Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Monday, August 22, 2016
While the moss draped live oaks along Rockledge Drive evoke a pervasive sense of calm, in it's heyday little Rockledge was a bustling destination for travelers looking to escape winters in the frigid north. They packed into several rambling wooden hotels along the bank of the Indian River where they sat on the porch, went on boat tours, hunted and fished, checked out the alligators and were even entertained by trained bears! Many guests came year after year and some, who had the means to do so, eventually decided they wanted permanent places of their own. While most of these early snow birds were merely here for a change of climate it turns out some of them might have been escaping a little "heat" of their own. Such is the case with a man by the name of Edward Newton Rowell who spent his winters in the charming cottage below at 1119 Rockledge Drive, that he purchased from the Van Deman family. His daughters went on to spend even more time there, although not without some scandals of their own, but that's a story for another time!!
|VanDeman-Rowell House 1119 Rockledge Drive|
Drawing by Robert Kronowitt from the book At First Glance by Roy Laughlin
|E. N. Rowell Mansion at Batavia New York. Built 1923|
As you can probably guess, Mr. Rowell filed for divorce from his wife in April of 1884 and received full custody of his two daughters. While the former Mrs. Rowell is said to have lived out her remaining days in need, Mr. Rowell went on to find happiness in arms of, yes you can guess it, his former secretary for whom he built the lovely house pictured above, and who became President of his company upon his death.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
May is National Historic Preservation Month and the Brevard Heritage Council, Brevard County's oldest organization dedicated to historic preservation, celebrated it by hosting their annual awards evening on May 12th to recognize those individuals who have restored any type of historic structure in Brevard County. Many of these projects were not started and completed within the last year, but they are honored in the year they are "done." And I say "done" as anyone who has ever restored an old structure knows that it is pretty hard to ever been done working on them! As you may or may not know, there are no grants or public monies available for those restoring a private home and due to very few local ordinances there are few restrictions on what can be done to historic structures in the area. As a result almost all historic preservation work is done by private individuals using their own funds and knowledge. The Heritage Council, which rents the historic City Point Church from the County, has for many years honored these brave individuals for their hard work and dedication in saving such wonderful examples of our local history.
The board members of the Brevard Heritage Council nominate properties from all parts of the county which are then photographed, documented and then submitted for judging. And yes they are open to suggestions! Only the exteriors are judged and the Council awards either a Banner Award or a Heritage Award based on various criteria. In general the structures that receive a Banner Award have to be pretty close to perfect, and in near original condition. This typically means original siding, windows, roofing material, no additions etc. The Heritage Award recognizes a property that has been renovated and maintained to a high degree and is a credit to its community.
Various experts have been asked to judge the entries over the years and this year I was asked to be the judge. Below are photographs of the properties honored.
|HERITAGE AWARD 310 Orange St., Titusville, FL|
Folk Victorian Style
|BANNER AWARD 35 Barton Ave., Rockledge, FL|
Queen Anne Style
|BANNER AWARD 45 Barton Ave., Rockledge, FL|
Folk Victorian Style
|BANNER AWARD 3543 N. Indian River Drive, Cocoa, FL|
All of the property owners have done a wonderful job and are to be congratulated!!
Friday, April 15, 2016
The folks from the Polk County Historical Society recently came across a book entitled "Epworth League Secretary's Book" which originally belonged to the Eau Gallie Chapter of that organization and contains entries dating from 1929. Since Eau Gallie is obviously not in Polk County they graciously donated it to the Eau Gallie Public Library who then passed it on to us for safekeeping.
That said my first question was, "What the heck is the Epworth League?" While it sounds like it should be an organization made up of super heroes, it is actually a religious group of Methodist young people, between the ages of 18 and 35. It was founded in 1889 at Cleveland Ohio and named after John and Charles Wesley's birthplace Epworth, Lincolnshire, England. Their mission is to encourage and cultivate Christ-centered character in young adults around the world through community building, missions, and spiritual growth and to my surprise it is still active today as a global organization with local church based chapters! Although it doesn't state anywhere in the book, the list of members below and other clues lead me to believe that the group was associated with St. Paul's United Methodist Church located on Highland Avenue in the Eau Gallie section of Melbourne. Unfortunately the historic sanctuary that was completed in 1902, which these members would have attended, burned down on August 6, 1965. However, the church was rebuilt and still serves the community today. The list of members below contains many familiar pioneer names such as Wickham, Creel, Roesch and Karrick.
|List of Members|
The book also includes some clues as to what the group was involved with in the area. There were reports for four main areas of interest which were: Spiritual Work, Department of World Evangelism, Department of Social Service and Department of Recreation and Culture. These topics included things like Bible Study, missionary work, helping the sick and needy, citizenship, socials and recreation and even work done on an anti-cigarette campaign.
|January Minutes for 1929|
Anyway, if you didn't already know, we now know what the Epworth League is and we have yet another interesting bit of history that has returned to the area!!
Thursday, March 17, 2016
On Tuesday night Brevard County history suffered a great loss when the ocean front estate of the late Al Neuharth, the founder of Florida Today and USA Today newspaper burned. The home, known as Pumpkin Center, is considered to be a total loss and had been recently sold by the Neuharth family to Jeffery Wells for nearly $5 million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a home in Brevard County. The sprawling house had over 10,000 of living space with 11 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. The home is commonly said to have been built in 1975, but a few old timers know that its core was a much earlier structure built as the ocean front get away of another early Brevard County tycoon, Eugene Wuesthoff.
From the collections of the Brevard County Historical Commission
Mr. Wuesthoff was one of the early visitors who came to Brevard County to enjoy the weather and recreation opportunities. Mr. Wuesthoff had been the general manager of the Slitz Breweries in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later one of two owners of the Union Refrigerated and Transit Company, from which business he retired in 1922. He spent the majority of his time in Rockledge, a well known winter resort at the time, where he immersed himself in local community activities. He contributed his financial support to many projects and groups, and left a generous legacy to found the hospital in Rockledge which still bears his name. He was also a major investor in local real estate, particularly during the land boom. In 1925 he purchased a custom built house on Valencia Road in Rockledge where he spent his winters until he passed away in 1940. This house, pictured below, featured the first swimming pool in the area and a cabana with separate changing rooms for men and women. The pool is still has been restored and is still in use today!
|Wuesthoff House, 25 Valencia Road, Rockledge, FL|
In 1927 it was Mr. Wuesthoff who began construction on what was to become Pumpkin Center. In December of that year the Cocoa Tribune reported that he had let contracts for the construction of a "lodge" on Cocoa Beach to cost approximately $8,000. The lodge, known as Pelican Dunes and described below, was of an usual design, giving the appearance of a log cabin, and set the tone for the rambling structure that it was to become.
Wuesthoff's lodge is familiar to some of our early Space Race residents as "the house on the beach," where it was the site of many parties thrown by the renters living there. A great description of this part of the home's history and a rare photograph of the house may been seen in Melba McCaslin's recently published book Young and Single on the Space Coast 1953 to 1969.
In a strange coincidence the house immediately south of Pumpkin Center and known as "The Folly," was destroyed by fire as it was nearing completion in 1937. For my previous blog post on this interesting story click here.