The City of Delray Beach is rich in history and cultural diversity. Starting out as a small farming village, our town has tremendously grown to a city of nearly 70,000 residents. We're pleased to offer this section of our web site, which will bring you more information about the history of Delray Beach. For even more information, please visit the Delray Beach Historical Society and the S.D. Spady Cultural Heritage Museum.
City of Delray Beach Awards
- The City of Delray Beach is a 3-time All-America City Winner, earning the awards in 1993, 2001 & 2017, becoming the first city in Florida to do so. The 2017 award was presented for civic engagement by helping young children from low income families achieve grade-level reading proficiency and early school success.
- Delray Beach is named the 5th best city for small businesses in the U.S. by Verizon Business. The 2018 “Best Small Cities to Start a Small Business” report is based on the evaluation of 300 cities nationwide, with populations between 50,000 and 75,000. To learn more about how Delray Beach cares for its small businesses, visit www.weheartsmallbiz.org
- The City of Delray was named the top ten by Coastal Living Magazine’s America’s Happiest Seaside Town in 2015 and 10 Best Little Beach Towns in Florida in 2017.
Delray Beach’s main attraction during the holidays is the award-winning 100 ft Christmas Tree. They awarded the Best Christmas Tree in the State of Florida in 2016 by Travel + Leisure and America’s Best Small Towns for Christmas by Country Living in 2015 & 2016.
- The City of Delray Beach was awarded the Playful City USA designation 2017 by KaBoom! Playful City USA is a recognition program honoring cities and towns that ensure that kids in their communities, particularly kids from low-income families, get the balanced and active play they need to thrive.
- The City of Delray Beach was named the 2012 Best of the Road Most Fun Small Town in America by Rand McNally, USA TODAY & Travel Channel.
- Travel Channel’s Top Ten Beaches in Florida in 2015 & 2016.
- USA TODAY’s Atlantic Avenue named one of America’s 10 Great Shopping Streets in 2017.
- Delray Beach received a Bronze designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. This designation recognizes the city for taking steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Bronze designation is a signal that Delray Beach is “open for solar business.”
|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.|
|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 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 of the workers for Henry Flagler in the construction of his railroad were African Americans.|
|William S. Linton arrived in the area from Michigan with David Swinton and Major Nathan Boynton. Congressman Linton bought tracts of land from Henry Flagler’s Model Land Company, the Gleason’s 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.|
|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.|
|Adolf Hofman, a German native traveled to Florida to purchase land for farming. That land is now known as Del Ida Park Subdivision.|
|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.|
|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.|
|The first church in Linton, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, was established. It was established by African American settlers.|
1896 - 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.|
|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.|
|Free and accepted masonic lodge 275 was established by African American citizens.|
|The Ladies Improvement Association was established. This small group of women spearheaded many projects such as a cemetery, the public library, Atlantic Avenue improvements, and a town hall.|
|“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. 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.|
|Delray’s first parochial school (Deutsche Schule) known as the German School was established by Trinity Lutheran Church.|
|The town’s first permanent physician, J.R.(Roy) Cason, settled in Delray.|
|Local farmers formed a cooperative to build and operate a canning plant to process seasonal crops, such as pineapples and tomatoes. This was big news and helped put Delray on the map.|
|Ladies improvement association completed their clubhouse, which serves as the first town hall.|
|The area west of the “canal” (Intracoastal Waterway) was incorporated as the “Town of Delray.”. And the first bridge was built over the canal, connecting the barrier island with the Town of Delray.|
|On Oct 9 voting for incorporation was held and passed with 56 votes for incorporation out of 57 votes.|
|John Sundy was elected mayor. And Among eleven candidates nominated, the voters selected five aldermen by majority vote: Thomas M. McCrae, Dr. John R. Cason Jr., J. W. Acton, John S. Wuepper, and Heliodore J. Wackerman. George Green, an African American from Florida’s panhandle, just missed making the cut.|
|Dr. Cason offered a resolution that a seal for the town be designed. He suggested a plain circle around the words “Town of Delray, Florida” and “Incorporated A.D. 1911”.|
|Two young women, Mrs. James M. Cromer and Mrs. T. Allen (Emma) Tasker started a local newspaper, the Delray Progress.|
|The Tenbrook family built a theater for silent films called the Bijou.|
|A jail was built by new-comer Frank J. Schrader replacing the need for occasionally using a boxcar to house miscreants.|
|The first bank, the Bank of Delray, opened.|
|The Delray Beach Library was founded by the Ladies Improvement Association.|
|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.|
|The Town of Delray passed the first bond issue and the first city electric and water plants were built.|
|Albert Miller became the first fire chief of a fledgling all-volunteer fire department.|
|“The Town of Delray Beach,” the area east of the Intracoastal, was incorporated|
|A new separate building for the Delray High School was constructed. The building is now the Crest Theatre at Old School Square.|
|A star in new resort construction was Albert T. Repp’s “Alterep,” now the Colony Hotel on Atlantic Avenue, which opened March 1, just a few months before the real estate bust began.|
|On May 11, the two incorporated towns - Town of Delray Beach and the City of Delray - united to form “The City of Delray Beach.”|
|African American civil rights activists founded the Delray Beach civic league and the naciremas club. Delray voters league was founded by African American citizens.|
|Delray Beach historical society was established.|
|Temple emeth, the first synagogue in Delray Beach, is founded.|
|The CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) is formed.|
|Cason cottage museum operated by Delray beach historical society opens.|
|Old school square is revitalized and now houses the crest theatre and the Cornell Museum of Art and history, plus indoor and outdoor event venues.
|The City of Delray Beach received the All America City Award for its citizen driven projects that significantly impacted the community. This was done with the projects Taking back our Neighborhoods, sharing for excellence, and the revitalization of Downtown Delray Beach.|
|Delray beach celebrates centennial of settlement.|
|Expanding & Preserving our cultural heritage (EPOCH) is founded.|
|Sandoway nature center is established.|
|The City of Delray Beach was awarded the All-America City award for taking action to combat neighborhood deterioration. This was done with the Youth Enrichment Vocational Program, Community Neighbors Helping, and the creation of the Village academy school.
|The home of historic teacher principal Solomon D. Spady was renovated and changed into the Spady cultural heritage museum.|
|Marks the 100th year of incorporation for Delray Beach.|
|The City was awarded the All-America City Award for a third time, becoming the first city in Florida to do so. The award was presented for civic engagement to help young children from low income families achieve grade-level reading proficiency and early school success.|
- Staff of Delray 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-Isut 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, Delray Beach, Florida. To name a few individuals:
- Hart, Nadine. Native of Delray Beach; retired teacher of Palm Beach County Schools
- Hofman, Charles. Author and descendant of early settler of Delray Beach, Florida
- Miller, Marcia. Retired teacher of Palm Beach County Schools; Archivist for Trinity Lutheran Church and School of Delray Beach, Florida
- Patterson, Dottie. Archivist for Delray Beach Historical Society
- Pompey, C. Spencer (now deceased). Author, Historian, Civil Rights activist; native of Florida; longtime resident of Delray 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
- Slire, Erike (July 15, 2007). “Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach adds facilities”. South Florida Sun-Sentinel.