Delray Beach is a beautiful place in Palm Beach County, Florida, located a bit north of Ft. Lauderdale. Surprisingly there is a population of more than 60,000 people, considering the wonderful small town feel. I feel fortunate to have spent a considerable amount of time here about a decade ago. Delray Beach is technically considered a part of the Miami metropolitan area, but it is really a different state of mind. In general, most people who know the town, like it a lot. It is one of the better beach spots and towns in Florida. Golf carts are street-legal.
[pullquote]Top beach in the southeastern United States according to Travel Holiday magazine[/pullquote]
This All-America City along A1A has 3 miles of public beach. Earlier this summer (June 2017), Delray was named the All-America City for the third time. It’s the only Florida city with that distinction. While it is a civic award, it also falls in line with the town’s increasing popularity. This popularity stems from the wide gorgeous beaches and many options for fun. In addition to the beautiful beaches, Delray offers decent diving and snorkeling at the Delray wreck, the Steamship Inchulva. The Inchulva went down back in 1903 and has some nice corals and fish in shallow water.
Coastal Living in 2015 named Delray Beach as the 3rd Happiest Seaside Town in America.
Where is Delray Beach? 26°27′N 80°5′W
Delray: Boom and Bust in South Florida
African American farmers first settled the area in 1884 with the purchase of land from Orange Grove House of Refuge. A decade later, the community had grown enough to open the area’s first school.
America’s Most Fun Small Town – Rand McNally
That same year, 1894, a track of land was purchased by a Republican Congressman from Michigan, William S. Linton. Linton started selling plots of land with the hopes of starting a farming community as well. When Flagler’s railroad was continued to Miami from West Palm Beach, a stop was added in present day Delray.
[pullquote]Named after a neighborhood in Detroit. How things change. [/pullquote]
Things looked bright for Linton’s community and quickly the settlers found success. However, the winter vegetable market for the northern states was crushed by a hard freeze. After a good part of the settlers gave up, including the Congressman, the settlement’s name was changed to Delray in 1901. Delray is a neighborhood on the southwest side of Detroit, Michigan. Incredibly, this was to change the area’s luck. Delray is the anglicized spelling of “Del Rey”.
The population had grown to over 1000 by 1920. Soon the pineapple trade faced competition from Key West due to the southern expansion of the railroad. At the same time, was becoming harder to grow the fruit because the water table was lowered by drainage of the Everglades.
Delray Beach : Prime Vacation Spot
Renewed prosperity was came with land boom of the 1920s in Florida. This birthed new towns and cities from the Everglades and shaped Florida’s future for years to come. “The story includes many parallels to the modern real estate boom, including the forces of outside speculators, easy credit access for buyers, and rapidly appreciating property values.”
Like today, real estate speculation and tourism dominated the local economy. To raise capital for water and sewer line, sidewalks and streets, the town issued bonds. Delray was the biggest town between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm beach and hotels were naturally built for the increasing number of visitors. Delray was later burdened with substantial debts and severely lessened property tax revenues, when the bubble burst in 1926.
Initially, Delray was split into 2 towns by the Canal. East of the canal to the Atlantic Ocean beach was Delray Beach. Delray and Delray Beach decided to put aside their petty jealousies in 1927 and merge into one town.
Surfing became synonymous with Delray beach by the 1960s. The town’s reputation for consistent waves increased after a hurricane caused a shipwreck. According to lore, perfect breaking waves were caused by the 441 feet freighter Amaryllis beaching on Singer Island. A few years later the vessel was removed, but the surfers stayed. In the 60s, Atlantic Avenue sold the most surfboards in Florida.
Even though the town is booming, there are still some interesting figures around. Keep your eyes peeled for the Colombian beauty, Sofia Vergara as well as the Williams sisters. Red Sox nation’s favorite, Bucky Dent is a resident as well.
In sum, Delray Beach is an agreeable place. It’s not overly expensive and the scenery is nice. The bars and restaurants are good and the drive along the coast is amazing.
My friend KO sent the pictures from when she was recently on a house hunting mission. Her family ultimately settled on the other side of the state in Pass-a-grille. Thank you Kristina.