The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Echoes of yesteryear in new beach pavilion

A game of volleyball is played in front of the original 1929 pavilion, which sat at the beach end

of Atlantic Avenue (BELOW) across from the old Seacrest Hotel.

INSET BELOW: Today’s new pavilion is located in roughly the same spot,

behind a protective, vegetated dune. 

Photos provided by The Delray Beach Historical Society and Currie Sowards Aguila Architects

Related Story: A glimpse into the future?

By Paula Detwiller

    The year was 1929. Delray Beach was feeling the loss of its popular beachside pavilion, which was damaged, then destroyed, by hurricanes in 1926 and ’28. 

    Who would pay for a replacement? The city was in no shape to do it.

    “The Depression started early in Florida, due to the land bust of 1927,” explains archivist Dottie Patterson of the Delray Beach Historical Society.

    Still, the community wanted a new beach pavilion — so the community pitched in and made it happen.

    That “can-do” spirit in the face of economic downturn — not to mention the fanciful design of the pavilion — has now been replicated at the corner of A1A and Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. When the finishing touches are put on the new, green-and-white-roofed beach pavilion this month, you’ll be looking at history repeating itself.

    It just took a little longer the second time around.

The original structure

    On Oct. 11, 1929, the Delray Beach News reported that construction on the new pavilion would begin the following week because “sufficient funds are on hand to begin the work.

    “The work has been made possible by the cooperation of local merchants, the carpenters and painters union, and the assistance of residents and winter visitors,” the story read. 

    The Kiwanis Club led the fundraising effort, successfully collecting cash donations from dozens of donors, including Love Drug Company ($25), The Rista Hotel ($12), Novelty Dress Shop ($9), and Friedlander Tire Company ($6).

    The Delray Lumber Company furnished all building materials at cost. The Delray Electric Company donated the electrical wiring plus installation. Two local plumbing companies volunteered to build showers for the benefit of bathers. Union carpenters and painters pledged to work free, and local prisoners were enlisted to handle the “common labor,” such as sinking the pilings and building the foundation.

    Aron Smock, a local artist whose paintings still hang at the Historical Society, drew the pavilion’s design. “It was rather whimsical,” Patterson says.

    Total cost of the project: $720. The pavilion enjoyed an active 17-year life, providing shade, ocean views and a gathering spot for events such as the annual Easter sunrise church service. In 1947, a hurricane blew it down.

The modern-day replica 

    Construction of today’s new pavilion also had grass-roots beginnings. 

    The year was 2009. The U.S. housing bust, fueled by the sub-prime mortgage debacle, had severely weakened the economy. City budgets were thin.

    Still, the community had a vision for beach-area improvements that included a new pavilion. The Beach Property Owners Association held a public workshop that ultimately produced a beach master plan. A shiny new beach pavilion (to replace a smaller, rotting one from 1984) was to be Phase One of the plan’s implementation. 

    Delray Beach architect Bob Currie offered to design the pavilion for free. 

    He says he chose to pattern it after the one built 80 years earlier because “that’s what the people wanted.” 

    The BPOA spearheaded fundraising, holding local talent shows at the Crest Theater in 2011 and 2012 that netted almost $60,000. Show-goers paid $100 for their tickets, while sponsorships and donations came from 20-plus local businesses, including Caffé Luna Rosa, The Colony Hotel, Sea View Optical and Delray Blueprint.

    After years of red tape that could never be imagined in 1929, the city of Delray Beach approved funding for the remainder of the $249,000 project and awarded it to the lowest bidder, All Phases Roofing and Construction. Estimated completion date: Feb. 28.

    Will a hurricane ever blow the new pavilion down? Hopefully not. 

    “This one will have structural beams and columns and a standing-seam metal roof,” Currie says. “It’s designed to withstand hurricane-force winds up to a Category 3.”

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