© Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce 
Visitors & Residents > History and Culture
History and Culture


This early history was compiled by the Zion Study Circle in collaboration
with the Delray Beach Historical Society, the Spady Museum and in
consultation with historian, Clemmer Mayhew.
Early History of Delrav Beach
        Prior to 1845, when Florida became a state, Africans, Seminole Native Americans, and Black Seminoles were already living in South Florida and continued to do so along with white Europeans.
        In 1868 William and Sara Gleason, Wisconsin natives, began purchasing thousands of acres of land in various locations in Florida including in what is now the City of Delray Beach.     William Gleason was the Lieutenant Governor of Florida from 1868 to 1870.   Two of their sons (W.H.H. and George) participated with them in handling real estate transactions using the business name of "Gleason Brothers, dealers in Real Estate."   Many early settlers in the area bought property from the Gleasons.
        The military maps of the peninsula of Florida dating from the 1850's time of the Seminole Wars depict a haulover identified as Orange Grove Haulover along the beach area of what is now the City of Delray Beach.  The name derived from an ancient orange grove found growing near the beach.   (A haulover is a place where people traveling by boat could no longer navigate and had to haul their boats out of the water and carry them on land for a distance.)
        In   1876 The Orange Grove House of Refuge #3, a haven for the shipwrecked, was constructed by the U.S. Lifesaving Service and located just north of the ancient orange grove depicted on earlier military maps. The first Refugee-keeper was Hannibal D. Pierce.
        In 1885 Annie Andrews, wife of Stephen N. Andrews who was the second and last keeper of House of Refugee #3, established a post office address named Zion, Florida for the area now known as the City of Delray Beach.
        In 1885, Henry Flagler purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway in his efforts to build a railroad to connect the entire east coast of Florida. Flagler was granted millions of acres of land from the State of Florida to use in the construction of the Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler also purchased many thousands of acres of land under the name of Model Land Company along the east coast of Florida including many hundreds of acres in the area now known as Delray Beach. Many early settlers bought land from Model Land Company.  Many of the workers for Henry Flagler in the construction of his railroad were African Americans.
        In 1890 the Florida Coast Line Canal (Intracoastal Waterway) was made navigable in parts allowing for easier access to areas along the southeast coast.

        By 1894 a number of people of African decent had settled here from north Florida, other nearby southern states and the Bahamas. Their population grew as they encouraged their relatives to relocate to the area. 

        In 1894 William S. Linton arrived in the area from Michigan with David Swinton and Major Nathan Boynton. At that time, William Linton was a U. S. Congressman for the State of Michigan, serving from 3/1893 to 3/1897. Congressman Linton bought tracts of land from Henry Flagler's Model Land Company, the Gleasons and others.  The following year Congressman Linton returned with a group of almost a dozen people, including civil engineer E. Burslem Thompson and named the town Linton.

