Historic Markers Across Florida

First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall

Marker ID: FLHM F-653
Location: 33 Gleason St., Delray Beach, FL
County: Palm Beach
Coordinates: N 26° 27.640    W 080° 03.637
  26.46066666    -80.06061666
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: WMRTX3


First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall

(Side 1)
An orange grove, once located at this site, played a role in the early development of Delray Beach. Until 1876, an old, sour orange grove was the only distinguishable characteristic within 60 miles of a sparsely inhabited subtropical wilderness between Lake Worth and Biscayne Bay. Settlers in 1894-95 who saw the grove that was partially surrounded by a rock wall, speculated that the trees were planted by Seminole Indians, Minorcan immigrants, or the Spanish, but its origin remains unknown. A nearby haulover (a location where boats were carried from one navigable place to another), the Orange Grove Haulover, was named after the grove and is found on 19th century Florida maps as far back as 1826. The U.S. Life Saving Service, established by Congress in 1848 to protect mariners, built the Orange Grove House of Refuge #3 in 1876. When potential settlers came to the proposed Town of Linton (later renamed Delray Beach), the keeper of the Refuge, Stephen N. Andrews, suggested that the main street, Atlantic Avenue, be placed between the House of Refuge on the north and the orange grove on the south. The grove, long gone, became the site of this Mediterranean Revival building in 1924.

(Side 2)

In 1924, a local Baptist congregation built a new sanctuary on this spot. The church, the only one built on the Delray Beach barrier island, was considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the city. F.J. Schrader was the architect, builder, and financial underwriter. He said his inspiration was a picture and floor plan of a church in Florence, Italy, but that he made this church less ornate. In May 1924, he and a small crew, consisting of a carpenter, plumber, and electrician, faced a difficult task, especially with constructing the church's large cypress trusses. It was said at the time that the church was “the most Floridian Church in Florida." The original building was constructed as Gibson Memorial Baptist Church, but after the real estate crash of 1926 and the hurricanes that followed, the congregation was unable to finish paying Schrader. Five weeks after the 1928 hurricane, local Presbyterians rented the church, later purchasing it. After a new sanctuary was built in 1977, the original church became the Fellowship Hall for the First Presbyterian Church.

F-653 The Delray Beach Historical Society,
the Robert Neff Family,
and the Florida Department of State