110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
DeBary proudly calls itself a “Gateway” city. Just across the St. Johns River from Sanford, DeBary is the gateway into Volusia County from Seminole County. U.S. Highway 17-92 and Interstate 4 both run through it.
DeBary is young, as cities go, incorporated in 1993. Very little in DeBary dates back further than the 1950s.
DeBary began with a man named Frederick deBary.
All of the city was once part of DeBary Hall’s 6,000-acre property, which rolled from the north side of what’s now Dirksen Drive all the way to Lake Monroe.
Frederick deBary, a wealthy Belgian immigrant and importer of champagne in New York, bought the land and on it built a Victorian home, completed in 1871. The 8,000-square-foot hunting hall a mansion by today’s standards was for deBary’s family, who spent winters there.
The DeBarys invited their friends down for hunting, fishing and parties. Champagne flowed freely.
DeBary also tried his hand at growing oranges and even started his own steamboat line on the St. Johns River, to ship oranges back North. He had ice shipped down from New Jersey.
Parts of the property were sold over the years, and the estate is down to 10 acres now, surrounded by a residential neighborhood.
The State of Florida acquired the remaining acreage and the crumbling mansion, and Volusia County entered into a 50-year agreement to manage it. A 10-year restoration project began in 1992.
The hall, once again the pride of DeBary, is furnished with Victorian-era pieces, as it was in its heyday, and its walls boast portraits of deBary family members.
A “Hoe Down for DeBary Hall” is a recent annual tradition to raise funds for the hall’s upkeep. Attendees don bib overalls and mosey over to the hall to contribute a little money and have a good time at the country-themed party.
The hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the home of an Artist of the Month program, featuring a different local artist’s work, usually with a Florida theme, each month. The hall is home to a number of camps and programs for children.
The City of DeBary and Volusia County have teamed up to develop the Oglesby property, on Leisure World Drive. This 32-acre tract on DeBary’s western boundary on the St. Johns River is being transformed into a passive park with walking trails.
Historically, this property probably consisted of sandhill or pine flatwoods, flood-plain swamp and bottomland forest. They were later converted to pastureland.
An Indian mound and relics can be found on the property, which is considered a good site for archaeological excavation for American Indian artifacts.
Bolstered by these public assets, DeBary is building its young town. City Council meetings can be lively, and DeBary is blessed with residents both newcomers who inhabit the posh new communities along U.S. 17-92, and old-timers who live in the 1950s homes in long-established neighborhoods who care enough about their town to work to make a difference.
Pat Hatfield is a staff writer for The DeLand-Deltona Beacon and has lived in West Volusia since 1999. She also writes Spiritual Side and an opinions column called My 2 Cents' Worth. Pat's Bio/Pat's Blog
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