        In 1894 the first school was established in Linton. It was established by the African American settlers. The African-American community was large enough to petition Dade County for a school. {This area was then a part   of Dade   County until   1909   when   Palm Beach   County   was established) That school, known as "(Dade County) School #4, Colored)," was located in Linton on Balckmer Street, currenly known as North West "Historic 5th Avenue." As with many such pioneer schools, it is thought to have been built with palmetto fronds.
        In 1895 the plat map of the Town of Linton, including about a mile along the beach, was drawn by E. Burlsem Thomson, a civil engineer in Congressman Linton's group. Atlantic Avenue was platted next to a rock wall partially surrounding the ancient orange grove.   Development of the Town of Linton began.
        In 1895 Adolf Hofman, a German native of a prosperous farming family arrived in the United States from Germany spending a few weeks in New York and then on to Illinois for a few months. Later that year, he traveled to Florida to purchase land for farming. He traveled to this area on the same barge with Linton's group and first bought land from Flagler's Model Land Company in 1896.   That land was located north of NE 4th Street (north of Linton's property)  and stretched westward from the "canal" (Intracoastal) to Swinton Avenue and included land that is now known as Del Ida Park Subdivision. The Hofman family homestead was east of N.E. Seventh Avenue near NE 6th Street.  Shortly thereafter, Hofman bought land from Congressman Linton and Gleason and later bought land from others.
        In 1896 the original plat for the Town of Linton was officially recorded.
        In   1896 the first church in Linton, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, was established. It was established by African American settlers. 
        In 1896 Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway route was completed through the Town of Linton. The railroad and the local depot were essential for the farming economy and the growth of the town. 
         By 1896 African descendant Mary Cohen (aka "Auntie" Cohen and "Ma" Cohen), a trained midwife, had settled in Linton and was the midwife for the birthing of babies of all races.
         In   1897 the second church in Linton, St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, formerly named Mt. Tabor was established. It was established by African American settlers.
         Between 1896 and 1898 a school was established by white settlers for children of European descent. This school was located at the site of what is now Old School Square.
         By   1898   Susan   Williams,   a   trained   midwife   and   general   nurse practitioner of African decent had arrived from the Bahamas and handled medical needs of all races of people of Linton. 
         In 1898 the name of the Town of Linton was changed to "Delray" following hardship brought on by crop-destroying freezes and William Linton's default on his land payments.   W.W. Blackmer, a town leader suggested the name *Delray" which was derived from the name of a town located near Detroit, Michigan.  When the railroad system built by Henry Flagler expanded from West Palm Beach to Miami, farmers began exporting their harvest of pineapples, tomatoes, peppers, beans and other fruits and vegetables.
         In 1902 the Ladies Improvement Association was established. This small group of women spearheaded projects for many of the town's amenities that were later achieved through the years such as a cemetery, the public library, Atlantic Avenue improvements, and a town hall.
         In 1903 the church now known as Cason United Methodist Church was established by and attended by settlers of European decent.
         In 1903 hurricane winds wrecked the British ship, SS Inchulva, near the south end of Delray's municipal beach. Early settlers of African decent who emigrated from the Bahamas initiated the rescue of the survivors.
         In    1904   Trinity   Evangelical   Lutheran    Church    (originally   called Evangelishe Lutherische Dreienigkeits Gemeinde by German settlers) was established.   Adolf Hofman and other pioneer families of German descent were founding members.
         In 1904 "Yamato" was established as a Japanese agricultural colony south of Delray.   Jo Sakai, the leader, named the colony "Yamato," an ancient name revered in Japan. The first group of Japanese settlers were recruited by Henry Flagler and were all men.   In later years, their wives and children and some of their relatives and friends joined them including George   Morikami   for whom   the   Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach is named for which he donated more than 200 acres of land. The Japanese early settlers came to Delray for shopping, recreation and participation in civic events. Their children attended grade school in Yamato, but came to Delray to attend high school at Delray High School.  You can learn more of the Yamato Colony at the 200-acre Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, a scenic park that draws more than 150,000 visitors a year.
         In 1904 Missionary Bishop Rt. Rev. William Crane Gray held the first service in the new St. Paul's Episcopal Church which was for settlers of European descent.
         In 1905 Delray's first parochial school (Deutsche Schule) known as the German School was established by Trinity Lutheran Church.
         In 1908 telephone service became available.
         In 1909 Palm Beach County was created from the northern portion of Dade County.
         In   1911   the area west of the "canal"   (Intracoastal Waterway) was incorporated as the "Town of Delray."   John Shaw Sundy became the first Mayor and served seven terms.
         In 1911 Missionary Bishop Rt. Rev. William Crane Gray, along with about a dozen men and women settlers of African decent who emigrated from the Bahamas, organized St. Matthews Episcopal Church.
         In 1911 the first bridge was built over the canal, connecting the barrier island with the Town of Delray.
         In   1913   the   Delray   Beach   Library was   founded   by   the   Ladies Improvement Association.
         In   1913   a new Delray Elementary and High   School building was constructed.   The building now houses the Cornell Museum of Art and History at Old School Square.
         In 1914 the Town of Delray passed the first bond issue and the first city electric and water plants were built.
         In 1923 "The Town of Delray Beach," the area east of the Intracoastal, was incorporated.
         In   1925 a new separate building for the Delray High School was constructed.    The building is now the Crest Theatre at Old School Square.
         On May 11, 1927, the two incorporated towns - Town of Delray Beach and the City of Delray - united to form "The City of Delray Beach."
The Zion Study Circle is the first study circle originating from the City Sponsored Study Circle Project that continues to meet on its own and work on projects fostering community unity within the City of Delray Beach.
Conferring with:
Staff of Deiray Beach Historical Society Staff of S.D. Spady Museum, Delray Beach, Florida Clemmer Mayhew, Historian
Department of Interior, Census Division
Division of Library and Archives of the Florida Department of State, Tallahassee, Florida
Encyclopedia Britannica
Florida Heritage, State of Florida Cultural Affairs website, Tallahassee, Florida
Henry Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida
Historical Timeline of Black Education in Palm Beach County Florida by the Ipet-lsut Historical Preservation Foundation
Hofman, Charles. Letters from Linton. Hollywood, Florida. Legacy Press. 2004
Interviews, reviews and information verification through correspondences/discussions with many local individuals as conducted by Lori J. Durante of the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, Deiray Beach, Florida. To name a few individuals:
Hart, Nadine. Native of Deiray Beach; retired teacher of Palm Beach County Schools Hofman, Charles. Author and descendant of early settler of Deiray Beach, Florida Miller, Marcia. Retired teacher of Palm Beach County Schools; Archivist for Trinity Lutheran Church
and School of Deiray Beach, Florida
Patterson, Dottie. Archivist for Deiray Beach Historical Society
Pompey, C. Spencer (now deceased). Author, Historian, Civil Rights activist; native of Florida; long time resident of Deiray Beach; retired teacher of Palm Beach County Schools
P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History of the Smathers Library at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

