Brevard County is home to a multitude of outdoor activities from swimming to boating to golfing and more. Often the activities overshadow the remarkable history of the county. In truth, Brevard County is also home to a wide array of historical landmarks and milestones from the discovery of America to the latest in space exploration. Let’s explore!
Ponce De Leon
Along A1A in Melbourne Beach, you will find the Ponce De Leon statue standing proudly in tribute. While in the past historians strongly suggested the first landing of Ponce De Leon occurred near modern-day St. Augustine, today a number of scholars disagree. They believe the landing actually occurred in what is now Melbourne Beach, between the border of Indian River and Brevard counties.
Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
Today, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is engulfed amid cruise ships and launch pads, but the Lighthouse precedes them all, having presided over the region since 1848. Today the lighthouse is located in the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the watchful, caring eye of the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing. Originally built in 1848, the ship has shone its light on the shores, warning ships of the shoals for more than 150 years. The lighthouse was moved from its original location in 1893, a result of shore erosion, but continues to light the shores of Cape Canaveral.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery
Located on Merritt Island, this beautiful church was constructed in 1888 by the hands of the parishioners. Founded by the Porcher, Sams, Laroche, and other families who settled on Merritt Island in the 1870s from South Carolina following the Civil War, the historic churches site was built on land donated by Edward Porcher and funds provided by Lucy A, Boardman.
Henegar Center for the Arts
Among the oldest existing structures on the Space Coast, the Henegar Center in Melbourne constructed in 1919 as the city’s first high school, graduating its first senor class in 1921. The building was named in 1963 in honor of Ruth Henegar who had long served the school, first as a teacher and later as its principal. In the 1990s, on noting the deteriorating condition of historical buildings in Melbourne, a group of dedicated community leaders formed BRAG (the Brevard Regional Arts Group to save these landmarks. The Brevard County School System donated the buildings to BRAG who renamed the facility the Henegar Center for the Arts and completed a multi-million dollar renovation in 1993. The 493 seat theatre serves the region with the highest quality entertainment.
The Angel City Wooden Drawbridge Site
While the Banana River Wooden Drawbridge at Angel City is long gone, a plaque remains marking the milestone bridge which first connected Merritt Island to Cocoa Beach. You can still see the abutment and a few pilings that opened Cocoa Beach to development in 1923. The bridge featured a roundtrip toll of 20¢ per car/drive plus 4¢ additional for each passenger.
Cocoa Village Playhouse
Opened in 1924 as the Aladdin Theater, the theater showed modern, at the time, silent films. Today the Cocoa Village Playhouse in the City of Cocoa is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and Brevard’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places. Why? The theater’s former handyman is said to open and close doors regularly while making his way through the historic playhouse.
The Apollo 1 Memorial
Flashing forward to more modern times, the Apollo 1 Memorial commemorates the tragic loss of astronauts Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee during a launch pad test for the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle. The date was January 27, 1967, when a flash fire sparked in the command module resulting the tragedy. While only remnants remain at NASA Launch Complex 34, visitors can view the site during NASA tours and pay tribute to these heroic astronauts who paid the ultimate sacrifice.