CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
HERITAGE AND HISTORY

Central East Florida heritage and history is an intriguing blend of Old Florida and the high tech space age.  The area began to attract settlers in the years immediately following the end of the Civil War in 1865.   Prior to that, it was pretty much a "no man's land".

Central East Florida History

The beginning of the space age was at Cape Canaveral in the early 1950's. The heritage is still being made with the space program in Brevard County and the racing legends at Daytona Speedway.

This heritage is shared by all 5 counties in this region. Each county has its fair share of sites that are an important part of Florida heritage and history.

Early settlements were in Ormond, Titusville, Cocoa, EauGallie, Melbourne, Sebastian and Fort Pierce.  In those early days, life revolved around the Indian River Lagoon. Fishing provided a livelihood, and the communities were tied together by riverboat transportation in the years before the railroad.

Henry Flagler began extending his railroad south from St. Augustine, and one by one most of these little towns were served by the railroad and began to grow.

The area includes a great diversity of towns and attractions. It starts in the north with Daytona Beach and its International Speedway and world famous beaches.  It's center is anchored by Cape Kennedy. The Space Age exists contentedly among the old Florida towns of Titusville, Cocoa and Melbourne.

Other old villages were swallowed up when the government purchased the land for the huge Space Center on Merritt Island.  Only the old maps and history books will show Wisconsin Beach, Titusville Beach, Artesia, Audubon and other places that are now only names.

Central East Florida is a long narrow region that extends to St. Lucie Inlet in the south. There are only 5 counties in this area of Florida. Two of those counties - Brevard and Volusia - are long and skinny. Together they have more than 100 miles of beautiful sand beaches.

Indian River County and St. Lucie County are smaller, but with equally beautiful beaches. Okeechobee County is landlocked, but has other redeeming features, including Lake Okeechobee.

Central East Florida has several nicknames including Space Coast and Treasure Coast. It is also referred to as the eastern part of the I-4 Corridor. Interstate Highway I-4 runs from Daytona to Tampa. This stretch of land from the Atlantic to the Gulf is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States.

Much of the growth is because of Orlando and its major tourist attractions. Families who take in Walt Disney World and Universal Studios also like to spend some time at the beach.  Daytona Beach with its speedway and driveable beaches is also a magnet for vacationers. NASCAR fans from all over the country flock to town for major racing events like the Daytona 500.

Bike Week in Daytona draws thousands of two wheelers and they are pretty well behaved compared to the image many folks have of bikers.  Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island and its exhibits are also a major draw. Nearby Cocoa Beach has wonderful sand beaches and Ron Jon's Surf Shop.

The St. Johns River, one of the few north flowing rivers in the world, forms much of the western boundary of Central East Florida.  This magnificent river is an adventure in itself.  It is a fresh water river, and is the longest river in Florida. It is known as the "river of lakes", and is ecologically unique.   It forms the centerpiece of much of Central East Florida heritage and history.

Its course is actually a series of what were once salt water estuaries behind the ancient Florida barrier island. Excavation along the St. Johns River have turned up shark's teeth and other salt water souvenirs from ancient times.  In ancient Florida history, the ocean was mere yards away from the St. Johns. Now it is twenty or more miles west of the ocean at most locations.

The river starts in the freshwater marshes of Lake Helen Blazes near Melbourne. From there it flows north through Sanford and discharges in the Atlantic Ocean 20 miles east of Jacksonville.  Jacksonville sprawls along the banks of the St. Johns, and it's nickname is The River City. The river has played a major role in Florida history.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, had a winter home in Mandarin on the banks of the St. Johns River.  Many historians feel her novel helped start the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln certainly believed so. 
Not until the river passes Jacksonville, do its waters become brackish.

The St. Johns River only falls about 30 feet in its 310 mile trip to the ocean. This means it is a lazy river, with slow moving water  and lots of meandering.  There are many fine little towns and parks along the long scenic course of the river.

The Indian River in Brevard County is also scenic and great for fishing and boating.  It is really a brackish estuary and is officially known as the Indian River Lagoon.  It is a large part of Central East Florida Heritage.

Central East Florida Heritage Sites

Here is a list of 141 Central East Florida heritage sites listed by county. The County Seat is also listed.  Here's a neat trick for you:  highlight any of the sites below, then right click and it will take you to the site's webpage on the internet.

