Delray Beach Historical Society Features Two New Exhibits

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Staff report

Want to know what Delray Beach was like in 1491?

Head to the Delray Beach Historical Society this month to check out “The Last Frontier: Delray Beach from 1491-1919.” 

The historical society is debuting two new exhibits. In addition to heading back in time to the earliest days of the city where woolly mammoths and camels roamed, a second exhibit will take a look at how the city became a thriving tourist town. Opening night will take place on Dec. 13 with a resort town holiday theme.

The frontier exhibit will take visitors back in time to early Delray history. Beginning with the history of  Florida’s indigenous populations and going through the day-to-day struggles of the city’s earliest pioneers, the exhibit explores the early days of South Florida.

“The thing that is most surprising to most people, myself included, is that there is a long history to Delray,” Delray Beach Historical Society archivist Kate Teves said. “We tend to think Delray’s history starts in the 1920s, but there is a long history.”

From indigenous displacement, Florida statehood, Henry Flagler’s railroad, environmental disasters, the mosquito plight, agriculture, architecture, infrastructure, economy, communication and the enduring pioneer spirit, the exhibit showcases what Delray was like way back when.

“People want to know, ‘Was there anything here before we were here?’ People think it was an empty swamp land,” Teves said. “It should be pretty eye-opening.”

Teves said the idea behind the exhibit was to show people what life was like in the early days. She said it is something that community members and teachers have asked for.

The exhibit will focus on the struggles and difficulties of life back then.

A second exhibit “Sunny Greetings From Delray Beach” will focus on the Delray that many think of when they think of “historical” Delray, the time of the land boom and tourism.

Located in the 1926 Bungalow, the exhibit picks up during the Civil War and goes into the resort days of Delray Beach.

It will feature images and artifacts of a town full of entrepreneurial optimism and passion for the arts, polo, tennis, fishing and dining.

Stories of iconic people and places will provide visitors an in-depth, multi-media experience of what life was like in Delray Beach in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s—through good times and challenging times like the market crash.

“Delray’s history as a tourism town is unlike any other’s,” Teves said. “The colors, the bathing suits, and the spirit of this exhibit will captivate our community and probably elicit fun stories among both long-time families and seasonal visitors.”

She said this exhibit is fun, festive and colorful. It is a contrast to the frontier exhibit, which is more serious and showcases how hard life was for the indigenous people and early settlers.

“The two exhibits have different tones,” she said. “We are focusing on tourists. People tend to be happy when they are on vacation.”

Both exhibits were created in-house. Printing was done with donations from Delray’s Finest Signs & Graphics.

Teves said the exhibits came together with help from museum and research libraries from across the world.

She said she reached out to libraries in Spain and the United Kingdom for help locating items to feature.

“It’s been really exciting,” she said.

For more information, on the exhibits or opening event call 561-274-9578.