Despite scorching heat, dozens of community members gathered on West Voorhis Avenue April 16 to celebrate the launch of the DeLand Black Heritage Trail.

There is no designated path or trail; the Black Heritage Trail — for now, anyway — consists of 18 sites (see below to find out which sites) in and around Downtown DeLand that are significant to DeLand’s Black history.

The celebration event featured 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 and businesses.

Find out more about the Black Heritage Trail and listen to our podcast featuring one of the creators of the trail, Maggie Ardito, HERE.

All photos by Beacon photographer Marsha McLaughlin

Sites on the trail

A. James W. Wright Building, 258 W. Voorhis Ave.
Established in 1920 by James Washington Wright and his younger brother Tony, it became the business and social hub of the African American community. It provided a grocery, cafe and hairdresser on the ground floor and, on the second floor, the office of Dr. Samuel Poole, DeLand’s first Black dentist.
B. Washington Theater/Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church, 254 W. Voorhis Ave.
This church was the former Booker T. Washington movie theater. This theater was entertainment central for the community. Many a romance began here. Due to careful renovation, the theater façade remains much like the original.
C. Dr. Lancaster Starke’s office and clinic, 206 W. Voorhis Ave.
The office of Dr. Starke, DeLand’s beloved Black doctor, was originally a wooden structure that was moved back to make room for the concrete building now on the site. Businessman James Wright had enticed Dr. Starke to move to DeLand from Alachua County in 1930.
D. African American Museum of the Arts (AAMA), 325 S. Clara Ave.
Founded in 1994 by Irene and Maxwell Johnson to enhance public appreciation of African American and Caribbean-American arts and culture, the museum collection houses more than 150 pieces of art and features rotating exhibits during the year.
E. Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater and Mural, 322 S. Clara Ave.
The amphitheater was built in 2002 and renamed in 2004 in honor of DeLand jazz tenor saxophone player Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts, who died later that year. The “jazzy” mural was painted in 2022 by Seattle muralist Moses Sun. Many community members of all ages were invited to help paint, including Noble’s beloved daughter Natalie. Natalie, who was named after Nat King Cole, has fond memories of accompanying her dad to the clubs.
F. American Legion Orange Baker Post No. 187, 227 W. Voorhis Ave.
Veteran members built their building in 1954. The post is very active today, supporting veterans of all wars. An outstanding member was DeLandite Lt. Charles Bailey, one of the most decorated combat fighter pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
G. Greater Union First Baptist Church, 240 S. Clara Ave.
Organized and established in 1882 as the only church in DeLand for African Americans. While, and originally located on Rich Avenue in Downtown DeLand, the church was rebuilt in 1893 at 240 S. Clara Avenue. The beautiful white wooden church has been known for over a century for its Christian and community service.
H. Athens Lodge No. 46, 227 W. Voorhis Ave.
The lodge has met here for more than 60 years. The building was reconstructed in 1980 by members after being destroyed by a fire. At that time, it was common for Blacks and whites to form their own segregated lodges and American Legion halls.
I. “The Hill” Mural, 210 W. Voorhis Ave.
This colorful composite painted by a team of artists under the direction of Courtney Canova depicts the “unbroken chain of memories holding us together through the years and through the generations.” The mural celebrates the African American community’s resilience during the time of Jim Crow laws and segregation, spanning from the early 1900s to the late 1960s. A plaque with the names of those portrayed is found at the bottom left corner.
J. Bethel AME Church, 210 E. Howry Ave.
This Gothic Revival-style church is on the National Register of Historic Places. This African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1878. For many years, it was a “vine church,” as the members met under a brush arbor. The existing structure was completed in 1907. The building was designed by the nation’s first African American architect, John A. Lankford.
K. Home and Office of Dr. Senator Coleman, 237 E. Howry Ave.
This bungalow was the home and office of DeLand’s first Black medical doctor, Dr. Senator A. Coleman. He began practicing in DeLand in 1918, and continued for nearly three decades. His nurse, midwife Amanda Worthy, cared for convalescing patients in her nearby home.
L. Home of Joseph Vaughn, 246 E. Howry Ave.
Joseph Vaughn was one of DeLand’s earliest businessmen. His barbershop in the upscale Carrolton Hotel, above the Dreka Department Store, was one of only two Black-owned businesses listed in DeLand’s 1889 Business Directory. He later built a barbershop next door at 240 E. Howry Ave. Both buildings still stand.
M. Home of Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts, 500 E. Howry Ave.
Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts was a nationally known jazz and blues tenor saxophonist. An original member of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100,” he later moved to New York City to perform with the big bands.
N. DeLand Police Athletic League (PAL) Facility, 420 S. Delaware Ave.
The Police Athletic League provides quality athletic and educational activities and positive role models for at-risk children in the Greater DeLand area at low or no cost to participants.
O. The Burgess Pavilion at the DeLand Memorial Hospital and Veterans Museum in Bill Dreggors Park, 230 N. Stone St.
West Volusia’s first hospital for people of color, established in 1930, now houses exhibits of African American local history and a Children’s Gallery.
P. Murals at Painter’s Pond, East Wisconsin Avenue
Painted by Courtney Canova on an elevated wall that was once part of a rail spur. Depicts the lives of people of color as they worked in the surrounding orange groves and lumber mills.
Q. Original Spring Hill Resource Center Site, 910 S. Adelle Ave.
The original Spring Hill Resource Center has been replaced now by the Dr. Joyce M. Cusack Resource Center at 489 W. Mathis St.
R. Greater Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 333 S. Clara Ave.
This church was organized in 1908 as an offspring of Greater Union Baptist Church of DeLand.


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