BREVARD: Titusville

  • Alma Clyde Field Library of Florida History
  • American Police Museum and Hall of Fame
  • Barton Avenue Residential District
  • Brevard Museum of History and Science
  • Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Central Instrumentation Building
  • Cocoa Main Street
  • Cocoa Village Playhouse
  • Community Chapel of Melbourne Beach
  • Crawlerway
  • Downtown Melbourne Association
  • Grant General Store
  • Headquarters Building
  • Hotel Mims
  • Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • LaGrange Church and Cemetery
  • Launch Complex 39
  • Launch Complex 39, Pad A
  • Launch Complex 39, Pad B
  • Launch Control Center
  • Liberty Bell Memorial Museum
  • McLarty Treasure Museum
  • Melbourne Beach Pier
  • Missile Crawler Transporter Facilities
  • Old Haulover Canal
  • Operations and Checkout Building
  • Porcher House
  • Press Site--Clock and Flag Pole
  • Rockledge Drive Residential District
  • Sebastian Fishing Museum
  • Sebastian Inlet State Park
  • St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church
  • St. Joseph's Catholic Church
  • St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Cemetery
  • Titusville Commercial District
  • Valencia Subdivision Residential District
  • Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum
  • Vehicle Assembly Building, High Bay and Low Bay

INDIAN RIVER: Vero Beach

  • City Hall - City of Sebastian Offices
  • Driftwood Resort
  • Indian River Citrus Museum Heritage Center
  • Indian River County Courthouse
  • Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway
  • Laura Riding Jackson Home Preservation Foundation
  • Maher Building
  • Main Street Vero Beach
  • Marion Fell Library
  • McKee Botanical Garden
  • Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Pueblo Arcade
  • Royal Park Arcade
  • Spanish Fleet Survivors & Salvors Camp Site
  • Vero Beach Railroad Station
  • Vero Beach Woman's Club

OKEECHOBEE: Okeechobee

  • Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
  • Okeechobee Battlefield

ST. LUCIE: Fort Pierce

  • Arcade Building
  • Cresthaven
  • Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
  • Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts
  • Fort Pierce Site
  • Ft. Pierce Main Street, Inc.
  • Heathcote Botanical Gardens
  • Moores Creek Bridge
  • Old Fort Pierce City Hall
  • St. Lucie County Historical Museum
  • St. Lucie Village Historic District
  • UDT Seal Museum
  • Urca de Lima

VOLUSIA: Deland

  • African American Museum of the Arts
  • All Saints Episcopal Church
  • Amos Kling House
  • Bethune-Cookman College Historic District
  • Black Heritage Museum
  • Blue Spring State Park
  • Bulow Creek State Park
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • City Island
  • Connor Library History Museum
  • Coronado Historic District
  • Cypress Street Elementary School
  • Daytona Beach Bandshell
  • Daytona Beach Partnership
  • Daytona Beach Surfside Historic District
  • DeBary Hall Historic Site
  • DeLand Hall
  • DeLand Memorial Hospital Museums
  • DeLand Naval Air Station Museum
  • DeLeon Springs State Park
  • Dickinson Memorial Library and Park
  • Downtown DeLand Historic District
  • Dunlawton Ave Historic District
  • El Pino Parque Historic District
  • Fred Dana Marsh Museum
  • Gamble Place Historic District
  • Grace Episcopal Church and Guild Hall
  • Halifax Drive Historic District
  • Halifax Historical Museum
  • Holly Hill Municipal Building
  • Hontoon Island State Park
  • Howard Thurman House
  • Jackie Robinson Ball Park
  • Lake Helen Historic District
  • Lippincott Mansion
  • Main Street DeLand Association
  • Mary McLeod Bethune Home
  • Moulton Wells House
  • Museum of Arts and Sciences and Center for Florida History
  • New Smyrna Beach Historic District
  • New Smyrna Museum of History
  • New Smyrna Sugar Mill Ruins
  • Nocoroco
  • Orange City Town Hall
  • Ormond Beach Community Enrichment Center
  • Ormond Beach Main Street, Inc.
  • Ormond Beach Woman's Club
  • Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts
  • Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station
  • Port Orange F.E.C. Railway Freight Station
  • Rogers House
  • Ross Hammock Site
  • S. Cornelia Young Memorial Library
  • S.H. Kress and Co. Building
  • Seabreeze Historic District
  • Seabreeze United Church
  • Seminole Rest
  • South Beach Street Historic District
  • South Peninsula Historic District
  • Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Historic District
  • Southwest Daytona Beach Black Heritage District
  • Spruce Creek Mound Complex
  • Stetson University Campus Historic District
  • Sugarmill Botanical Gardens
  • Thursby House
  • Tomoka State Park
  • Turtle Mound
  • U.S. Post Office
  • West DeLand Residential District
  • White Hall - Bethune-Cookman College
  • Woman's Club of New Smyrna

Much of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at Amazon.com.

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