The 1920’s to the 1950’s
The Delhi neighborhood was one of the few places where Mexicans were allowed to buy land, and according to the 1920 Census, there were 500 residents in the neighborhood at that time. There were a total of 100 Mexican home owners, and their properties were valued at about $25.
In 1924, Delhi neighborhood schools were incorporated into the Santa Ana Unified School District, which built Edison Elementary School in 1929, the same year that residents voted to join Santa Ana’s municipality. This was a contentious decision with 17 residents voting in favor and 10 voting against the incorporation.
The Delhi neighborhood grew rapidly from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, and the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was built in the 1940’s. Church activities played a significant role in the life of the neighborhood. In 1950, the neighborhood had its own grocery store and gasoline station and another school was built.
The 1960’s to the 1990’s
In 1969, the Delhi Center was incorporated as a nonprofit organization by local residents, the local Catholic Church, and the Junior League of Newport Beach. The National Armory donated two WWII era Quonset Huts, and the Manuel Esqueda family donated the land on the corner of Center and Halladay.
Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, signs of community distress and social displacement were evidenced by the 1990 Census. The area was home to very young households with high unemployment rates and low educational achievement levels. Gang involvement and crime increased, and the neighborhood acquired a negative image which resulted in older families moving to other cities. These conditions triggered renewed efforts to improve the neighborhood and brought together various social groups who worked together for the benefit of the neighborhood. During this time community leaders pressed the City of Santa Ana to expand the Delhi Park and to construct a new community center.
An Historic Milestone
In 2001, center leaders achieved an historic milestone and constructed the largest community center of its kind in Santa Ana. With the support of elected officials, community residents, and private sponsors, the Delhi Center opened its doors at its current location on December 17, 2001.
The City's Public Works Yard was moved to make space for the center and to expand the adjacent park. Grant funding was secured from various sources through a combined effort of the City and Delhi Center leaders, which involved resident focus groups to ensure the community had a voice.
Delhi Center entered into a contract with City of Santa Ana whereby the land is owned by the City and the building is owned by Delhi Center. This unique partnership has resulted in countless beneficial services provided to not only the Delhi neighborhood but to the entire Santa Ana community.
Delhi Center continues to serve as a gathering place for local residents and organizations from throughout Orange County. It serves as an investment vehicle for those wishing to impact the lives of our most challenged neighbors.
Its leaders have brought Delhi Center full circle, helping it to become independent and self-sufficient by generating multiple revenue streams to reduce its dependence on grant funding. Delhi Center has maintained a high level of service and welcomes over 42,000 individuals annually through its doors for various programs, services, trainings, and events.
People of all ages and all walks of life are served at Delhi Center, which continues to improve the quality of life for residents of Santa Ana and the surrounding communities. Its history, perseverance, and impact is a testament to the work ethic of those it serves and the hope that defines its legacy.