Historical City of Delray Beach Celebrates its Centennial
The area now considered as the City of Delray Beach was first inhabited by Africans, Seminole Native Americans, Black Seminoles, and later, White Europeans long before being bought up by the Gleason family. Originally hailing from Wisconsin, the Gleason clan was headed by William and Sarah Gleason. William Gleason, in addition to procuring land throughout Florida, also served as governor of the Sunshine State between the years of 1868-1870. His sons, W.H.H. & George Gleason, followed in their parents’ trailblazing footsteps in the real estate business under the name of “Gleason Brothers, dealers in Real Estate”. It just so happens that plenty of the earliest settlers arriving in the area turned to the Gleason family to purchase their land.
In 1885, a post office was established for Zion, Florida, in what is now the City of Delray Beach. This was also the year that the state of Florida granted Henry Flagler millions of acres so that construction on the Florida East Coast Railway (F.E.C.) could begin. It should also be noted that Flagler went on to purchase several hundred acres of the current city under the “Model Land Company” name.
The City of Delray Beach has long been known for its cultural diversity. This can be evidenced by the influx of settlers of both African (arriving from neighboring states and northern Florida) and Caribbean (mainly Bahamian) descent. Henry Flagler employed a large number of ethnically diverse people. Many of those workers purchased their land from Flagler’s Model Land Company, and set up the first school, and church in Linton (later the City of Delray Beach), providing some of the major building blocks of society for this burgeoning town.
Progress and community have been at the heart of the City of Delray Beach before it even existed as such. Once the Florida Coastline Canal (Intracoastal Waterways) was made more easily navigable, Atlantic Ave. was mapped, and Flagler’s F.E.C. Railway was completed, the town both grew and prospered. The name was officially changed from Linton (after William Linton) to Delray, upon the suggestion of town leader W.W. Blackmer, in order to pay homage to a town near Detroit.
Around the turn of the century, other distinct contributions and additions include those made by the Ladies Improvement Association. This small yet tenacious group of women was behind the provision of some of what is considered to be a solid foundation for a lasting town, such as a cemetery, a public library, a town hall and improvements on Atlantic Ave.
Among other additions that have had a lasting impact upon the City of Delray, was the Japanese agricultural colony just south, known as “Yamato”. Jo Sakai, leader of the colony, chose the name because it is both ancient and revered in Japanese culture. An initial group of Japanese men, that were recruited by the enterprising Henry Flagler, were eventually joined by their families and friends, where, together in Delray Beach, they flourished. Most notably among this group was George Morikami, who donated over 200 acres of land, and after whom the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens are named.
- In 1911, the Intracoastal Waterway (known as the “canal”) was incorporated as the “Town of Delray”, with the 1st mayor, John Shaw Sundy, serving 7 terms. Also, the 1st bridge was built and connected the Town of Delray to the barrier island.
- In 1923, the area east of the Intracoastal Waterway was incorporated as the “Town of Delray Beach”.
- In 1927, the “Town of Delray Beach” and the “City of Delray” united to form the “City of Delray Beach”.
The City of Delray Beach is fortunate to be located in an area of Florida that is geographically advantageous for those that love the outdoors. There are activities that are available for all ages in a plethora of different categories, virtually validating the saying, “there’s something for everyone”. Most recognizable is the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium, which has hosted successful ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour events for over a decade. However, 2010 was the jewel in the crown of past triumphs as this 8,200 seated facility made history by hosting the world’s first 9-day “Super Event”. This lucrative affair showcased tennis legends of both past and present from both the ATP World Tour and the ATP Champions’ Tour.
athletic fields- Currie Commons Park, Merrit Park, Robert P. Miller Park, Pine Grove Park, Plumosa Park, Pompey Park, Seacrest Soccer Complex and Hilltopper Stadium
beach & oceanfront parks- Anchor Park, Atlantic Dunes, Delray Municipal Beach, Sandoway Park and Sarah Gleason Park
community parks- Barwick Park, Bexley Trail Community Park, Center Square Park, Catherine Strong Splash Park, Cornell Park, Del Ida Park, Eagle Park, Family Recreation & Fitness Center Playground, La Hacienda Gardens, Lakeview Park, Mike Manchek Boy Scout Park, Oakmont Park, Old School Square Park, Orchard View Park, Rosemont Park, Sunshine Park, SW 5th Ave. Park and Worthing Park
dog park- Lake Ida Dog Park
golf courses- Delray Municipal Golf Club, Lakeview Golf Club
intracoastal parks- Knowles Park, Mangrove Park, Veterans’ Park
marina- City Marina
nature areas- Delray Live Oaks Natural Area, Leon M. Weekes Environmental Preserve
recreational areas- “505” Teen Center and Hobbit Skate Park, Pompey Park Pool, Delray Swim & Tennis Club Pool and Delray Beach & Tennis Club
programs & activities- Delray Divas (also Junior & Baby Divas)
youth athletics- baseball, basketball, cheerleading, football, lacrosse, softball, soccer, swim team, tennis, track & field and volleyball
adult leagues- baseball, basketball, dodgeball, kickball, volleyball, flag football, co-ed softball, women’s softball, wiffleball and golf
art- acrylic art class and young artwork (infants through teens)
dance- adults: ballroom, soul, line, Israeli and Contra
kids: kinderdance, ballet, Divas, teen dances
games- adults: game room, chess, bingo and bridge
kids: game room, video game tournament
adults: AARP “55 Alive” Mature Driving Class, Open-Use Computer Lab, Vita Tax Program and Adult Literacy
kids: Kindermusik, Hispano-Latino Cultural Alliance, Building Bridges, ACT/SAT Practice testing, Music Studio, Car Club, Creative Writing and Homework Assistance
CULTURAL/ARTS EVENTS & FESTIVALS, NIGHTLIFE
The City of Delray Beach, affectionately known as “The Village by the Sea”, is renowned for both its cultural events/festivals and nightlife. In fact, there is an almost endless list of choices for restaurants, clubs, bars (and any hybrid thereof) to please even the most discriminating social palate. Furthermore, because of its close proximity to the water, the City of Delray Beach can boast the fact that many of its entertainment establishments are practically right on the beach. This fortunate circumstance allows for a romantic, after-dinner stroll or simply the opportunity to capitalize upon the soothing white noise of the pounding surf, cocktail in hand, just letting your mind run away for a bit. When it comes to cultural events or annual festivals, the City of Delray Beach can rival much more urban environments, while still maintaining the warm and hospitable vibe for which it has come to be known.
Various other things to do & see in Delray:
- Segway Tours of Delray
- Art & Cultural Festivals including: Delray Affair & Garlic Festival
- Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens: (with 6 diverse gardens, inspired by different historical periods & styles of Japanese gardening. They also offer educational programs, seasonal events a bonsai display, a Pan Asian cuisine and
a museum store)
- American Orchid Society
- Atlantic Ave.: (a concentrated area of restaurants, bars, and other sources of entertainment)