is established.

2000
Census population is 60,020
2001

City wins second All America City award.S. D. Spady Museum opens.

Property values soar, creating pressures on Historic Districts & Historic sites.
Atlantic Avenue becomes a night-time destination.

Increased pedestrian traffic on Atlantic Avenue.
Increased development, such as “New Urbanism” Town House, blocks and mansionization on waterfront property.

2004-5
Hurricanes damage city.
2004-8
Property values peak; decline in value begins
2010
Census counts 60,522
2011
Delray Beach celebrates its Centennial of Incorporation
2014
The Delray Beach Historical Society celebrates its first fifty years