Delray Beach is a coastal city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 60,522. The population was estimated at 65,055 in 2014. Delray Beach is part of the Miami metropolitan area.
Recorded history began with the construction of the Orange Grove House of Refuge in 1876. The house derived its name from the grove of mature sour orange and other tropical fruit trees found at the site chosen for the house of refuge, but no record or evidence of who planted the trees has survived.
Settlement began around 1884, when African-Americans from the Panhandle of Florida purchased land a little inland from the Orange Grove House of Refuge and began farming. By 1894 the Black community was large enough to establish the first school in the area.
In 1894 William S. Linton, a Republican US Congressman for Saginaw, Michigan, bought a tract of land just west of the Orange Grove House of Refuge, and began selling plots in what he hoped would become a farming community. Initially, this community was named after Linton. In 1896 Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railroad south from West Palm Beach to Miami, with a station at Linton.
The Linton settlers began to achieve success with truck farming of winter vegetables for the northern market. A hard freeze in 1898 was a setback, and many of the settlers left, including William Linton. Partly in an attempt to change the community's luck, or to leave behind a bad reputation, the settlement's name was changed in 1901 to Delray, after the Detroit neighborhood of Delray ("Delray" being the anglicized spelling of "Del Rey," which is Spanish for "of the king"), which in turn was named after the Mexican-American War's Battle of Molino del Rey.
Settlers from The Bahamas (then part of the British West Indies), sometimes referred to as 'Nassaws', began arriving in the early 1900s. After 1905, newspaper articles and photographs of Delray events reveal that Japanese settlers from the nearby Yamato farming colony also began participating in Delray civic activities such as parades, going to the movies, and shopping. The 1910 census shows Delray as a town of 904 citizens. Twenty-four U.S. states and nine other countries are listed as the birthplace of its residents. Although still a small town, Delray had a remarkably diverse citizenry.
In 1911, the area was chartered by the State of Florida as an incorporated town. In the same year, pineapple and tomato canning plants were built. Pineapples became the primary crop of the area. This is reflected in the name of the present day Pineapple Grove neighborhood near downtown Delray Beach.
Prior to 1909, the Delray settlement land was within Dade County. That year, Palm Beach County was carved out of the northern portion of the region. In 1915, Palm Beach County and Dade County contributed nearly equal portions of land to create what is now Broward County between the two, leaving Delray situated within the southeastern portion of Palm Beach County.
By 1920, Delray's population had reached 1,051. In the 1920s, drainage of the Everglades west of Delray lowered the water table, making it harder to grow pineapples, while the extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West resulted in competition from Cuban pineapples for the markets of the northern United States.
The Florida land boom of the 1920s brought renewed prosperity to Delray. Tourism and real estate speculation became important parts of the local economy. Delray issued bonds to raise money to install water and sewer lines, paved streets, and sidewalks. Several hotels were built. At that time Delray was the largest town on the east coast of Florida between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The collapse of the land boom in 1926 left Delray saddled with high bond debts, and greatly reduced income from property taxes.
Delray was separated from the Atlantic Ocean beach by the Florida East Coast Canal (now part of the Intracoastal Waterway). In 1923 the area between the canal and the ocean was incorporated as Delray Beach. In 1927 Delray and Delray Beach merged into one town named Delray Beach.
Beginning in the mid-1920s, a seasonal Artists and Writers Colony was established in Delray Beach and the adjacent town of Gulf Stream. Throughout the 1930s and '40s, Delray became a winter enclave for artists and authors, especially famous cartoonists. Two nationally syndicated cartoonists -- H. T. Webster (creator of "Casper Milquetoast") and Fontaine Fox of "Toonerville Trolley" fame -- had offices upstairs in the Arcade Building over the Arcade Tap Room; a gathering place where the artists and writers might be joined by aristocrats, politicians, entertainers, and sports figures. Other well-known artists and writers of the era who had homes in Delray Beach include: Herb Roth, W.J. "Pat" Enright, Robert Bernstein, Wood Cowan, Denys Wortman, Jim Raymond, Charles Williams, Herb Niblick, Hugh McNair Kahler, Clarence Budington Kelland, Nina Wilcox Putnam, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. These seasonal visitors helped soften the effect of the real estate downturn and The Great Depression on the city.
During the Depression, not much money was available since the two banks had failed, but progress continued, and the town still looked prosperous because of the previous burst of new buildings during the boom years. The Artists and Writers Colony flourished and Delray Beach's fame as a resort town grew. This era is regarded as Delray Beach's "golden age of architecture"; a period in which the city ranked 50th in population but 10th in building permits in Florida. Prominent architectural styles in Delray Beach from this period include Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, Mission Revival, Monterey Colonial, Streamline Moderne, Minimal Traditional, 'Key West style' cottages, and bungalows.
Post World War II
For the four years of World War II, citizens of Delray Beach volunteered to watch the beach and ocean 24 hours a day from the faux bell tower atop the seaside Seacrest Hotel. Military personnel patrolled the beach on horseback. Shipping attacks could be seen from the coast. During WWII Delray Beach also saw an influx of service personnel stationed at the nearby Boca Raton Army Airfield. Some of the veterans who had trained at the airfield returned to settle in Delray Beach after the war. Steady growth of the city continued though the 1950s and 1960s.
By the early 1960s Delray Beach was becoming known for surfing. Atlantic Avenue was the biggest seller of surfboards in Florida at the time. Delray Beach's surfing fame increased somewhat serendipitously after a 1965 shipwreck. During Hurricane Betsy, the 441 feet (134 m) freighter Amaryllis ran aground on Singer Island, creating a windbreak that formed perfectly breaking waves. The ship was dismantled three years later, yet local surfers have retained an association with the area.
In the 1970s, Interstate 95 between Palm Beach Gardens and Miami was fully completed and development began to spread west of the city limits. This pattern continued and accelerated through the 1980s, as downtown and many of the older neighborhoods fell into a period of economic decline.
Revitalization of some historic areas began during the last decade of the twentieth century, as several local landmark structures were renovated. These include the Colony Hotel and Old School Square (the former campus of Delray Elementary School and Delray High School, since turned into a cultural center). The Old School Square complex now comprises the Crest Theatre, a venue for the performing arts, in the former High School building; the 1925 Gymnasium, restored to maintain its appearance, which has since become a venue for local events such as wedding receptions and dances; the Cornell Museum of Art and History, built in the restored Elementary School; and an outdoor entertainment pavilion, which serves as a venue for musical performances and other events such as political rallies. The city also established five Historic Districts, listed in the Local Register of Historic Places, and annexed several other historic residential neighborhoods between U.S. Route 1 and the Intracoastal Waterway in an effort to preserve some of the distinctive local architecture.
In 2001, the historic home of teacher/principal Solomon D. Spady was renovated and turned into the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. The Spady Museum houses black archives. It hosts exhibits and programs designed to recognize the efforts of blacks who were instrumental in shaping Delray Beach and Palm Beach County. In 2007 the museum was expanded by renovating a 1935 cottage as a Kid's Cultural Clubhouse, and the construction of a 50-seat amphitheater named for C. Spencer Pompey, a pioneer black educator.
Downtown Delray, located in the eastern part of the city, along Atlantic Avenue, east of I-95 and stretching to the beach, has undergone a large scale renovation and gentrification. The Delray Beach Tennis Center has brought business to the area. It has hosted several major international tennis events such as the April 2005 Fed Cup (USA vs. Belgium, the April 2004 Davis Cup (USA vs. Sweden), the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (ATP Event), and the Chris Evert / Bank of America Pro Celebrity.
Atlantic Community High School was rebuilt in 2005 on a different site from the previous school, a plan which was met with much contention.
When DayJet operated from 2007 to 2008, its headquarters were in Delray Beach.
From 2009 to 2012, Pet Airways had its headquarters in Delray Beach.
