The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Historic Sites to Visit on Florida’s Space Coast

Yes (no kidding) the Space Coast has ‘history’

When I travel I look for historic sites to visit. I’m a buff of art and military museums, big church cathedrals, and off-beat local historical buildings and homes. It’s no different when I’m on Florida’s Space Coast. Of course, my grown kids groan.

A surprise to many, there actually was a space coast long before the space program existed. I’m not sure what the Space Coast Office of Tourism would have called the area 75 or 100 years ago: Fish Coast? Vacation Coast? Mosquito Coast? Love Bug Coast? Insert laughs here.

Don’t think for a minute that the Space Coast is Johnny-come-lately to civilization. Our beloved mosquitos discovered the area long ago, and they were followed by the Paleo-Indians about 10,000 years ago. Great European powers explored here as far back as the mid-1500’s. But modern history here began in the mid-1800’s when Florida became the 27th state, and true Space Coast history began with the development surrounding the space program in the 1950’s.

And a quick aside: Since 1986 the ‘Mosquito Beaters’ have been meeting once a year to “tell shocking stories of dealing with mosquitos before DDT was developed as an insecticide” and to reminisce about living years ago on the Space Coast. If you’re interested in a deep dive, here are links to the Florida Historical Society article that I quoted from and to the Mosquito Beaters Facebook page.

The same mosquito beaters story quoted above recalled that “if you put your hand on a window screen on the shady side of a house, it took only a few seconds for the mosquitos to form a solid black mirror of your hand as they attempted to bite you through the wire mesh.”  When I visit a historic site or home on Florida’s Space Coast, my mind wanders off into what it was like to live here just 75 years ago.

As you’ll read below, Space Coast history has been dramatic, tragic, contested, exciting, and there are places to see from one end of the county to the other.

The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park

2180 Freedom Avenue, Mims | HarryHarrietteMoore.org

This area was central to the history of the civil rights movement in America. The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park in Mims includes a replica of their home as well as the Moore Museum. This museum is home to interactive exhibits and historic collections.

To give you a brief history, the Moore’s were African-American educators and civil right pioneers. Unfortunately, they were the first civil rights leaders to be murdered, which took place in Mims on Christmas 1951. When you visit the memorial park, you will have a chance to view a replica of their home and the interior that looks the same way it did the day it got bombed.

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This Civil Rights historic site is operated and maintained by Brevard County Parks, mainly because the state of Florida has yet to publicly acknowledge its role in the extralegal lynchings of blacks around the state in the first half of the 20th century. The state never will because tourism is too important. . . . . Years ago I wrote up a thesis proposal in which I wanted to explore the correlation between Florida’s tourism and real estate boom and the swift decline in extralegal lynchings of Florida’s blacks. As expected, I couldn’t find enough sources and I didn’t have the time to dig for them (as I lived in Ohio). But state governors back then implored local sheriffs and deputies to stop making Florida look like it was being run by vigilante mobs (if the shoe fits...). The solution? To charge and convict blacks of made up crimes and have them sentenced to death. The entire process could legally happen over the course of even a few days. It also made Florida look like a well-operated paradise to which people and companies would relocate. It worked. . . . Florida is historically on the books as the most dangerous place for blacks to live in the South, per capita. Imagine how that number would skyrocket if the “legal” executions could be recognized for what they were? Those people will never be counted as having been lynched. But Florida’s got a reputation to uphold... #florida #history #blackhistory #harrytmoore #notalldisney

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Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Tours can be booked at CanaveralLighthouse.tours

If you’re a lighthouse buff, or you’re interested in the strange coincidences of lighthouses and rockets, a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse should be on your list of things to do. Tours are held throughout the week and most Saturdays. It’s best to check their website for the latest availability. Please keep in mind that this tour is 3.5 hours long and is for those 48” or taller (so basically no kids). Closed toe shoes are required. Plus, you meet at the Exploration Tower at The Cove in Port Canaveral, so you can’t show up directly on site at the lighthouse.

A brief history for you. The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse has stood on the cape for over 150 years and is 151 feet tall. Its beam can be seen for 22 nautical miles. The lighthouse is still operational today.

Ponce De León Statue

4005 Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach | BrevardFL.gov

This may get confusing – and not everyone agrees with the research – but this historic site marks Ponce de León’s presumed landing spot in Melbourne Beach. The 25-acre regional park features two beach crossovers, a small pavilion, restrooms, and parking.

According to a popular legend, Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. He may have actually been looking for the Bahamian love vine for a potential business venture, which locals brew today as an aphrodisiac.

The site’s 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Ponce de León was created by metal smith and sculptor Rafael Picon's at his studio in Rockledge, Florida. This park is free to visit, an added bonus if you ask me!

Additional Resources

These are just a few of the historical sites to visit during your trip to Cocoa Beach and the surrounding area. About 10 minutes west of Cocoa Beach is Cocoa Village, which is home to the Florida Historical Society. Here you can find resource after resource about Florida’s Space Coast. They may be able to share with you some additional historical sites to visit.

While you’re in town, plan a trip to Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science. And Titusville is an epicenter for museums on the Space Coast, with more than three waiting to be explored: American Police Hall of FameValiant Air Command Warbird Museum, and American Space Museum and Walk of Fame.

Make sure you order an official Visitor Guide to learn more about Florida’s Space Coast and to plan your trip today.

Steve Hall illustration

 

Space Coast Visitors Guide Cover Image

Vacation Planner for Florida’s Space Coast

The official 2019 Space Coast Vacation Planner Guide is now available. There are two ways to get yours: