On March 9, 1991, the restored 1926 gymnasium at the Old School Square Cultural Arts Center made its debut with a 1950s-themed prom. The opening of the gymnasium marked the halfway point of the restoration of the four-acre site. The 1913 Delray Elementary building reopened in 1990 as the Cornell Museum of Art and American Culture, and the Crest Theatre in the former Delray High School opened in 1993.
This undated Palm Beach Post file photo shows the old Delray Elementary School in its early days.
Another 1920s shot of the school and all the entire student body is here.
Students file out of the main building in 1986. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Some of the names inscribed on the rafters of the school gym date back to the 1930s. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Dorothy Dull, a kindergarten teacher who had been at the school for 19 years, quiets her students as they exit her classroom in 1986. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Bert Fashaw shines the wood floors before the start of the 1981 school year. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo).
Students run on the field behind the school in June 1983. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
The 1925 high school building on Swinton Avenue in 1986. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Tags: buildings, Delray Beach, photos, schools, This Week in History
This is Black History Month. In November, we quoted West Palm Beach historian Ineria Hudnell saying, “You don’t have to wait until Black History Month” to honor the struggles and accomplishments of the black community. Others have opined for a time when we don’t need a special day to single out one ethnic group’s accomplishments. Until then, we’ll carry on.
So let’s spotlight George Green of Delray Beach. Here’s a 1999 Post Time article:
George Green got more than one out of every four votes for the Delray Beach City Council. Not enough to win, but not bad for a black man in the Deep South in 1911.
Green was one of the pioneers of the fledgling town during a time of Jim Crow poll taxes and other forms of black voter intimidation. But in the town’s first election, on Oct. 9, 1911, Delray Beach’s blacks were not only allowed to vote, they put forward their own candidate.
Eleven of the first 57 electors were black, and Green was one of 10 people nominated for five alderman’s positions, coming in seventh with 16 votes.
Green’s family could well have been named Monroe. That was the name of his father’s master. But with emancipation, the name became a hated reminder, and the family became the Greens.
George, born in 1877 and one of six siblings, left the small town of Midway, near Tallahassee, with his wife in 1894. He joined a growing migration of Southern blacks lured to frontier South Florida by the promise of cheap and plentiful land.
Soon Green had a home in the neighborhood between Swinton and Northwest Sixth avenues, now called the West Settlers Historic District. He was a partner in a packing house that shipped winter vegetables to the north.
“My grandfather was quite a businessman for somebody who probably had only an eighth-grade education,” said Betty Jo Jenkins, a librarian at City College of New York.
“There was evidence of segregation, but I think the people seemed to have gotten along well,” Jenkins said. “They were all struggling to make it in this rather inhospitable area.”
Kidney disease felled Green at 50; he died in his family home and is buried, along with his wife, in Delray Beach.
Delray Beach pioneer George Green, with his wife Josie and children. He moved to Delray Beach in 1894 and ran a vegetable packing house. The Delray Beach pioneer got 16 votes to place seventh in the 1911 race for alderman. (Photo courtesy of EPOCH and the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum)
Update: Reader Edith B. Cowan of Jupiter caught a goof in our Dec. 30 column on Wallis Warfield Simpson and the Seminole Inn in Indiantown. “The Seaboard Railroad and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad did not merge and become the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad until July 1, 1967,” she wrote. She should know; her father worked for the railroads both before and after the merger.
Tags: African Americans, black icons, Delray Beach
It’s still there, at Hilltopper Stadium, adjacent to the city of Delray Beach’s Seacrest Soccer Complex. The former high school stadium is home to the Delray Rocks youth football team.
The 20-foot-high steel-reinforced concrete statue of New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle was sculpted by Don Seiler, who died in 2000. Seiler wanted the statue to go to the Orange Bowl, but a friend suggested donating the statue to “a lovely little high school with a great football team,” and the Seacrest High School class of 1969 contributed the funds to move the statue to the school.
A Palm Beach Post file photo of the statue in 2003:
The statue was featured in The Palm Beach Post in 1981:
The dedication at Seacrest High School in 1968:
Tags: art, Delray Beach, football, schools
The first South Florida Gladioli Festival was held in 1946 on a rodeo field on Atlantic Avenue. Forty thousand invitations were sent to “northern visitors.”
The 1947 festival featured 22 Orange Bowl floats, along with Miss Gladioli and thousands of gladioli.
By 1966 the event was a week-long art show known as the Delray Affair.
The 1981 Delray Affair section of The Palm Beach Post recounts the history of the festival, including the story of Ignatz, the formerly ubiquitous Delray Affair symbol.
By 1985 the annual event was drawing 100,000 people, and the 25th Delray Affair in 1988 featured the 60s band The Association (Cherish, Windy, and Never My Love).
Tags: Delray Beach, festivals
By Keely Gideon Taylor
The LaFrance Hotel in Delray Beach was the first Black-owned hotel in Delray Beach.
Completed in 1949 by the Charles Patrick family, it was the home away from home for seasonal laborers during the segregation era. When it opened, it was the only Black-owned hotel between Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. During the 1950s and 60s, many Blacks who were professionally trained as laborers in the North would travel to warm South Florida during the winter. From January through April, they would travel to Delray Beach to work long days as butlers, chauffeurs, housekeepers and waiters in segregated upscale homes and fine restaurants.
Kenneth Durante of Delray Beach remembers traveling from New York to Delray Beach from 1960-1968 and staying at the LaFrance. He was trained as a professional waiter in the North. He described the LaFrance as a nice place with decent size rooms and a common area with a small television. He recalled paying $35 a week to stay at the hotel during the 1960s. The hotel had two stories, 16 rooms and two bathrooms. In addition to professional laborers, the hotel also provided a home for traveling Black entertainers. Although Blacks musicians played in local clubs to integrated audiences, they were forced to eat and sleep in segregated establishments.
In 1968, Mr. Durante moved to Delray Beach and started a family. The Durant family has remained permanent residents. Mr. Durante, along with his wife Charlotte, a former City Commissioner, has owned several businesses in Delray Beach. His son, Tony Durante, currently works in ministry at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. His daughter, Lori, serves as executive director/chief curator of the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History.
The LaFrance was purchased by the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in 2004 and redeveloped into affordable housing for low income seniors. The LaFrance Apartments sit on the original site on NW 4th Avenue in the West Settler’s Historic District of Delray Beach.
LaFrance Apartments in Delray Beach
Tags: Black History, Delray Beach, LaFrance Hotel