The city was founded by fishermen very early in Florida's history. An authentic, historical account states that the first families arrived in Cocoa around 1860. A post office was established at Magnolia Point two miles north and the first commercial building in Cocoa was erected in 1881 or 1882. First plats of the new settlement were made in 1882 under the name "Indian River City" on land owned by Captain R. A. Hardee. The name Indian River City was unacceptable to the U.S. Postal authorities who claimed it was too long for use on a postmark.
It was stated that at Captain May's suggestion, the group finally chose for its association with the Cocoa plant. The name was forwarded to Washington, D.C. where it was officially adopted. Another version suggests that while a group of citizens were seeking a name for the town, an old woman received inspiration from a box of Baker's Cocoa and her suggestion was adopted. Still another version suggests that along the bank of the Indian River lived an old woman who would supply hot cocoa to the sailors as they traversed the Indian River. As they passed, they would call out "cocoa, cocoa" until the woman supplied them with refreshment. Whatever its origin, by 1884 the name Cocoa had become permanently associated with what was then an infant settlement.
Incorporated in 1895, Cocoa has continued to develop and mature despite serious setbacks early in its history. In 1890, Cocoa's business district was destroyed by fire. The business district was around the area of S.F. Travis Hardware which was built and opened in 1885. It was on what we call now Delannoy Ave not far from Willard.
The oldest commercial wooden structure in Historic Cocoa Village is the Sur Le Parc Building, which means “on the Park” in French. Built in the 1880s by dressmaker Julia Roberts, who is known to have been a very good businesswoman. While she lived on the second floor of the building, she leased out the first floor to many of Cocoa’s early businesses including one of it’s first banks. She eventually opened her own business selling clothing, which may have been the first clothing store in town. She also began a dress making training shop, where local girls were taught the skill of making their own clothing. This building survived numerous hurricanes and a devastating fire which destroyed nearly every other building on Delannoy Avenue.
In the early 1890's significant development began to occur with the extension of the Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Indian River Railway to Cocoa. The new rail connection served as a catalyst for the growth of the economy and population of the town. By 1895, Cocoa was a maturing community. Cocoa suffered a second severe economic setback in the winter of 1894-1895 when the "Great Freeze" destroyed the citrus crop and forced many individuals involved in the citrus industry to seek new occupations according to one source, by 1903, the population of Cocoa had dropped to 382.
During the second decade of the of the twentieth century, population growth and economic development in Cocoa accelerated. The state business directory of 1911-1912 set the population at 550. By 1925, the population was estimated at 1,800. During the Great Depression, starting in 1929, the local economy declined.
Still, according to one source, the population rose to 2,200 by 1930. The population rose dramatically following the development of the Space Industry. The population quadrupled from 3,098 in 1940 to 12,244 in 1960. Cocoa and the surrounding area also became integrated with the tourist industry for the first time as thousands visited the area to witness the launches from Cape Canaveral. By 1980, the population had grown to 16,096.
Who knows, either it is all the antiques or the history of the area? Maybe it was the fire that destroyed the early business center of the town. We are only one third of a mile away from where that tragedy took place. Something is going on here, we will keep you posted as new evidence of weird happenings get captured on film or audio.