Delray Beach is a coastal city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The population of Delray Beach was estimated at 67,371 in 2016. That is up from 60,522 according to the 2010 United States Census. Delray Beach is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area, which was home to an estimated 6,012,331 people in 2015.
The earliest known human inhabitants of what is now Delray Beach were the Jaega people. Tequesta Indians likely passed through or inhabited the area at various times, and an 1841 U.S. military map shows a Seminole camp located in the area now known as Lake Ida. Few other recorded details of these local indigenous settlements have survived.
In 1876, the United States Life Saving Service built the Orange Grove House of Refuge to rescue and shelter ship-wrecked sailors. 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 was discovered.
Independence Day parade, July 4, 1914.
The Colony Hotel, built in 1926, was designed by architect Martin L. Hampton.
The Arcade Tap Room was a gathering place for Delray’s Artists and Writer’s Colonyvisitors from the mid-1920s to the 1950s.
The first non-indigenous group to build a settlement was a party of African-Americans from the Panhandle of Florida who purchased land a little inland from the Orange Grove House of Refuge and began farming around 1884. By 1894 the Black community was large enough to establish the first school in the area.
In 1894 William S. Linton, a Republican U.S. 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 established a post office and a store, and 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 Beachand 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.
Estate at 1755 North Ocean Boulevard, January 26, 1933.
Beginning in the mid-1920s, a seasonal Artists and Writers Colony was established in Delray Beach and the adjacent town of Gulf Stream. At the time, Palm Beach did not welcome Hollywood personalities or all types of artists, so the Delray winter colony drew a more eclectic and bohemian populace. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Delray became a popular winter enclave for artists and authors, especially famous cartoonists. Two nationally syndicated cartoonists – H. T. Webster (creator of “Caspar 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, bungalows, and ‘Key West style’ cottage homes for the Artists and Writers Colony winter residents.
Post World War II
The Seacrest Hotel.
Atlantic Avenue, mid-20th century.
Marina Historic District, listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, 2014.
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 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. 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.
Delray Municipal Beach, 2015.
- 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 multiple 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 sometimes referred to collectively and informally as “West Delray.”
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 has a tropical climate, more specifically 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 1903, 1906, 1928, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1965, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2004, and 2005.
|[hide]Climate data for Delray Beach|
|Average high °F (°C)||75|
|Average low °F (°C)||57|
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.75|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Delray Beach demographics|
|2010 Census||Delray Beach||Palm Beach County||Florida|
|Population, percent change, 2000 to 2010||+0.8%||+16.7%||+17.6%|
|Population density||3,828.4/sq mi||670.2/sq mi||350.6/sq mi|
|White or Caucasian (including White Hispanic)||65.7%||73.5%||75.0%|
|(Non-Hispanic White or Caucasian)||59.2%||60.1%||57.9%|
|Black or African-American||28.0%||17.3%||16.0%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||9.5%||19.0%||22.5%|
|Native American or Native Alaskan||0.2%||0.5%||0.4%|
|Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian||0.1%||0.1%||0.1%|
|Two or more races (Multiracial)||1.7%||2.3%||2.5%|
|Some Other Race||2.5%||3.9%||3.6%|
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.
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.
The Delray Beach Tennis Center is a full-service public tennis facility with 14 clay courts, 6 hard courts, and an 8,200-seat stadium located near downtown on Atlantic Avenue. The center includes an upstairs pavilion and conference room, pro-shop with locker rooms, racquet stringing, and merchandise. The club offers a variety of adult and junior programs, leagues, clinics and camps. A second location, the Delray Swim & Tennis Club, features 24 clay courts and a clubhouse that has a pro shop with merchandise and locker rooms.
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.
Culture and attractions
John and Elizabeth Shaw Sundy House, built in 1902, is listed in the U.S. Register of Historic Places.
Gwynn House, built in 1907 is the third oldest House in Delray Beach
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
The first floor of the Silverball Museum.
The J. B. Evans House, also known as the Sandoway Discovery Center, is listed the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Cornell Art Museum now occupies part of the restored 1913 Delray School complex.
The city has 2 miles (3.2 km) of public beach accessible from Florida State Road A1A. Travel Holiday magazine named Delray Municipal Beach as the top beach in the southeastern United States. The remains of the British 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. Atlantic Avenue is also a regular destination for various art fairs and street festivals.
