What is DeBary Hall?

DeBary Hall was the winter retreat of a European-born wine merchant who chose the St. Johns River country for his hunting estate. Beginning in the 1870s, New Yorker Frederick deBary acquired lands near Lake Monroe, built a large vacation house, and tried his hand at orange growing and commercial steamboating. He completed his hunting lodge in 1871. (View video)

frederick debarydebary hall late 1870'sdebary-baya merchants line travel guide 1884


But above all, this Florida estate became a center of sport hunting and hospitality. Entertainment,” said one relative, “was a very simple matter at DeBary Hall. Most guests were asked because they enjoyed the out of doors, with swimming, hunting, and fishing.”

quail hunting with wagon 1937


When deBary’s last American heir died in 1941, the retreat had grown to more than 6,000 acres with many outbuildings. Today’s historic site is a little smaller—ten acres. But it still includes the 8,000-square-foot main house, stables and other structures, plus artifacts from a kind of working farm, even if the crops were bobwhite quail.
 

native pines on debary estate early 20th centurynineteenth century hot air pump engine used at debary hall
the stables complex with hay barn and packing house in the 1930's


DeBary Hall also offers glimpses of larger things: America’s long romance with Florida, a nineteenth-century tourism boom, orange fever, and steamboating on the St. Johns. And since local African-American and white workers kept the estate going year-round, their lives are central to the storytelling here.
 

st johns river tourists about 1890African-american estate workers from the black community of Garfield 1930's
debary hall's main orange grove in the 1880's


If this sounds interesting, please visit us at DeBary Hall Historic Site. You’ll find remarkable buildings, a treasure trove of historical images, and many good stories. It’s a place worth exploring.

fireplace inside restored debary hall


Do you have a story about DeBary Hall? We want to hear it! 
DeBary Hall is collecting personal stories, memories and experiences. If you have a DeBary Hall story to share, please click here.

Picture sources: DeBary Hall Historic Site image collection; Special Collections Department, Florida State University Libraries; Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives; Imagicom Inc.; A.G. Phillips; Olin Library Archives; and Special Collections Department, Rollins College.

DeBary Hall Logo

198 Sunrise Blvd.
DeBary, FL 32713 
386-668-3840

Site Manager
Kayce Looper

klooper@volusia.org

Education Coordinator
Tracy Mestre
tmestre@volusia.org