LaFrance Hotel (Delray Beach 1949-1972)
Upon its opening in 1949, LaFrance Hotel became the first hotel in Delray Beach that allowed African Americans the opportunity to rent a room. Like most hotels that catered to African Americans in the South, the hotel was owned by an African American businessman. Charles Patrick operated the hotel which provided the only hotel for vacationing families and black workers between Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The significance of the hotel becomes clear when one looks at the history of the area as a place of seasonal employment, offering black laborers a place to stay while seeking long-term accommodations. Today, the building is used as housing for senior citizens.
Backstory and Context
Delray Beach grew slowly in the 19th century, with the first non-Native American inhabitants arriving in 1841. The population began to grow in the late 1800s owing to an agricultural boom and the arrival of the railroad. In 1894, the community of Linton was established at the location of present-day Delray Beach by fourteen African American families. The town was named after one of the founding families. In 1896, the Florida East Coast Railroad made its first arrival in the town of Linton. A series of bank foreclosures on Linton's properties forced most of the original black families to leave. The town changed its name to Delray in November of 1898.
South Florida quickly became a destination for resorts and agricultural labor following the turn-of-the-century. The extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad to Miami helped the cause as white farmers during the time relied heavily on the work of African American laborers to plant and harvest crops. Black women also worked in the fields or worked in the homes of wealthy and middle-class homes. The creation of this hotel provided a place to live for many of these workers, and also provided quarters for traveling black entertainers.
Eventually, LaFrance Hotel faced declining business prospects as segregation was abolished and locally-owned hotels lost business to the growing hotel chains that were open to all. The Delray Beach Community Developing Agency bought the former hotel in 2004 and the structure now holds rent-controlled apartments for seniors.
Quick view of Delray Beach History. (2016, January 11). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from http://www.delraybeachhistory.org/historical-timeline/
Swan, R. (2010, February 10). Remembering The LaFrance Hotel: Delray's first Black-owned hotel . Palm Beach Post. Retrieved November 29, 2017, from http://historicpalmbeach.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2010/02/10/remembering-the-lafrance-delrays-first-bl...