The DeLand Black Heritage Trail is ready for YOU. You can walk it, bicycle it, or — if you must — drive it in a car.
The trail consists of 18 sites in and around the Downtown DeLand area that are significant to DeLand’s Black history. Creators of the trail have divided it into three segments, all meant to be self-guided: a walking tour, a family-friendly bicycle tour, and a longer tour for motorists or more-experienced bicyclists.
You can pick up a map and learn more about the Black Heritage Trail at a celebration of its opening planned 2-5 p.m. Sunday, April 16, on West Voorhis Avenue, between Florida and Clara avenues. The event is free, and all are welcome.
The celebration will feature local residents portraying characters whose homes and business locations are sites on the Heritage Trail, along with music, food, games for children, and exhibits by community organizations offering free services to the community.
The DeLand Black Heritage Trail has been more than four years in the making. It was the brainchild of Marguerite “Maggie” Ardito, an avid proponent of bicycling and trails, and president of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance, a nonprofit trails-promoting organization.
“We believe that getting people out of their cars and out of their houses and onto the streets, whether it’s bicycling or walking — that’s the way you make connections, and we believe that making those connections is really the key to a remedy for a lot of the social and economic and health, and even environmental problems, that we all face,” Ardito said.
In her quest to create a new trail to teach visitors about DeLand’s Black history, Ardito found a wealth of support and common interest. Stetson University, AdventHealth, the City of DeLand, JC’s Bikes and Boards, the Dr. Joyce M. Cusack Resource Center and several others are among organizations that supported and helped fund the trail’s creation.
Early supporters were Mark Shuttleworth, owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques, who is spearheading the renovation of the J.W. Wright Building at the corner of West Voorhis and South Clara avenues, and the 142-year-old Greater Union First Baptist Church, at the same intersection.
Longtime educator Al Bouie took on the volunteer role of representing the church in the Black Heritage Trail effort.
“What we’re doing is embracing this idea because it’s such a wonderful opportunity to open the door to the historical sites in the Black community and enhance the entire community,” Bouie said.
Ardito and Bouie sat down recently with The Beacon to record a podcast episode focused on the Black Heritage Trail. They talked about how the 18 sites on the trail were chosen, and what the creation of the trail means to the DeLand community at large.
You can listen to the podcast below:
Bouie and Ardito both credited Suze Peace of the West Volusia Historical Society for identifying many of the sites featured on the trail. Even those residents fairly familiar with DeLand’s Black history are likely to learn things they didn’t know from these sites and the Black Heritage Trail guidebook.
An example is at 246 E. Howry Ave., the home of Joseph Vaughn. In the late 1880s, Vaughn’s barbershop was one of only two Black-owned businesses listed in the DeLand business directory.
The barbershop was located above the Dreka Department Store in the upscale Carrolton Hotel at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue, in what was largely then a whites-only section of town.
Other sites include the home of internationally noted saxophonist Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts, the office and clinic of Dr. Lancaster Starke, where much of DeLand’s Black community obtained its health care in the mid-20th century, along with four churches, three murals and other community buildings.
Copies of the guide to the Black Heritage Trail will be available at the April 16 event, and can be downloaded at https://river2sealoop.org/delandblackheritageproject/.
The guide offers a map of the 18 sites on the trail, and the history of each location.