The old Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand
The old Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand
DeLand Hall on the campus of Stetson University

When it was founded in 1876, DeLand was named for its founder: Henry Addison DeLand. Stetson University, Florida's oldest private college is in DeLand, as is the Museum of Florida Art.

The site was first settled in 1874 by a Captain John rich. He arrived after taking a steamboat up the St. Johns River. Two years later, DeLand, a baking soda magnate from New York arrived via the steamboat and envisioned a an agricultural and tourism center on the spot. He sold his business up north, bought most of the land in the area and imported workers from New York to clear the land, plat streets and start building. Most of their settlers were recruited from upstate New York. DeLand was incorporated as a town in 1882 and became the Volusia County seat in 1887. Henry DeLand even established the DeLand Academy, Florida's first private college in 1883. Business was good until the big freeze on 1885 wiped out the citrus groves. At that point, Henry DeLand gave over the reins of the academy to his friend John B. Stetson (of hat manufacturing fame) and moved back up north. The name of the college was changed to Stetson University in 1889 and founded the first law school in Florida in 1900.

The big Florida Land Boom came to DeLand in the 1920's and many fine examples of stucco Mediterranean Revival architecture appeared on the streets of town. Many of them have been fully restored in recent years, the Athens Theatre being one that was restored and then reopened as a theatre. The weekend before Thanksgiving, DeLand plays host to the DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts, a 2-day event in the historic downtown area.

Another area adjacent to the downtown historic district was first developed between 1900 and 1920. By the 1980's, the area had become blighted and was facing being razed. In 2001, Michael Arth (an artist and urban designer from California) bought 27 historic buildings in the area and renamed it the "Garden District." By 2009, he had restored and/or rebuilt 32 homes and businesses in the district and had established a new urban phenomenon known as "New Urbanism," a movement to restore older neighborhoods and promote pedestrian-oriented planning.

The Population of DeLand is up almost 30% since 2000.

Sampson Hall at Stetson University
Sampson Hall at Stetson University