As the 20th century progressed Delray Beach grew from a farming community into a bustling city known for its unique architecture and thriving downtown. Delray Beach became a winter resort where artists, writers and cartoonists came to escape the brutal winters and hone their crafts. Nationally known cartoonists Fontaine Fox and W.E. Pat Enright were among the luminaries who called Delray home.

Today, history plays a big role in the city's identity and future direction. Delray Beach is considered a leading figure in the state's growing historic preservation movement. The city has designated several neighborhoods as historic districts; places where residents are encouraged to preserve old homes as a living link to Delray's illustrious past.

In the heart of downtown Delray Beach is Old School Square Cultural Arts Center, at 51 N. Swinton Ave. Once the Delray Beach High School, its grand buildings have been transformed in to the multi-million dollar centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district. Old School Square houses a museum and theatre (in the former Delray Elementary and High School buildings) as well as an outdoor entertainment pavilion. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a gathering place for the community. It is the centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district.

Adjacent to Old School Square is an emerging "artists district" dubbed Pineapple Grove. The area includes sculpture designed by local artists. The downtown is chock full of art galleries and artists studios.

The Cornell Museum - Cornell Museum of Art & History at Old School Square.
Dedicated in 1990, the Cornell Museum is housed in the restored 1913 Delray Elementary building and named in honor of Delray Beach residents Harriet W. and George D. Cornell. The museum includes four galleries, a beautiful two-story atrium, which is also used as exhibit space, a tea room and a gift shop. It presents rotating regional, national and international exhibits as well asartist showcases, lectures and demonstrations. Delray Beach's historical archives are located in the Cornell Archives Room on the second floor. The archives room is managed by the Delray Beach Historical Society, which also presents special exhibits.

Crest Theatre - Crest Theatre at Old School Square
Dedicated in 1993, the Crest Theatre is housed in the restored 1925 Delray High School building, which also houses six restored classrooms, two art studios, a large reception room and Old School Square's administrative offices. Attached is a 1926 Gymnasium, used primarily as a rental facility. Formerly the high school auditorium, the Crest was restored and re-designed
as a 323-seat, state-of-the-art performing arts theatre. It presents a variety of professional theatre, music, dance and national tours as well as Broadway Cabaret and serves as an important venue for community performances, presentations and town meetings.

