Nicknamed the "Athens of Florida," the city of DeLand boasts a population of roughly 24,000 residents. The city was founded in 1876 by Henry A. DeLand, a prosperous businessman in New York. Mr. DeLand developed the area by attracting settlers and enabling them to build schools and churches. In 1855, however, a fire started in a local saloon and destroyed much of the town. After the fire, a city ordinance mandated that all buildings in the downtown area be built using masonry material, not wood. Today, the tradition carries on, as many of DeLand's buildings are made of concrete and brick.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Initially, DeLand was perceived to be a citrus, agricultural and tourism center. Today, the most common industries in the city are educational services, health care, construction, accommodation and food services, public administration, and finance and insurance.
The major employers in DeLand are Stetson University, manufacturing businesses primarily located at the industrial park at the airport, and governmental entities including the City of DeLand, Volusia County, Volusia County School Board, and the State of Florida Department of Transportation. The city is also home to Florida Hospital DeLand, a member of the largest Protestant nonprofit health system in the United States.
The unemployment rates are assumed to mirror those for Volusia County as a whole, which are estimated at around 7 percent.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Downtown DeLand's main street, Woodland Boulevard, has a number of notable 19th century buildings. It is officially known as Downtown DeLand Historic District.
The Garden District is a mixed-use neighborhood adjacent to downtown DeLand, which is officially known as Downtown DeLand's Historic Garden District. The neighborhood was originally developed between 1900 and 1920. It fell into a long period of decline after World War II, and by the 1980s had become blighted. In 2000, Michael E. Arth, a California artist and urban designer, bought 27 dilapidated structures, renamed the area The Garden District, and lobbied to create a new historic district. During the following eight years he restored or rebuilt 32 homes and businesses, which have become the core of a neighborhood revival.
A feature length documentary film, "New Urban Cowboy: Toward a New Pedestrianism," tells the story of DeLand and The Garden District. The film premiered in DeLand in January 2009 at the newly restored Athens Theatre. Previously, the film had appeared in seven film festivals and received the Audience Choice Award at the Real to Reel International Film Festival in 2008.
- Bill Dreggors Park offers history, natural beauty, and recreation. Visitors can enjoy a butterfly garden, a walking path, and the Freedom Playground.
- Chisholm Community Center offers game rooms, meeting rooms, and classrooms. The center also features a swimming pool and basketball courts.
- Earl Brown Park offers restroom facilities, picnic areas, a playground, basketball courts, jogging and fitness trails, a duck pond, and a skate park.
- Eastside Park features a basketball court and a playground.
- Highland Park offers residents a miniature park with a playground.
- Jackson Lane Park allows residents and visitors to hike along a nature trail or frolic in the playground. This park also has restroom facilities.
- Painters Pond offers a paved walking trail and pond. Artwork can be seen on the sidewalks and cement walls throughout the park.
- Downtown DeLand Historic District includes many buildings of the Classical Revival and 19th- and 20th-century styles. Today, downtown is a great place to find shopping and restaurants. The district also hosts many community events.
- West Volusia Regional Shopping Center offers shoppers everything from outlet department stores to office supply stores.
- Taste of DeLand is held annually in downtown DeLand and offers food from local eateries as well as live entertainment.
- Chili Cook-Off is an annual event in downtown where residents can compete to be named the best chili maker in town.
- Annual Bike Rally is held in downtown and features a motorcycle show.
- Festival of Giants. Hosted by the Radio Control Club, this event features an air show with radio control planes.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- The Museum of Florida Art invites visitors to explore a range of exhibits and programs. This museum also conducts outreach programs to encourage youth to participate in the arts. Exhibits and film programs are offered throughout the year.
- The Athens Theater first opened in 1922 and boasts an Italian Renaissance style. When this theater first opened, it showed Vaudeville and silent movies. This theater has been providing affordable entertainment since.
- The Henry A. DeLand House was built in 1886, and is now a local museum.
- The DeLand Memorial Museum features a variety of galleries and exhibits, including a vast collection of military memorabilia, from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm. This museum also includes aircraft models, as well as a Veterans Memorial Wall to honor those who served during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The building is also the location of various city offices.
- The historic Burgess Building is home to two of the city's most peculiar tourist destinations. One of the city's most fascinating attractions is the Elephant Fantasyland, an extensive collection of elephant statues. Mrs. Hawtense Conrad began collecting these figurines in 1940 and eventually began making them herself. The collection is now on display at the Burgess Building. The building also houses Conrad's Toyland, a collection of antique toys once belonging to Hawtense Conrad's husband, Robert Conrad.
- The Black Heritage Display is located in a replica of the Burgess Building, which once served as a hospital for the city's African-American community. The display features artifacts from the 1800s, including household items and photos.
- DeLand Naval Air Station Museum is also known as the Chief Master at Arms House. This museum preserves Navy history through exhibits and educational programs. This facility also features events such as Air Fleet Weekend, the Veterans Parade, and Firearms Safety courses.
- Angley College offers associate and bachelor's degrees with programs in Aviation, Business, and Allied Healthcare. Online classes are available for students wishing to study at home. Financial aid is also available.
- Daytona Beach Community College-West Campus offers associate and bachelor's degrees in a variety of arts and science programs.
- Florida Technical College maintains a campus in DeLand. The school offers programs specialized in business.
- Stetson University has been in operation since 1883 and was the first private university in Florida. Stetson offers a number of graduate and undergraduate programs. The university features music, business, and law schools. Financial aid is available through federal financial aid programs.
DeLand Municipal Airport is owned and operated by the city of DeLand. In 1941, it was donated to the Navy and was returned in 1946. This airport offers flight training.
- WDBO 580 (News/Talk)
- WQTM 740 (Sports)
- WRMQ 1140 (Spanish)
- WUCF 89.9 (Jazz)
- WKRO 93.1 (Country)
- WPYO 95.3 (Hip Hop)
- WHOG 95.7 (Classic Rock)
- The DeLand Beacon is a biweekly newspaper serving residents in West Volusia County.