Frederick Delius House, Jacksonville University
by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora Florida)
Frederick Delius House Marker
Some 40 miles south of Jacksonville on the St Johns River is a plaque marking the location of Solano Grove, the home of composer Frederick Delius. The home itself is no longer there but can still be visited on the campus of Jacksonville University where is was moved many years ago. Delius lived in the house from 1884 to 1885.
When Delius was a young man he helped his father run the family wool business in England. He proved to have no knack for business; he wanted instead to be a musician. His father wanted to discourage Frederick from that career choice so in 1884 he sent him to Florida to manage a citrus plantation south of Mandarin on The St. Johns River.
The old man's plan was a bomb. Frederick was even worse at managing a citrus grove than he had been as a wool merchant. He started hanging around with New York musicians who spent the winters in Jacksonville. The city also had an active arts community, and Delius was fascinated by the African-American musicians he ran into.
In Jacksonville, Delius met Tom Ward who was the organist for a local church. Ward gave Delius music lessons and quickly realized he was teaching a musical genius. Delius wasn't cut out for grove work, and went back to England in 1886. Two years was enough. He wanted to be a composer.
He spent the rest of his life composing in Paris and Germany. Delius was the first European composer to capture African-American rhythms in his musical compositions. He spent his entire life as a composer, but his first published music was a polka for the piano titled "Zum Carnival". It was published in Jacksonville in the late 1800s. A later major work, "Florida Suite", gives a musical impression of the St. Johns River at four different periods of time during a day. He became a world famous composer. Another of his compositions was apparently used as a model for the soundtrack music in the movie "The Yearling".
His compositions were played by symphony orchestras all over the world, but his major success was in Europe. Delius died in 1934 and is buried in France, but his legacy is kept alive in America and England.
The Delius house was a gift to the University by Mrs. Martha Bullard Richmond. She had rediscovered the decaying old house and purchased it in 1943. It was moved to the campus from Solano Grove in 1961.