We also work to preserve and share historical artifacts in two museum settings, both owned by the city. First, the DeLand House Museum at 137 W. Michigan Ave., is a treasure trove of everyday objects used by early West Volusians and our interpretive tours there are popular. DeLand House is currently closed for repairs and reinterpretation, but adjacent to it the Conrad Educational and Research Center is open by appointment. It houses our historical research library, archives, business office, and gift shop; and offers educational displays and meeting space for our volunteer committees and programs.
Second, the DeLand Memorial Hospital and Veterans Museum Complex at 230 N. Stone St. offers tours of varied galleries full of early artifacts, including a 1920s hospital operating room, pharmacy, and doctor’s examining room, as well as iron lungs, early X-ray equipment, the Bert Fish Room (now being redesigned), early electrical equipment, and exhibits on DeLand’s Florida Military School and West Volusia military veterans. The nearby Burgess Pavilion, the first hospital to serve West Volusia’s black citizens, offers galleries showing aspects of early black life in West Volusia, including education, business, the arts, medicine, and dentistry; as well as the Hawtense Conrad Children’s Gallery, featuring Mrs. Conrad’s elephant collection, vintage Conrad toys, and an exhibit on the circus in DeLand.
In addition to museum tours, we provide a historic bus tour of East DeLand, Lake Winnemissett, Lake Helen, and Cassadaga with lunch in the old Cassadaga Hotel and entertaining stories from WVHS guides. We lead walking tours of DeLand’s three National Historic Districts: the Northwest Residential and Stetson University Historic Districts, the Downtown Historic District, and a grand tour of all three. We also organize periodic tours of private homes, which have included Holiday Home Tours, tours of Mid-Century Modern homes, and tours detailing historic home restoration efforts.
WVHS began this work in 1976 by publishing “Reflections, West Volusia County: 100 Years of Progress,” a collection of stories about early West Volusia families and places. Other major books followed: “Volusia: The West Side” (1986), which we are now reprinting; “A Pictorial History of West Volusia County 1870-1940” (1989); and “A Century of West Volusia County 1860-1960” (1993). We also published “The Story of DeLand and Lake Helen, Florida,” written in 1928 by Helen Parce DeLand (1990); and “A Field Guide to DeLand Buildings” (2008), both recently reprinted; two transcriptions, “The Minutes and Memorials of the Old Settlers of DeLand, Florida, 1882-1926” (2003) and “The Parce Letters, Voices from the Past” (2004); and “Memory Lane: A History of the Street Names of DeLand, Florida” by Louise Caccamise (2013). We are now reprinting the latest West Volusia history, “Better Country Beyond: The Amazing Cinderella Story of the Early Pioneers of DeLand, Florida” by Karen Ryder (2019), which begins in 1513 with Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and ends with Henry DeLand’s death in 1908.
We also offer many DVDs compiled and narrated by the late Bill Dreggors, fourth-generation West Volusian and folk historian, covering the history of DeLand and other West Volusia cities, local historic sites, industries, buildings, and people, illustrated with historic photos and postcards. Our ongoing educational efforts include History Seekers programs for young people and monthly public programs on local history. We have also sponsored workshops on building restoration, Florida gardening, and decorating with native materials.
Finally, we regularly share information on Facebook, including features on our artifact collections, as well as “This Week in West Volusia History, and other local history stories.
Browse this website for more information about WVHS services, programs, tours, costs, hours, and the gift shop (which offers items handmade by our Makers’ Guild as well as books and DVDs)
Reenactors are one popular way to throw light on local history. They research specific people who lived and worked in West Volusia and stage conversations between them — such as Porch Chats, Parlor Chats, or Cemetery Walks. Today’s photo shows, for example, from left, WVHS reenactors Caryn Long, Stan O’Neal, Tom Roberts, Bob Wetton, and Bill Crippen portraying early 20th Century DeLand business leaders talking things over in a Porch Chat at the old DeLand Women’s Club. Another valuable way WVHS saves local history is through our Oral Histories, in which interviews with older members of the community are filmed or recorded in order to preserve their memories in videotapes or transcriptions.
West Volusia Historical Society has a preservation month initiative to recognize some of DeLand’s historic structures with signs saying “This Building Saves History.” But it’s worth noting that WVHS is and always has been all about saving local history — and not just buildings, but artifacts, memories, and the ways people lived in earlier times.