Frog Alley has the history; now, it could get the title – Sun

It was settled by Bahamians who came to Delray in the early 1900s, and it got its Frog Alley name from the croaking toads that swarmed the place after a heavy rain.

There was so much water there that some people dug makeshift moats around their houses to try and stop the flooding.

Frog Alley has history. What it doesn’t have is all the paperwork that says it’s an official historic district.

Now, a group of residents with ties to the neighborhood think its time for that to change.

Frog Alley today is mostly single-family houses, some of which are more than 50 years old, running south of Atlantic Avenue between Southwest Sixth and Fourth avenues. Some of the other historic structures in Frog Alley have already been torn down.

“Delray has come a long way,” said Patricia Wright, who was born and raised in Frog Alley. “It still amazes me when I see white people walking through my neighborhood. That was a big change from when I was younger.”

Wright’s grandmother, a ‘Nassaw’ hailing from the Bahamas, was one of the first settlers of the neighborhood.

The 64-year-old remembers the all-black neighborhood, lined with wooden houses, dirt roads and a few scattered street lights. When it was first settled, it almost was nothing more than an alley way.

“When it rained, it would flood,” she said, recalling the frogs that would mass in the alley to mate after summer rains.

While Wright is thrilled with the progress her stomping grounds have made, she would love to see it become a historic district, so the old neighborhood isn’t completely lost as new growth continues all around it.

Preserving whatever remains in the neighborhood is something the historic title would allow, said Amy Alvarez, Delray’s historic preservation planner.

Besides the name and some bragging rights, the ‘historic’ part prevents people from tearing down a property to put in one that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the structures.

Other perks for residents include tax exemptions for those who own a property older than 50 years within the district and potential increases in property value.

“Historic designation at the very least, will maintain property value,” Alvarez said. “But for the most part, it will increase it.”

She said she surveyed the area last October, and the neighborhood meets the city’s criteria to become a historic district.

It is more than 50-years-old and holds a ‘historical significance’ to people.

The historical significance part is easy, since Frog Alley is one part of a strong Bahamian presence in South Florida.

The migration from the islands to the mainland began in the 18th century. Starting in the Keys, Bahamian settlers made a living salvaging goods from shipwrecks, and sponging and fishing.

Slowly, they continued to head north to Coconut Grove in Miami, helping pioneer the area and constructing island-inspired buildings before ultimately reaching Delray Beach.

But even with those deep roots, Frog Alley is not one of the five historic districts in the city, and residents like Wright are wondering why.

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