The first non-native settlement in the area was by a family of freed slaves following the American Civil War. In 1888, a group of men from Cocoa bought the entire tract of land, which went undeveloped until it was bought out in 1923 by a member of the group—Gus Edwards, Cocoa’s city attorney. At that time, Edwards’ total holdings included approximately 600 acres (240 ha), and he had stopped practicing law to devote all his efforts to developing the area.
Prior to incorporation, the area was known as Oceanus. The Town of Cocoa Beach was established on June 5, 1925. Cocoa Beach’s first official meeting was held at the Cocoa Beach Casino on July 27, 1925, and adopted the City Seal. Gus C. Edwards was elected as mayor and served as a commissioner along with J.A. Haisten, and R.Z. Grabel. A little less than a month later, plans for a pier became official.
In 1935, the FDOT opened up what is now State Road A1A as a one-lane dirt road to Eau Gallie. In 1938, a Deputy Marshal was appointed “to act in emergencies at night or at other times” for $.25/hour. By 1939, the town had 49 residents. In 1940, the town requested that State Road 140 (now A1A) be routed on Orlando Avenue instead of Atlantic Avenue. In 1942, the town prepared to receive men assigned to the newly opened Naval Air Station Banana River. Establishing regular garbage collection was discussed when the town discovered that the Air Station was having theirs collected.
On May 1, 1942, the German submarine U-109 torpedoed the La Paz off the shore of Cocoa Beach. The crew was able to beach it with the help of tugs. Eventually it was returned to shipping. On May 3, the same U-boat sank the SS Laertes near the same spot. Local boys were recruited for salvaging efforts and to rid the beach of subsequent debris. Shortly thereafter, the federal government realized the danger of back-lighting from the coast making easy targets of passing ships and ordered a blackout for the remainder of the war.
During World War II, Cocoa Beach experienced money shortages for employees, and money to fix roads.
In 1944, the town successfully fought a bill introduced in the Florida legislature which would have dissolved the city government. In 1947 a single police officer was hired for $1/hour. The same year, the city constructed works for the distribution of potable water. In 1950, a volunteer fire department was created which used a second-hand vehicle. In 1950, a proposal to prevent people from driving on the beach was defeated. In 1951, the city sought to place a stoplight, the city’s first, at the intersection of what is now A1A and Minutemen Causeway. In 1953, the city decided to mark the names of all streets. In 1953, the city planned to pave A1A south from 520 down Orlando Avenue. The city intended to bear 1/3 of the costs, the adjacent property owners, 2/3. In 1954, the Women’s Club opened a library in the building used by the Fire Department.In 1955, the speed limit in most of the town was raised to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h). In 1955, the city prepared to house the people who were going to be launching missiles from what is now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In 1956, the city attorney warned the council that blacks might attempt to use the beach. If they did, he recommended clearing the beach of all persons, both white and black. The 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education, had, in theory at least, integrated all general public facilities. Actual integration came later.
The city proposed selling the town dump to the school board for a junior high school, in order to keep students from being bused to Merritt Island.
On June 29, 1957, the town of Cocoa Beach incorporated into a city. In September 1959, the city voted to add more sidewalks, improve the streets in residential areas as well as the main streets, and to pave more roads.
In 1965, Cocoa Beach High School requested that Cocoa Avenue, the street that the school was located on, be renamed Minutemen Boulevard, in honor of the school’s mascot, the Minuteman.
Cocoa Beach started its major growth during the 1960s (1000% population increase from 1950 to 1960) as a result of America’s space program. NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center is located approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of town. Many people moved to Cocoa Beach due to jobs connected to the space program and in search of new opportunities.
After manned space flights, the town held parades in honor of the astronauts.
After NASA’s Apollo program came to an end, and before the Space Shuttle program was in full swing, the town’s economy reflected the resulting layoffs. At one point, in 1975, unemployment was 14.3%. Many families lost their jobs or simply moved away. The housing market plummeted and some people unable to sell their homes simply abandoned them.
