Recorded history begins with the construction of the Orange Grove House of Refuge in 1876, and settlement began around 1884 when African Americans from the Panhandle of Florida purchased land a little inland from this landmark and began farming. By 1894 the first school was established.
In 1894 William S Linton, a Republican US Congressman for Saginaw, Michigan bought a tract of land just west of the location above and began selling plot in what was hoped to be 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.
In 1901 the settlement’s name was changed to Delray, after the Detroit neighborhood of Delray (originally Del Rey which is Spanish for “of the king”). A hard freeze in 1898 had driven away many of the earlier settlers, including Linton. By 1910 the population was 250. In 1911, it was chartered by the State of Florida as in incorporated town. That same year, pineapple and tomato canning plants were built, and pineapples became the main crop of the area. By 1920, the population rose to 1,05l.
Florida’s land boom of the 1920’s brought renewed prosperity to Delray. Tourism and real estate speculation became important parts of the local economic picture. Delray issued bonds to raise money to install water and sewer lines, paved streets and sidewalks. Several hotels were built. Delray was now the largest town on the east coast of Florida between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The subsequent collapse of the land boom in 1926 left Delray with high bond debts and greatly reduced income from property taxes.
Originally separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Florida East Coast Canal (now part of the Intracoastal Waterway), 1923 merged the area between the canal and the ocean and Delray Beach was born. In 1927 Delray and Delray Beach were officially combined into one town named Delray Beach.
Since the end of World War II, 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. The Delray Beach Tennis Center has brought business to the area, hosting several major international tennis events, the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships and the Chris Evert/Bank of America Pro Celebrity Tournament.
Several local historic landmark structures were renovated during the last decade of the 20th century. These include Old School Square (formerly Delray Elementary School and High School), and The Colony Hotel. Old School Square comprises the Crest Theatre, a venue for the performing arts, the Cornell Museum of Art and History, and a recently constructed outdoor entertainment pavilion which hosts a variety of events from musical performances to political rallies.