In Brevard County, for every Melbourne, Cocoa or Titusville, there are places such as Delespine, Bellewood and Williams Point.
Many lost towns are scattered along the U.S. 1 corridor between Cocoa and Titusville. Some tried valiantly to thrive, only to be absorbed by bigger, more established municipalities. Others were never more than a gleam in a developer’s eyes.
“They were never really towns,” said Michael Boonstra, a genealogy librarian and archivist for the Brevard Historical Commission.
Take Bellewood. Originally named Burns Hammock, the land was purchased by developer George Jones in 1921 and renamed Bellewood. It could not have been in a better location, given that Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center are within sight of the shoreline that runs the length of the would-be village.
Jones launched Bellewood Estates, which was to have a state-of-the-art hotel, golf course, clubhouse, hunting preserve, airplane landing strip and docks for yachts. What Jones hoped would happen and reality differed significantly.
“This was wishful thinking,” Boonstra said.
Bellewood certainly owned the “location, location, location” mantra. Cocoa was expanding to the north, while Titusville was heading south, and Bellewood was “right in the center,” or so claimed the ads for the Atlantic Realty Company, which handled the sale of 8,000 acres in the area in 1923. The two- to 10-acre tracts “sold before dinner” at $20 an acre for citrus land and a whopping $115 for an acre of waterfront property.
Alas, poor Bellewood, part of Florida’s Land Boom of the 1920s, was doomed by the same marketing forces that created it.
“Not much seems to have happened after the land boom went bust (in 1926),” Boonstra said.
A few places, such as Frontenac, did manage to stay afloat in one way or another. The town’s claim to fame is now primarily the Space Coast Flea Market, the site of bargains once known as the Frontenac Flea Market.
Another of these lost towns is Delespine, named for the family that acquired the 1817 Spanish Land Grant of 43,000 acres in the area. Joseph Delespine’s daughter, Frances, wed Christian Boye. One of the couple’s children, Mary, married into the Pritchard family, well-known pioneers of the Titusville area. For decades, she lived at the Pritchard residence in downtown Titusville. The Queen Anne-style Pritchard House is one of the county’s architectural gems.
On Indian River City on the Delespine Grant, Mary Pritchard’s brother, Frank Boye built his own dream home.
“My grandfather helped build the house and said the walls, which were about 10-to-12 inches thick, were made of a mixture of lime and crushed rock, the same type of material that was used for the Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine,” said Mary’s daughter, Polly Schuster.
Unfortunately, the inevitable widening of U.S.1 sealed the house’s fate, and the only house left from the original settlement fell to the wrecker’s ball.
In its heyday, Indian River City was a thriving little community with motels, churches, homes and even a drive-in prone to showing X-rated films. A few places, such as Indian River City United Methodist Church, keep the name alive. What happened to the rest of the town?
“It was absorbed by Titusville and another lost town,” Schuster said.