Delray group celebrates 50 years of preserving history

Delray's Historical Society is celebrating its 50 year on Tuesday with a party at its three historic cottages. Staff photo, Sun Sentinel.

Delray's Historical Society is officially "over the hill" and history buffs are celebrating with all things Delray Beach.

In between following the Civil Rights movement, tracking the Beatlemania journey into the states and the drama of soldiers shipping off to Vietnam, a group of Delray residents made it their mission to start preserving the city's historic records.

They put their plan into action on Aug. 26, 1964.

To commemorate that day 50 years ago, there will be plenty of pineapples and gladioli flowers at the Delray Beach Historical society historic cottages on Tuesday.

Folks are invited to the society's courtyard at 5:30 p.m. for the "Golden Pineapple Jubilee" party, which will be filled with old Delray stories that line the walls of the historic society's three cottages.

The first 100 guests will receive a gladiolus flower to take home. The gladioli was selected because gladiolus flower farms were a booming business in Delray dating back to 1939. The city ranked second in Florida Gladiola production, shipping out more than 2 million dozen bunches a year across the nation.

Every year the flowers were displayed at the popular "Gladiola Festival" that ran from 1947 to 1953.

A pineapple cake will pay tribute to the pineapple farms that dotted Delray in the early 1900s.

As residents remember times past, society officials are looking ahead toward the next 50 years.

"We've begun this year with a vision of the next 50 years," said society executive director Winnie Edwards. "A vision that includes establishing the society as a vibrant center for education, research and community life."

The celebration brings back personal memories for Edwards. Her father Roy Diggans was one of the original charter signing members of the society.

To continue the work her father and others set out to do, the group has plans to introduce old records to the technology age.

Members want to focus on digitizing records such as newspaper articles, photographs and oral history recordings that help retell the stories of Delray's history. To make sure that history is preserved for future generations, the group will be planning fundraising events to help pay for digital enhancements.

The original group that started at a breakfast table has grown to 280 members. Society president Leslie Callaway said the group is aiming to increase membership to 1,000 members by 2015.

Society officials say they are off to a good start. About 1,200 visitors passed through the cottages for tours, to check exhibits and attend events so far this year.

For folks who can't attend Tuesday's anniversary party, the society has more events in the pipeline to honor the 50 years the group has been around. Over the next six months there will seasonal events and a year-end gala.

For more information contact, 561-274-9578 orinfo@delraybeachhistory.org

mgottesman@tribune.com, 561-243-6544 or Twitter @marisagottesman