West Volusia Historical Society
To preserve and promote the history of West Volusia County
Articles & Resources
Frederick Northrop Burt, Pioneer Developer. A "secret garden" in DeLeon Springs, at the intersection of Retta and Audubon streets, has an elaborate entrance called the "Burwyn Park West Gates." These beautiful 108 year old wrought iron gates, held by magnificent Arts and Crafts style columns with wing-walls, were built in 1912 by Frederick Northrop Burt. Identical columns, set further east on Retta, are still standing, but no gates remain.
Burt planned an upscale development, with English and Dutch Colonial style homes on the heavily wooded, sloping ground leading to the St. Johns River. Ten houses were constructed during the mid-1920s and eventually, in the post-WWII years, several more homes were built on the remaining Retta Street lots. Published May 2020. Read Oscar Brock's descriptive article here.
Deja Vu? West Volusia and the Yellow Fever Epidemic of the 1880s. In 1888 the community of Seville, in northwest Volusia County, was a relatively large and prosperous town. Early settlers and newer arrivals included businessmen, professionals and educators. Many residents were employed in the businesses and, of course, a large number of farmers and ranchers rounded out the population. Seville was located just 83 miles southwest of the state’s major commercial center, Jacksonville, and was on the main line of the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railway.
In the summer of 1887, the city of Jacksonville suffered a severe yellow fever epidemic which brought unexpected changes to Seville.By the summer of 1888 all of Florida experienced such a severe outbreak that guards were stationed at road crossings, bridges were blocked and trains were stopped to prevent access into or out of Florida. Published May 2020. Click here for the full article by Mary Lou Peffer.
Why is History Relevant?
"I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future" - Theodore Roosevelt.
Was Theodore Roosevelt trying to leave us a valuable piece of advice? Is history a tool for learning? Perhaps the best way to answer this is by looking at DeLand’s past. When Henry Addison DeLand came to what was called Persimmon Hollow he birthed a vision of what he had known up North where he’d come from. DeLand envisioned the Athens of Florida; a town cultured, educated in the arts, productive and industrious. The early settlers captured that vision. The town was renamed after DeLand and it prospered. Its prosperity drew countless others to it as it grew but the town was not without major challenges – the Great Fire, the Great Freeze, the Great Depression … have we learned anything from history? Time will tell. Read this compelling article by Larry French. Published June 2020. The Agricultural Picnic in DeLand, November 6, 1879. The author of this article, Col. Christopher C. Codrington, was a Jamaica planter who moved to Jacksonville in the 1870s and to DeLand in 1878, bringing the news journal The Florida Agriculturistwith him. For that journal in this issue published November 12, 1879 he wrote this account of a day-long gathering on November 6th at his newly built home among vast orange groves at the NE corner of Clara and Minnesota avenues.
The tale begins....The morning dawned clear and bright, with no clouds to dim the pure luster of the bright Italian skies, and ere the sun had traced its path far above the horizon, the grove, grounds and home of our editor were filled with genial, happy friends and merry children, enjoying the social pleasures of the day and receiving the benefits of the agricultural meeting. And so the day only hurried too quickly into evening, when the friends once more separated to join each other again at the Calico Ball which was to take place at a later hour. Read Col. Codrington's full article here. Published November 1879. Editorial notes by Richard Gibson, April, 2020.
Four Houses at West New York and Clara Avenues. This is a tale of what once was and is no more: four beautiful homes, three of which went under the wrecking ball in the name of progress and expansion. Lifetime Historical Society member Sally Landis Bohon shares an insider look as someone who lived there.
Once upon a time—some sixty-plus years ago—the intersection of West New York and Clara Avenues was the springboard from business to residential, with a large historic home on each corner. Today in 2020, only one of those residences still stands and it has been transformed into a professional firm, Ryan Insurance at 302 W. New York Avenue... The houses are worth remembering. More importantly, the people who lived in them are worth remembering. All occupants were interesting folk, each contributing in some way to the tapestry of the community. Published July 2020. Click here to read their stories: Haynes/Stout and Landis Homes. Jackson and Jordan Homes.