COURTESY WEST VOLUSIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY A circa 1913 photo of the Voorhis family on their front porch. From the Dreggors Historic Photographs Archive in Conrad Center.

Voorhis Avenue is named for Civil War veteran Manlius N. Voorhis, a DeLandite by-way-of Ohio.

Voorhis and his wife, Mary Adele Howry, moved to DeLand in 1875. In DeLand, Voorhis was one of the eight original members of the Methodist Church of DeLand, originally formed in 1880, and also was an orange grower and a county commissioner.

The streetscaping project is not the first time that Black history has been a topic of discussion on Voorhis Avenue.

The street has officially held the name Voorhis Avenue since 1907, and informally since the 1880s.

Voorhis died at the age of 47 in 1890.

In the 1990s, Voorhis Avenue was one of three streets pitched to be renamed “Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,” a proposal that was met with strong opposition by many DeLand residents. 

At the time, according to a 1994 West Volusia Beacon article titled “Residents hope to detour plan to rename Voorhis,” DeLandite Jim Crenshaw, himself a descendant of Voorhis, said he wanted to protect the city’s local history.

“There’s too much history being changed in this country,” Crenshaw said then. “Those people were here and helped settle DeLand. If you take that name and wipe it out, it’s just gone.”

At various points throughout the 1990s, Beresford Avenue, Voorhis Avenue and Kepler Road — all three named for past DeLandites — were considered potential Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards. The DeLand Community Advisory Taskforce, whose members at the time included Joyce Cusack, recommended several potential name changes to honor King. 

Opposition to renaming the roads often cited upholding local history, but some on the citizen’s task force alleged race played a role. 

In 1995, after a proposal to rename Beresford Avenue after King failed, Task Force Member Dorothy Price, a Black woman, was quoted in The Beacon as saying, “No matter what we do, there is going to be a lot of opposition because of who we are. Sometimes I think people don’t believe we are citizens of this country.”

As proposals to rename roads failed, one DeLandite even suggested renaming Southwestern Middle School after King. In 1994, DeLand historian Bill Dreggors suggested the move as a simpler alternative to renaming a road and fiddling with residents’ addresses. 

“A lot of people don’t realize the difficulty in changing the name of a street,” Dreggors said then. “It’s just not like changing the name of anything else.” 

It was not until May 1995 that the Volusia County Council unanimously approved a measure to rename a portion of a then-unopened West Volusia beltway after the slain civil rights leader. 

This move was attractive to DeLandites, The Beacon reported, because no addresses were affected by the name change. 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here