Delray Beach has a street-legal golf cart community among residents as well as local businesses. Exhilaride offers street-legal golf cart rentals to visitors and residents by the hour, day or longer. The Downtowner is point-to-point golf cart free ride service available by app and Katch-a-Ride is a similar business, available by phone.
Arts Garage, a not-for-profit multi-media arts venue, hosts musical concerts, live theatre, arts education and outreach programs, and a visual art gallery.
The Delray Beach Playhouse, which opened in 1947 in Lake Ida East Park, stages plays, musicals, interactive studio theatre, books on stage, children’s theatre productions, classes and camps.
Old School Square, the former campus of Delray Elementary School and Delray High School, has since been converted 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 Art Museum, built in the restored Elementary School; and The Pavilion, which serves as an outdoor venue for musical performances and other events such as political rallies. The Creative Arts School offers beginner through master level art, photography, and writing classes for children and adults.
Cason Cottage House Museum, once home to a family of Delray Beach pioneers, offers visitors a glimpse at daily life in South Florida from 1915 to 1935. The Museum is maintained and operated by the Delray Beach Historical Society.
The Sandoway Discovery Center, located at the historic J. B. Evans House at 142 South Ocean Boulevard, features native plants, live animals, and a large collection of shells from around the world. The center offers environmental education programs and classes.
The historic Sundy House now operates as a luxury eco resort. The premises includes The Sundy family’s former apartments and cottages which have been converted into guest accommodations, a café, an antique shop, and tropical Taru Gardens.
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 and 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.
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.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a wetlands park open to the public. Facilities include a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marshareas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting. The site is part of the South section of the Great Florida Birding Trail and offers many opportunities to observe birds in their natural habitats. Over 151 species of birds have been spotted inside the park, including pied-billed grebe, snowy egrets, and black-bellied whistling ducks. The park is also home to turtles, alligators, rabbits, frogs, and raccoons.
The City of Delray Beach maintains five athletic fields, five beach and oceanfront parks, eight community parks, two intracoastal parks, a teen center and skatepark, a splash park, and a pool and tennis club, offering a variety of recreational activities and facilities.
Downtown Delray Beach has had a building boom since roughly 2003. Recent development reflects trends of New Urbanism downtown, and mansionization of waterfront property, sometimes creating pressures on Historic Districts and historic sites. 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.
Drug recovery programs
In 2007, a New York Times article labeled Delray Beach the drug recovery capital of the United States because it had one of the country’s largest recovery communities and relative number of sober living houses. However, the lucrative local drug rehab industry has received mixed reviews from addiction experts and is considered a public nuisance by some residents and city officials. Persistent complaints of health care fraud, insurance fraud, strain on public resources, and a perceived lack of adequate regulation and rehab facility inspections have received media coverage. In July 2017, several national news outlets including the New York Times and NBC News published investigative reports detailing fraud allegations within South Florida’s billion-dollar drug rehab industry, focusing on Delray Beach’s sober houses. At least 30 arrests for illegal “patient brokering” had been made between July 2016 and July 2017 and more are expected.
According to Delray Beach’s 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||Number of employees|
|1||Delray Medical Center||1,540|
|2||Palm Beach County School District||1,034|
|4||City of Delray Beach||809|
|6||Palm Beach County||520|
|7||Ed Morse Delray Toyota & Scion||450|
|8||South County Mental Health Center||313|
|10||Marriott Hotels & Resorts||230|
Delray Beach has experienced a drastic spike in opioid overdoses in recent years, reaching record numbers in 2016 and 2017. The number reached its pinnacle of 96 in October 2016. Most overdoses are a result of heroin mixed with Fentanyl.
Notable landmarks and buildings
Front lobby of the Colony Hotel on East Atlantic Avenue.
The historic home of educator Solomon D. Spady has been converted into the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum.
Palm Trail Yacht Club is one of several Delray Beach structures designed by mid-century modern designer Alfons Bach.
Delray Beach Municipal Marina.
- The Colony Hotel, designed by architect Martin L. Hampton and 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.
- Palm Trail Yacht Club on the Intracoastal Waterway, designed by Mid-century Modernist designer Alfons Bach.
- Sewell C. Biggs House, designed by Paul Rudolph.
- John and Elizabeth Shaw Sundy House and Taru Gardens, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Points of interest
- Cornell Museum
- Delray Beach Public Library
- Delray Beach Seaboard Air Line Railway Station
- 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.
- Milton-Myers American Legion Post No. 65, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
- Morikami Park
- Roji-en Japanese Gardens
- Silverball Museum
- Spady Museum
- 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.
- 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.