The Delray Beach Historical Society has a charming 3-building campus on the edge of the city’s downtown Pineapple Grove Arts District. The buildings are houses from the early 1900s, two of which were saved from demolition and moved to the present location. The Ethel Sterling Williams Research Center & Archives is housed in the original Delray Beach farmhouse from 1908, also referred to as the “yellow cottage”. The Cason Cottage built in 1924, serves as a 1920s historic museum house and offers lectures, workshops, and programs for all ages. The third building, the restored 1926 Bungalow, presents the Archives’ material in captivating history exhibits and also houses the Historical Society’s office.
Delray’s early settlements seem to be forerunners of today’s Southeast Florida communities: a truly diverse populace. African Americans from north Florida and Georgia were the earliest non-indigenous settlers, arriving around 1884. The Linton farming community was established in the 1890s by Michigan Congressman William S. Linton, who sold tracks of land for clearing and farming of winter vegetables to ship north. In the early 1900s settlers from the British colony of the Bahamas, settled here, and by 1905 there is documentation of Japanese settlers working on the Yamato farming colony just south of town. (The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens was a donation to South Florida from one of these farmers, turned successful produce broker, “George” Sukeji Morikami.) Delray Beach continues representing diverse communities today; it has the largest Haitian community per capita in the U.S. Records of Delray’s pioneer families and communities, as well as the area’s history and development can be found at the Delray Beach Historical Society (DBHS).
Insights to how people lived and everyday life can be experienced through the DBHS collections. The Police Book of Arrests, 1914-1940s, (including charges made during Prohibition which would seem insignificant and almost comical today) and other early City records; the Women’s Club of Delray Beach, 1902-1975; the Delray Beach News, 1923-1986; local school records and yearbooks; early 1900s attire, including Seminole clothing and a cavalry uniform; are just some of the historical material found here.
Among the valuable collections in the DBHS Archives are the original architectural drawings by Samuel Ogren Sr., Delray’s first registered architect. Ogren is considered the father of the Delray Beach architectural style, having been active during the 1924-1950 building boom. Another important collection is that of prominent editorial and political cartoonists Pat Enright and Herb Roth. Enright and Roth belonged to the artists and writers community that formed in Delray Beach in the 1920s.
The DBHS website has informative and historical articles, including a Blog highlighting different aspects of the Archives. The archivist also maintains a site for educators with a link to their exhibit website.
The Archive Collection features over 20,000 items items including photographs, real estate documents, architectural renderings, original charters, City of Delray Beach records, books, memorabilia, letters, newspapers, paintings, original drawings, rare artifacts, pioneer and family histories – both oral and video, clothing, and other three dimensional artifacts. (http://delraybeachhistory.org/the-ethel-sterling-williams-history-learning-center-archives/)
Delray Beach Historical Society
111 North Swinton Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida 33444
Delray Beach Historical Society is a small non-profit organization.
The three historic cottages are brimming with history exhibits, classes, workshops and lectures.
History exhibits are open Thursday-Saturday, 11 am-3 pm. Group tours are available 6 days per week by reservation.
Archive research is available to the public by appointment.