In 2012, Rand McNally "Best of the Road" named Delray Beach America's Most Fun Small Town. Delray Beach was rated as the 3rd Happiest Seaside Town in America by Coastal Living in 2015.
In 2007, Delray Beach was labeled as the drug recovery capital of the United States because it had one of the country's largest recovery communities and relative number of halfway houses. As a result of the article, as of July 7, 2009, the city government approved ordinances that made it illegal for sober houses and other transient rentals to operate in the area. These ordinances may be tested in the courts in the future.
Halfway House Delray Beach Video
- The city's eastern boundary includes 3 miles (4.8 km) of beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean.
- Directly to the south, the city is bordered by Boca Raton.
- To the south and southeast, the city is bordered by Highland Beach on the same barrier island east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
- Directly to the north, the city is bordered by Boynton Beach.
- To the north and northeast, the city is bordered by Gulf Stream on the barrier island and along a section of mainland east of U.S. Route 1.
- To the west, an urbanized area that includes High Point, Kings Point, Villages of Oriole, and several gated communities extends from the city's western boundary to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge portion of the Everglades. Many residences and businesses within this suburban corridor of unincorporated Palm Beach County possess a Delray Beach postal address despite technically lying outside the city limits. This area is often referred to collectively and informally as "West Delray".
Delray Beach's location in Southeastern Palm Beach County is in the middle of Florida's Gold Coast region.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city of Delray Beach has a total land area of 15.81 miles (25.44 km).
In earlier years downtown Delray was centered along Atlantic Avenue as far west as Swinton Avenue and as far east as the intracoastal waterway. Downtown has since expanded. By 2010, downtown extended west to I-95 and east as the Atlantic Ocean; The north-south boundaries extend roughly two blocks north and south of Atlantic Avenue.
Delray Beach's climate qualifies as a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af), as its driest month (February) averages 64.8mm of precipitation, meeting the minimum standard of 60mm in the driest month needed to qualify for that designation.
Delray Beach has hot and humid summers and warm winters, with a marked drier season in the winter. Its near sea-level elevation, coastal location, position just above the Tropic of Cancer, and proximity to the Gulf Stream shapes its climate. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, although hurricanes can develop outside those dates. The most likely time for hurricane activity is during the peak of the Cape Verde season, which is mid-August through the end of September. Delray Beach has received direct or near direct hits from hurricanes in 1928, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1965, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2004, and 2005.
As of 2010, there were 34,156 households out of which 20.4% were vacant. As of 2000, 18.9% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.7% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.87.
In 2000, the city's population was spread out with 18.2% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 25.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.0 males.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $43,371, and the median income for a family was $51,195. Males had a median income of $33,699 versus $28,469 for females. The per capita income for the city was $29,350. About 8.2% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.6% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2000, speakers of English as a first language accounted for 75.44% of all residents, while French Creole accounted for 11.73%, Spanish consisted of 7.02%, French was at 1.87%, Italian at 0.88%, and German made up 0.75% of the population.
As of 2000, Delray Beach had the sixteenth highest percentage of Haitian residents in the US, with 10.50% of the population.
The Delray Beach Open is an ATP World Tour 250 series men's professional tennis tournament held each year. The Delray Beach Tennis Center has also hosted the Fed Cup, the Davis Cup, and the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic.
On July 20, 2010, the city's commissioners proclaimed that the city's name would be officially changed to Tennis Beach for one week in honor of its nomination by the United States Tennis Association as one of the top tennis towns in the United States.
The area offers restaurants, retail shops, nightclubs, and art galleries. There are a number of free municipal parking lots and garages downtown.
The city has 2 miles (3.2 km) of public beach accessible from Florida State Road A1A. Travel Holiday magazine named the Delray Municipal Beach as the top beach in the southeastern United States.
The remains of the steamship Inchulva that sank on Sept 11, 1903 are located in shallow water near the public beach, acting as habitat for native fish and corals. Known today as the Delray Wreck, the site is noted for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Downtown Delray Beach has undergone a gentrification program centered on East Atlantic Avenue, also known as simply "The Avenue". The area is noted for its nightlife, dining, and shopping. In 2012 USA Today Travel named Delray Beach America's Most Fun Small Town.
