Brevard’s history is incredibly rich, filled with numerous cultures and important events spanning thousands of years. As a result, there are plenty of historical landmarks in the area, such as the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, Henegar Center and the famous Porcher House.
Brevard’s Very First Residents
The origins of Brevard County can be traced back to the native cultures that lived in the area pre-Columbian times. The first Paleoindians arrived in modern day Brevard around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Interestingly, the geography of the land was different at this point in time and the area was not a coastal community. Instead, the coast of Florida was around 100 miles wider, while the Indian River was a lower point on dry land.
It was until around 3000 B.C. that Brevard began to resemble the land we know today in regards to its shape, fauna and flora. Around this time the archaic people, primarily fisherman, arrived in the area. Historians believe these are the ancestors of the people that would come into contact with the first Europeans in the area.
Long after Brevard’s original inhabitants settled here, history continued to unfold, leading to the development of historical landmarks the community holds dearly to this day.
1. Ponce De Leon Statue, Juan Ponce De Leon Landing: 4005 A1A, Melbourne Beach
Historians of previous decades believed that St. Augustine was the first spot explorer Ponce De Leon landed. More recently, historians recognize he may have landed farther south. Either way, upon arriving on the coast, Ponce de Leon named the land he stood upon La Florida, claiming the land for Spain.
The Ponce De Leon Statue stands at 4’11” tall, a life-size representation of the first European to ever discover Florida. The statue that stands today is a replica of the statue found in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A local St. Augustine philanthropist, Dr. Andrew Anderson, donated it.
2. Cape Canaveral Lighthouse: Canaveral Air Force Station
Originally built back in 1848, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was used to alert ships of the dangerous shoals off the coast. Between 1893 and 1894, the lighthouse was relocated farther inland due to shore erosion. The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is open for tours during special times of the year. Located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the lighthouse is managed and maintained by the 45th Space Swing of the US Air Force.
3. Henegar Center: 625 E. New Haven Avenue, Melbourne
The Henegar Center is one of the oldest buildings still standing on the Space Coast. Built back in 1919, it was originally home to Melbourne’s first high school. In fact, the county’s first class of seniors graduated here in 1921. The building was named after Ruth Henegar, a cherished teacher and principle that dedicated many years to the school.
4. Apollo 1 Memorial: NASA Launch Complex 34, Kennedy Space Center
On January 27, 1967, a launch pad test for Apollo/Saturn space vehicle caught fire leading to the death of three astronauts trapped inside. Sadly, astronauts Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H., and Roger B. Chaffee all perished. Today, there are several aspects of the facility still in tact and available for tours in honor of these brave lives lost too soon.
5. Porcher House, Cocoa Village: 434 Delannoy Avenue, Cocoa
The Porcher family put down roots in Merritt Island at the end of the 1800s. The family successfully raised citrus fruit, and became the first to grade fruit for shipping. Edward Porcher is also known for his invention of a fruit washing machine and the founding of the Indian River Orange Growers Association.
Construction on what is now known as the Porcher House began in 1914 and was completed on October 31, 1916. It still stands today as a prime example of 20th century classical revival architecture perfectly adapted to Florida’s climate. The Porcher family remained in this home until after World War II. The home has since been restored and is open to tours. There are rooms available for rent for special occasions, and some of the upstairs rooms are rented out as offices.
6. Angel City: The Site Of The Original Wooden Drawbridge Over Banana River
Between 1922 and 1941, Angel City was marked by a wooden toll bridge used as a western entry point. Today, a special plaque stands in remembrance of the important bridge.
The plaque reads:
“On this site on April 19, 1923, a wooden drawbridge across the Banana River was opened to the public linking Merritt Island to Cocoa Beach. To pay for the bridge, there was a round trip toll of .20 for car and driver plus .04 charge for each additional passenger. Upon completion of State Road 520 in 1941, the old bridge was dismantled. Only the concrete abutment and a few pilings remain to mark the location of the bridge that opened Cocoa Beach to development.”
7. Old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Merritt Island
Some of Brevard County’s earliest residents are buried at the cemetery adjacent to Old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Built in 1888, the historic church is located on the north end of Merritt Island. It remains a stunning example of Carpenter Gothic style architecture. In 1990, St. Luke’s Church and its cemetery were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1978, a new church was built beside the old church. It is actively used as a small chapel for weddings and funerals. The historic cemetery is still used for burials.
8. Old Brevard County Courthouse: 506 Palm Avenue, Titusville
This neoclassical Greek style courthouse was built in 1912. Additions were completed in 1925 during the economic boom that accompanied the early space exploration era. The courthouse is still in use to this day, although Viera is the current county seat.