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Secretary Browning Designates Cocoa as Florida Main Street Program of the Month

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Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
December 05, 2011

Chris Cate

Secretary Browning Designates Cocoa as Florida Main Street Program of the Month

Recognizes organization’s contribution to preservation and restoration

TALLAHASSEE – Secretary of State Kurt Browning today announced Cocoa Main Street as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month for December 2011. The selection for this award is based on the Cocoa program’s involvement and active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

“Cocoa is a valuable asset to the Florida Main Street community,” said Secretary Browning. “Since its designation as a Main Street community in 1995, Cocoa residents have consistently worked to preserve their cultural heritage and maintain a bright economic future.”

The City of Cocoa was founded by fisherman who arrived in the area around 1860. Initially named “Indian River City,” the town changed its name to Cocoa when the original moniker was determined to be too long for use on a postmark. The city started going by the name Cocoa in 1884, a name believed to be derived from the city’s association with the Cocoa tree. The city was officially incorporated in 1895.

Cocoa has not only persevered, it has found a way to thrive. A large fire destroyed Cocoa’s entire business district in 1890. Though this was a major setback to Cocoa’s local economy, shortly after the fire the Indian River Railway built an extension that connected Cocoa to Jacksonville and St. Augustine. The Railway inspired major growth in Cocoa’s economy and helped bring it back to life after the fire. Cocoa endured another economic downturn when a severe winter destroyed Cocoa’s citrus crops and forced many in the citrus industry to find new occupations. By 1903, the population of Cocoa dwindled to only 382 people and Cocoa continued to face challenging times during the Great Depression. It was the space industry that brought Cocoa back to life once again. Tourists were drawn into the area by the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where they could take tours of the space program facilities and watch space shuttle launches. Today, about 17,000 people live in the city.

Cocoa retains strong ties to its past. The S. F. Travis Hardware store, which opened in Cocoa in 1885, remains in business today. The Aladdin Theater, which started showing silent films in 1924 is still in use as a performing arts center. Cocoa Main Street also recently won an award for Outstanding Florida Main Street Rehabilitation Project for their work on The Derby Street Chapel. Built by Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1924, the First Baptist Church was saved from demolition in the 1990s when community members rallied to stop the destruction of the Craftsman Style building and formed a committee to “Save the Chapel.” Cocoa Main Street proposed to restore the building as its long term historic preservation project, and in 2003, signed a long term lease with the owner, First Baptist Church, to restore the chapel as a community cultural center.

The Florida Main Street Program designated Cocoa a Main Street Community in 1995. As a Florida Main Street Community, Cocoa has attracted a net gain of 387 new businesses and 746 jobs, and has invested $121,675,033 in 1,489 public and private construction projects. Dedicated community members have contributed more than 11,446 volunteer hours in their Main Street Program.

About Florida Main Street

Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, managed by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. The bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating and preserving Florida’s historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida’s historic retail districts. Since 1985, the bureau has offered manager training, consultant team visits, design and other technical assistance, as well as the benefit of experience gained by other Florida Main Street programs.

To learn more about Cocoa Main Street, contact the program manager by phone at (321) 633-0806 or e-mail cocoamainst@bellsouth.net.

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