The downtown Arts District, centered in the Pineapple Grove neighborhood just north of East Atlantic Avenue, is noted for its galleries, performance art, and cultural organizations. Art and Jazz on the Avenue is held six times a year.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a center for Japanese arts and culture. The campus includes two museum buildings, the Roji-en Japanese Gardens: Garden of the Drops of Dew, a bonsai garden, library, gift shop, and a Japanese restaurant, called the Cornell Cafe, which has been featured on the Food Network. Rotating exhibits are displayed in both buildings, and demonstrations, including tea ceremonies and classes, are held in the main building. Traditional Japanese festivals are celebrated several times a year.
Downtown Delray has had a building boom since roughly 2003. New mixed-use development projects have recently been constructed, and more are planned, in the areas immediately north and south of Atlantic Avenue. To accommodate the anticipated growth the city has also built two new municipal parking garages.
According to Delray Beach's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Notable landmarks and buildings
- The Colony Hotel, built in 1926, is a "Delray Beach Historic Landmark".
- Delray Beach Tennis Center, Tennis stadium capable of seating 8,200 spectators.
- Old School Square, listed in the National Register of Historic Places
- John and Elizabeth Shaw Sundy House, listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Points of interest
- Art House of Delray
- Artists Alley
- Arts Garage
- Atlantic Dunes Park
- Cornell Museum
- Delray Beach Historical Society - Cason Cottage
- Delray Beach Public Library
- Delray Beach Seaboard Air Line Railway Station
- Delray Municipal Beach
- Delray Yacht Cruises
- Downtown Arts District - Pineapple Grove
- ETTRA Art Gallery
- J. B. Evans House and Sandoway House Nature Center, listed in the National Register of Historic Places
- Marina Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places
- Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
- Roji-en Japanese Gardens
- The Seagate Hotel & Spa
- South County Courthouse
- Spady Museum
- SS Inchulva - Shipwreck Dive Site
- Surfing Museum
- Vintage Pinball
- Wakodahatchee Wetlands
- Florida State Road A1A, locally known as "Ocean Boulevard", is a north-south Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway passing through the city between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.
- U.S. Route 1, also known as "Federal Highway", is a north-south road passing through downtown, commercial districts, and residential areas in the eastern part of the city. US1 splits into a divided one-way pair through downtown.
- Interstate 95 bisects the city from north to south with two Delray Beach interchanges.
- Florida's Turnpike is a north-south toll road passing through unincorporated Delray Beach, with an interchange at Atlantic Avenue.
- U.S. Highway 441, also known as State Road 7, is a north-south highway passing through residential and commercial areas west of the city limits.
- Other major north-south roads include Congress Avenue, Military Trail, and Jog Road.
- Florida State Road 806, locally known as "Atlantic Avenue", is the primary east-west route between State Road A1A and US 441, and the central commercial thoroughfare downtown.
- Atlantic Avenue, Linton Boulevard, and George Bush Boulevard are the east-west roads with drawbridge crossings over the Intracoastal Waterway.
- Tri-Rail commuter rail system and Amtrak serve the city with stops at Delray Beach Station.
- PalmTran provides local bus service in the area.
- The Downtown Roundabout: A free shuttle that connects the Tri-Rail Station to Downtown Delray Beach. With two routes, and 22 stops throughout the downtown, it operates 7 days a week.
- The Downtowner: An on-demand, local, free ride service utilizing green technology.
Downtown Delray Beach is accessible by boat via The Intracoastal Waterway. The city has a municipal marina with rental slips just south of the Atlantic Avenue crossing. Yacht cruises also launch daily from Veteran's Park just north of the Atlantic Avenue drawbridge.
Delray Beach has two sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:
- Miyazu, Kyoto, Japan - Miyazu was the birthplace of George Morikami, for whom Morikami Park and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is named.
- Moshi, Tanzania
- Nahariya, Israel
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