Melbourne’s Historic District


Published:

A city employee picks up trash at Crane Creek Promenade in Downtown Melbourne.

SENIOR LIFE R. Norman Moody

Let me introduce you to a number of interesting and historic sights you might have missed as you drive by right here in downtown Melbourne. This is an educational walking tour of many buildings that in a small downtown area you and your family can leisurely explore.

The Green Gables House is at 1501 South Harbor Drive on the corner of Riverview and U.S. 1.

This historic home was built in 1886 for the prominent local businessman William Wells.

It is the perfect example of the Queen Anne style architecture typical of the 19th century.

Today, the building is in very bad condition. It had a fire and has extensive water damage.

The organization savegreengables.org today is trying to obtain the needed funds to restore and save this grand historic residence. View the building from the street and see how the restoration is progressing. Walk south on Riverview and view the many old homes that overlook the Indian River Lagoon.

Stop and view the 1899 home at 1513 U.S. 1. The building, now a medical office, is lavishly restored.

The Ice Plant, almost directly across the street from the Green Gables House at 1604 South Harbor City Boulevard, is the old Florida Power and Light Company Ice Plant built in 1926. This building made cakes and cubes of ice for homes, businesses and the fishing industries consumption for many years until the introduction of refrigeration in the early 1930s. With the introduction of home and business refrigeration, the need for this Ice Plant and all ice plants in the country ceased.

The Melbourne Ice Plant ceased operation in 1977 and now is an active office building.

I can remember as a boy having to rise at 6 a.m. every morning to remove the pan of melted ice water from the bottom of our kitchen icebox. Iceboxes in homes in the early 20th century were non-mechanical. A quarter block or a half a block of ice was placed in a compartment in the top of the icebox. Cold air circulated down and around the box in the lower section and kept food from spoiling.

Ice delivery men, wearing leather vests to keep dry, arrived in horse drawn and later motorized vans to deliver ice daily to homes and businesses. Believe me these were not the good old days.

The 1900 Building, on the corner of New Haven and U.S. 1., was built in 1924 and opened as the Melbourne Hotel. It had more than 100 sleeping rooms, a fine restaurant and bar, and a telegraph office. It faced Melbourne’s first traffic light.

Today, it is called the 1900 Building and it is an active office building. Park in its spacious parking lot and walk into the main entrance to view the elegant lobby, staircase and halls.

Walk west on New Haven Avenue to go to the center of Historic Downtown Melbourne. Here you have all types of shops, restaurants and restored buildings.

The Henegar Center, located at 625 East New Haven Ave., was built in 1919 as a school and today is called The Henegar Center for the Arts. The restored building contains a 500-seat live theatre that features ongoing live Broadway shows. Stop in and view the theatre, the main ballroom, reception room, Courtyard Garden Room, a mirrored dance studio and meeting spaces.

The public spaces contain rotating exhibitions of work by local talented and creative artists.

Once again, this walking tour of Historic Downtown Melbourne meets my criteria that it be inexpensive, educational and can be enjoyed by the entire family and out-of-town guests.