Cocoa Beach was the setting for the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, although no episodes were actually filmed there, and star Barbara Eden only made two visits during the show’s production — both in 1969, for publicity. Cocoa Beach High School was used as the school in the 2002 movie Race to Space.
The 2010 Nebula Awards were held in the city.
In 2016, the largest mansion in the city was destroyed by fire. it had been built on the beach by Al Neuharth in 1975. It contained 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of living space, 11 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. It was valued at several million dollars.
As of the census of 2010, there were 11,231 people, 6,529 households, and 3,532 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,552.1 inhabitants per square mile (985.5/km²). There were 8,709 housing units at an average density of 1,780.6 per square mile (687.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.64% White, 0.62% African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.07% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.52% of the population.
There were 6,529 households,12.9% of which had children under the age of 18 residing; 45.5% were married couples living together; 5.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.9% were non-families. 38.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.7% were households of persons 65 years of age or older living alone. The average household size was 1.91 and the average family size was 2.47.
The city’s population was divided into the following age groups: 12.2% under the age of 18; 3.8% between 18 and 24; 22.0% between 25 and 44,; 27.6% between 45 and 64, and 34.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 54 years. For every 100 females there were 99.3 males. For every 100 females aged 18 years and older, there were 96.4 males.
Cocoa Beach is a retirement area, an average age of 56.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.0 square miles (39 km2). 4.9 square miles (13 km2) of it is land and 10.1 square miles (26 km2) of it (67.49%) is water. Bordering the city on the north is Cape Canaveral; on the south is Crescent Beach; on the east is the Atlantic Ocean (5.6 mi or 9.0 km of oceanfront); on the west is the Banana River.
Propelled by a powerful hurricane, the ocean pushed its way through the barrier islands centuries ago and formed the Thousand Islands in the Banana River.
There are a number of boating channels dredged in the area: the 0-99 Channel, the 100 Channel, the 200 Channel for houseboats, the 300 Channel, the 400 Channel near housing for private boats, the 500 Channel and the 600 Channel. Dredged material is placed on one of the Thousand Islands, but is now controlled.
Many of the homes in Cocoa Beach are built on dredged mud and sand from the Banana River.
- Merritt Island
- Atlantic Ocean
- Cape Canaveral
- Crescent Beach
According to the census, the median income for a single household in the city was $42,372, and the median income for a family was $51,795. Males had a median income of $39,418 versus $27,113 for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,968. About 3.7% of families and 6.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.
Surfing manufacture and tourism add to Cocoa Beach’s economy.
Ron Jon Surf Shop
Tourist markets are the beach and cruising. Business travelers constitute a secondary market.
Ron Jon’s, a surf shop, receives 2 million visitors a year. Cocoa Beach is home to the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.
It is estimated that there are 2.4 million day trippers annually. While businesses appreciate the tourism, it creates a parking problem for the city. There are 1,780 paved parking spaces and 607 spaces on the streets downtown, near the beach.
The Cocoa Beach Pier, formerly known as the Cape Canaveral Pier, was built in 1962. An annual Easter Surfing Festival began in 1964. An estimated 100,000 spectators attend annually. An annual Beach Fest is held in May.
An air show in 2009 drew a crowd estimated at 30,000.
There is a store that sells dinosaur and other fossils.
The Ron Jon Easter Surfing Festival drew 50,000 visitors in 2009.
The largest charity surfing festival, National Kidney Foundation Pro-Am Surfing Festival, has been held every Labor Day Weekend in Cocoa Beach since 1985.
In 2015 businesses in the city collected $5.6 million in tourist tax, over half the tourist tax collected in the county and more than any other municipality, $1.4 million.
The city has three public schools:
- Freedom 7 Elementary
- Theodore Roosevelt Elementary
- Cocoa Beach High School
Freedom 7 Elementary school and Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr High School both are certified International Baccalaureate schools. Freedom 7 Elementary has a primary years program, and Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr High has both a middle years program and a diploma program.
94% of all residents 25 years or older are high school graduates. 38.6% have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Cocoa Beach, Florida, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.