Delray is a neighborhood and former incorporated village, located on the southwest side of Detroit, Michigan. It is isolated from other areas of Detroit by industrial warehouses and Interstate 75 (I-75). As a neighborhood, Delray has no legally defined boundaries, but its area usually extends south to the River Rouge, east to the Detroit River, west to M-85 (Fort Street) and I-75, and north to Dragoon Street at Fort Wayne or sometimes farther north to Clark Street.
Delray is located at the southern edge of the city limit of Detroit, although it is not the city’s southernmost territory. The neighborhoods of Boynton and Oakwood Heights occupy the southernmost strip of Detroit along Outer Drive and Fort Street extending down to the city of Lincoln Park. With no official boundaries, Delray is considered mostly conterminous with two Census Bureau tracts that cover 2.938 square miles (7.61 km). Major thoroughfares through Delray, which typically represent the neighborhood’s boundaries, include Fort Street, I-75 (Fisher Freeway), and West Jefferson Avenue. Delray is relatively isolated from the rest of the city.
The southern border of Delray is the River Rouge, with the city of River Rouge on the southern side of the river. The two are connected by the West Jefferson Avenue-Rouge River Bridge. Due to a bend at the mouth of the River Rouge, Delray is also bordered on the southeast by the river as well. Across the river at that point lies Zug Island, part of the city of River Rouge. North of Zug Island, Delray borders the Detroit River on the east. No residents of Delray live along either body of water as the land is devoted to riverfront industries and the historic Fort Wayne.
Delray is about five miles (8.0 km) west of Downtown Detroit. In 1935 Delray formed the southern portion of Wards 14, 16, 18, and 20. Since 2013 the neighborhood lies within District 6.
There were about 2,100 people according to Census estimates in 2014. As of 2017 about 33% of the population was non-Hispanic white, 33% was Hispanic, and 33% was black.
In 1897 Delray had about 5,000 people. In 1930 the population was about 24,000. This declined to 20,000 in 1940, over 17,000 in 1950, and under 13,000 in 1970.
In the early 20th Century the Delray-Springwells area served as the “Little Hungary” of Detroit and Michigan’s Hungarian culture was centered in that community.
In 1898 the Michigan Malleable Iron Company began operations in Delray. Hungarian immigrants moved to Delray from cities including Cleveland, Ohio; South Bend, Indiana; and Toledo, Ohio, in order to get better working conditions and better wages. The first wave of Hungarian refugees came to the U.S. in order to escape the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s political issues.
In 1904 a society to establish a Hungarian Lutheran church had about 60 members, There were also plans to establish a Catholic church, but by 1905 the Hungarians had difficulty agreeing on a final site. Later that year the Holy Cross Hungarian Church, a Hungarian Catholic church, opened in Delray. By 1911 about 5,000 Hungarians lived in Delray. In 1906 the Hungarian population began resisting the actions of the town police. In 1907 some Hungarians in Delray and Wyandotte who feared a lack of work returned to Hungary.
After World War I a second wave of Hungarian refugees arrived, who emigrated due to religious and political reasons. Hungary had been reduced in size so many Magyars were escaping discrimination, intimidation and deprivation in the conquered lands of the former enemies of Hungary, often because of the roles they had played in the war. They selected Detroit because the automobile plants paid high wages. As the number of Hungarians in Delray increased, a new church of the Holy Cross Hungarian Catholic Church opened in 1925.
In 1935, Doanne Erdmann Beynon, author of “Crime and Custom of the Hungarians of Detroit,” wrote that “it may be assumed” that the Hungarian colony is within an area that extends from Fort Street to the Detroit River and from Clark Street to the Rouge River. He stated that even though the former Delray municipality had “definite” boundaries the boundary of the “Hungarian colony of Delray” was “zonal” and that the lines “fade off indeterminately into areas that do not belong to the colony.” He wrote that within this colony, immigrants from all parts of Hungary lived next to each other and did not settle in different areas according to their places of origin. The exception was an area on Barnes and Medina Streets called “Magyar Negyed” where the immigrants mainly originated from Sarud in Heves County. Beynon wrote that the residents preserved “the peculiar customs and, to some extent, the costumes of the home village.”
Beynon wrote that in Delray the individual village cultures in Hungary were mixed into a new pan-Hungarian way of life in Delray. During the time Hungarians inhabited Delray, a common phrase was “Within Delray the village life flows on” (Hungarian: Delray-ben foly a falusi élet). Various Hungarian social clubs including athletic, altar, dramatic, sick benefit and insurance, singing (Dalárdák), and social clubs were formed. Each club included a membership and a wider group of adherents or pártolók. Beynon wrote that “Practically every Hungarian of Detroit who has not broken away entirely from the people of his own nationality is connected in some way with one or more of these societies or clubs.” As of 1935 many Hungarians in Delray had been socially isolated to the community and persons who had lived 15 to 20 years in Detroit had never visited the city center. Kossuth Day was celebrated in Delray.
Beynon argued that due to Delray’s fragmentation among many different wards it was “not possible to determine from the population statistics published by the Bureau of the Census either the number of Hungarians resident within the colony or the population which these form of the total Hungarian population of Detroit.” Using the Detroit Board of Education’s Detroit City Census, Beynon concluded that in 1925, 45.46% of Detroit’s Hungarian population lived in Delray. Using a list of Hungarian surnames in the Detroit City Directory published by the company Polk, Beynon concluded that 44.27% of the Hungarians lived in the Delray colony and 55.72% lived outside of the Delray colony.
During the Great Depression the Daughters of Divine Charity served in a Hungarian-operated orphanage on South Street.
From January 1, 1927, to March 11, 1932, the Wayne County Juvenile Court received 462 complaints filed against Hungarian boys, with a total of 380 boys involved. Of those boys, 140 were from the Delray Hungarian colony.
One wave of Hungarians arrived after the end of World War II. Another wave of Hungarians escaped the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, causing more to arrive in Delray. The construction of Interstate 75 in the mid-1960s destroyed large parts of Delray and divided the community into two pieces. Middle and working class Hungarians moved to Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, and Riverview. The Holy Cross parish school closed.
The Holy Cross Hungarian Church was scheduled to observe its 75th anniversary on September 17, 2000. By August of that year, renovations and polishing were underway.