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History Abounds on The Florida Space Coast


Before the astronauts and surfers came to Florida's Space Coast, there were already thriving populations who left an indelible mark on the culture and heritage of the place known across the globe as America's gateway to space. Reaching furthest back on the historical timeline, an area of great interest to the world is the Windover Archeological Site south of the Titusville.  Discovered in 1982, the site unearthed significant Early Archaic burial site offering information and findings on the people who populated the region 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.  The Brevard Museum of Science and Natural History has a fantastic exhibit focusing on the site.  The Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary in Merritt Island is a great spot for hiking and canoeing, but was also the site of several native American villages from the Ais Tribe, that was mapped first in 1605.  Few realize that Ponce De Leon landed just below cape Canaveral in 1513.  The travelers decided not to settle in the area in part because of the two active tribes, the Ais and the Jeaga, who were still living in the area.

By the 1880's the cities of Melbourne, Titusville, Eau Gallie, Rockledge and Cocoa were already in existence, although the area didn't really take off until Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad reached local communities between 1886 and 1894.  For those interested in historical architecture, be sure to check out the Brevard County Historical Commission's listing of landmarks.  While the county has several layers of culture and heritage ranging from steamboat captains to civil rights leaders, several landmarks warrant a definite visit.  The Historic Cocoa Village area includes several places of interest like the S.F. Travis building built in 1907 and still housing Travis Hardware, one of the most unique hardware stores in the world, and the Alma Clyde Field Library of Florida History, which has a bounty of vintage literature.

Historic downtown Melbourne offers such treasures as the Henegar Center for the Arts, which once housed the local school and now features original art galleries and performances.  The Harry T. Moore Memorial Park in Mims celebrates the life of the man and his wife, Harriet, who were among the very first martyrs of the Civil rights movement upon their double murder on Christmas Eve in 1951.  The case is still a cause for controversy today. 

For military and aerospace history buffs there is the U.S. Space Walk of Fame and related museums; the Valiant Air command Warbird Air Museum, the American Police hall of Fame Museum, the BCC Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  Cultural amenities abound along the Space Coast as well. The Brevard Cultural Alliance maintains an active membership of organizations that represent and offer everything from theatrical productions to art galleries.  Downtown Melbourne and Eau Gallie are cultural centers featuring various galleries and the Brevard Art Museum.  The Brevard Zoo is also a great cultural arts center offering an expansive signage program incorporating local wildlife artists.  Perhaps the largest cultural arts venue is the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne which hosts top name show, bands and stars.  Smaller theatres, such as the Historic cocoa Village Playhouse, Surfside Playhouse in Cocoa Beach; and the Emma Parrish Theater in Titusville also provide high-quality entertainment.  And for a truly intimate experience, there are many venues such as the And All That Jazz Cafe in Cocoa, where local jazz musicians can be spotted jamming the  night away on a regular basis.  Some cultural hot spots are also landmarks reaching new audiences every day.  Many local historical and cultural attractions have changed right along with the times.  The cocoa Beach Pier, for example, sees new shops and events each year while Launch complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, built in 1962 for the original mercury program, has followed the space program right into the shuttle era. 

The Porcher House, a home and citrus packing plant built in 1916, is now the site of romantic and elegant weddings near the new Cocoa Village Riverfront Park and Amphitheater where major concerts and events take place under the stars and in front of a giant water play fountain at the edge of the Indian River.  House of worship dating fro the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries dot the county, with churches of historical note found in almost every town and city.  Exemplifying the importance of local culture and history to the local community, a new 300-acre Chain of Lakes Recreation complex along the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville is being constructed which will include "Brevard Heritage Park," where relocated landmark historical buildings will showcase the agricultural, citrus, and commercial fishing heritage of Brevard County in a re-created town atmosphere surrounded by parks, walking trails and canoe waterways.  The Space Coast is on the cutting edge of the 21st Century, yet it remains a community closely linked to and appreciative of its past.






 
 
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