Downtown DeLand Historic District is the heart of a bustling college town with lots of small businesses, eateries, art galleries, and music venues. With little visibility of retail chain influence, the area has retained much of its beautiful architecture. As such, it gives visitors and residents a sense of the city's history. The district is comprised of 68 contributing historical properties.
The city was founded by a New York baking soda manufacturer, Henry A. DeLand, in 1876. The town quickly grew in popularity when news spread of Henry A. DeLand offering to purchase back the land of anyone who was unhappy living there. In 1883, a college named the DeLand Academy was established which would later be named Stetson University in 1889, after hat manufacturer John B. Stetson. Stricken by a fire that consumed both sides of the 100 block of Woodland Blvd. in 1886, an ordinance was passed that any further construction in the commercial district would be done in brick. As a result, the town's main architectural style became masonry vernacular. The town quickly recovered from the devastating fires but was then hit with the Big Freeze of 1894-1895 that twice dropped temperatures below eleven degrees, killing most of the area's citrus crops. True to his word, however, DeLand bought back any property that he sold. As a consequence, he lost his fortune by the time of his death in 1908.
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