As the 20th century progressed, Delray Beach grew from a farming community into a bustling city known for its unique architecture and thriving downtown. Delray Beach became a winter resort where artists, writers and cartoonists came to escape the brutal winters and hone their crafts. Nationally known cartoonists Fontaine Fox and W.E. Pat Enright were among the luminaries who called Delray home.
Today, history plays a big role in the city's identity and future direction. Delray Beach is considered a leading figure in the state's growing historic preservation movement. The city has designated several neighborhoods as historic districts; places where residents are encouraged to preserve old homes as a living link to Delray's illustrious past.
Delray Beach Center for the Arts
In the heart of downtown Delray Beach, at 51 N. Swinton Ave, is the Delray Beach Center for the Arts (formerly known as Old School Square). Once the Delray Beach High School, its grand buildings have been transformed in to the multi-million dollar centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district. Delray Beach Center for the Arts houses a museum and theatre (in the former Delray Elementary and High School buildings) as well as an outdoor entertainment pavilion. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a gathering place for the community. It is the centerpiece of the historic downtown shopping district.
Adjacent to Delray Beach Center for the Arts is an emerging "artists district" dubbed Pineapple Grove. The area includes sculpture designed by local artists. The downtown is chock full of art galleries and artists' studios.
Cornell Museum of Art & History
Dedicated in 1990, the Cornell Museum is housed in the restored 1913 Delray Elementary building and named in honor of Delray Beach residents Harriet W. and George D. Cornell. The museum includes four galleries, a beautiful two-story atrium, which is also used as exhibit space, a tea room and a gift shop. It presents rotating regional, national and international exhibits as well asartist showcases, lectures and demonstrations. Delray Beach's historical archives are located in the Cornell Archives Room on the second floor. The archives room is managed by the Delray Beach Historical Society, which also presents special exhibits.
Dedicated in 1993, the Crest Theatre is housed in the restored 1925 Delray High School building, which also houses six restored classrooms, two art studios, a large reception room and Old School Square's administrative offices. Attached is a 1926 Gymnasium, used primarily as a rental facility. Formerly the high school auditorium, the Crest was restored and re-designed as a 323-seat, state-of-the-art performing arts theatre. It presents a variety of professional theatre, music, dance and national tours as well as Broadway Cabaret and serves as an important venue for community performances, presentations and town meetings.
Old School Square Entertainment Pavilion
Completed in early 2002, the pavilion is a state-of-the-art performance facility with concession building and covered loggias surrounding an open, grassy area. It hosts a variety of community festivals and events, year-round, as well as concerts.
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
One of Palm Beach County's top attractions, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is named after George Morikami, a pineapple farmer who donated his land for use as a park after his death. The 200 acre Morikami park has become one of Palm Beach County's top tourist destinations attracting visitors from throughout the United States and abroad. It is the only museum of Japanese culture in the United States.
The museum is in a beautiful 32,000 square foot facility designed to meet the Morikami's growing popularity. The museum features a library, classrooms, 230-seat auditorium and computer technology that allows visitors to "interact" with exhibits. The museum is surrounded by luscious gardens, a waterfall and a forest of pine trees that make the Morikami a popular escape for thousands of visitors. The Museum hosts regular special events that showcase Japanese culture. Four major festivals draw multitudes to the Morikami throughout the year. For a complete schedule of what the Morikami has to offer, call 495-0233. Find out more about our Sister City Miyazu, Japan.
American Orchid Society
Right next to the Morikami is the new international headquarters of the American Orchid Society (AOS), the largest special-interest horticultural organization in the world. A "must visit," the airy central lobby, naturally lit by an open cupola, will bring you to most attractive assemblage of orchid books and other orchid-related items ever assembled, attractively displayed in the spacious AOS Gift Shop. Also on the grounds is the rapidly evolving Gardens - themed Orchids in the South Florida Garden as dedicated staff and volunteers who made the landscape glow with an enormous display of specimen-size Phaius, as well as an impressive collection of palms, cycads and other exotic plantings, including a nearly mature specimen of the rare African Baobab tree.
Cason Cottage Museum
The executive offices of the Delray Beach Historical Society are located in a historic Bungalow that was recently relocated to compliment the Cason Cottage House Museum. The Bungalow provides additional exhibit space and serves as a visitor and docent center.
The DBHS and the City of Delray Beach restored Cason Cottage House Musum throught a joint effort in 1988. It is a vernacular style house with crafsman cottage details, solidly contructed with Dade County pine. Reverend John R. Cason, a community leader and Methodist minister, whose descentants live in Delray Beach, built the cottage circa 1915. The Histoical Society manages and maintains Cason Cottage as a House Museum open to the public and for group tours for a glimpse of life during Delray's pioneer days. The Harriet W. and George D. Cornell Archives Room, located on the second floor of the Cornell Museum, contains photograhs, oral histories, books, maps, and a diversity of other materials documenting the history of Delray Beach. It is available to all members of the community for research purposes. Come and visit and learn from their exhibits related to Florida history. To learn more about membership, the activities of the Historical Society or to schedule a tour of Cason Cottage, please call 561-243-2577.
The Delray Beach Playhouse
For 47 years the 238-seat Delray Beach Playhouse 950 NW Ninth St; has offered local audiences outstanding theater. Located on scenic Lake Ida, the playhouse is one the nation's oldest and most successful community theaters. Call 272-1281 for information.
Delray Beach is also a quick drive away from dozens of other theatres, museums and art galleries. Within a 30-minute drive, Delray residents can visit the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, the Lois Pope Theatre, Plaza Del Mar in Manalapan, and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra at Florida Atlantic University. Downtown Delray Beach also offers top-notch art galleries, antiqueing, and live music. The Delray Art League offers sidewalk art shows throughout the winter season at area shopping centers. See event more things to do in Delray Beach on our Why Delray Beach page.