Old School Square Entertainment Pavilion Completed in early 2002, the pavilion is a state-of-the-art performance facility with concession building and covered loggias surrounding an open, grassy area. It hosts a variety of community festivals and events, year-round, as well as concerts.

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is one of Palm Beach County's top attractions. The museum is named after George Morikami, a pineapple farmer who donated his land for use as a park after his death. The 200 acre Morikami park has become one of Palm Beach County's top tourist destinations attracting visitors from throughout the United States and abroad. It is the only museum of Japanese culture in the United States.

The museum is in a beautiful 3
2,000 square foot facility designed to meet the Morikami's growing popularity. The museum features a library, classrooms, 230-seat auditorium and computer technology that allows visitors to "interact" with exhibits. The museum is surrounded by luscious gardens, a waterfall and a forest of pine trees that make the Morikami a popular escape for thousands of visitors. The Museum hosts regular special events that showcase Japanese culture. Four major festivals draw multitudes to the Morikami throughout the year. For a complete schedule of what the Morikami has to offer call 495-0233. Click on the Wisdom Ring for information on our Sister City Miyazu, Japan.

Right next to the Morikami is the new international headquarters of the American Orchid Society (AOS), the
orchidlogo.jpg (8309 bytes) largest special-interest horticultural organization in the world. A "must visit" - the airy central lobby, naturally lit by an open cupola, will bring you to most attractive assemblage of orchid books and other orchid-related items ever assembled, attractively displayed in the spacious AOS Gift Shop. Also on the grounds is the rapidly evolving Gardens - themed Orchids in the South Florida Garden as dedicated staff and volunteers who made the landscape glow with an enormous display of specimen-size Phaius, as well as an impressive collection of palms, cycads and other exotic plantings, including a nearly mature specimen of the rare African Baobab tree.

Palm Beach Photographic Centre... is an innovative learning facility where photography, and digital imaging meet. Headquartered in Delray Beach this is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education, preservation and promotion of photography and digital imaging. Each year Palm Beach Photographic presents over 200 workshops attended by photographers, graphic designers, photojournalists, filmmakers, desktop publishers, architects, and advertising professionals. Students study under the most accomplished professionals from around the country. The Program is divided into four series of workshops: Digital Imaging, Photography, FotoCamp and FotoFusion. For more information call (561) 276-9797

Cason Cottage Museum - The executive offices of the Delray Beach Historical Society are located in a historic Bungalow that was recently relocated to compliment the Cason Cottage House Museum. The Bungalow provides additional exhibit space and serves as a visitor and docent center.

The DBHS and the City of Delray Beach restored Cason Cottage House Musum throught a joint effort in 1988. It is a vernacular style house with crafsman cottage details, solidly contructed with Dade County pine. Reverend John R. Cason, a community leader and Methodist minister, whose descentants live in Delray Beach, built the cottage circa 1915. The Histoical Society manages and maintains Cason Cottage as a House Museum open to the public and for group tours for a glimpse of life during Delray's pioneer days. The Harriet W. and George D. Cornell Archives Room, located on the second floor of the Cornell Museum, contains photograhs, oral histories, books, maps, and a diversity of other materials documenting the history of Delray Beach. It is available to all members of the community for research purposes. Come and visit and learn from their exhibits related to Florida history. To learn more about membership, the activities of the Historical Society or to schedule a tour of Cason Cottage please call 561-243-2577.

The Delray Beach Playhouse - For 47 years the 238-seat Delray Beach Playhouse 950 NW Ninth St; has offered local audiences outstanding theater. Located on scenic Lake Ida, the playhouse is one the nation's oldest and most successful community theaters. Call 272-1281 for information.

Delray Beach is also a quick drive away from dozens of other theatres, museums and art galleries. Within a 30-minute drive, Delray residents can visit the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, the Lois Pope Theatre, Plaza Del Mar in Manalapan, and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra at Florida Atlantic University. Downtown Delray Beach also offers top-notch art galleries, antiqueing, and live music. The Delray Art League offers sidewalk art shows throughout the winter season at area shopping centers.


Privacy PolicyDesign by Electronic Village Systems