History & Culture

History & Culture
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.

In 1925, the Cocoa Tribune published several accounts, supplied by readers, of the town's naming. A Mrs. Ruby Myers credited Captain R.C. May with the choosing of the name Cocoa at a town meeting in 1884. Those attending the meeting focused on a local product or characteristic feature of the area; e.g., citrus plants and Cedar Key.

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. However, 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 and the two local banks failed.

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. Based on the 2000 Census, the City's population of 16,412 is 62.46% white, 32.45% black and 3.4% from other racial groups.

Be sure to visit the Florida Historical Society. Located in Historic Cocoa Village, it is one of only two libraries in Florida that archives paper documents today.

Visit the Brevard Museum of History and Science, the Eastern Florida State College, Cocoa Campus, or catch an evening performance at the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse

Historic Cocoa Village PlayhouseBrevard Museum of History and Natural Science
Florida Historical Society

Brevard Cultural Alliance

Interesting Landmarks
The history of the City of Cocoa is rich, from the exciting Historic
 Cocoa Village Playhouse to Riverside Drive and its old Florida mansions and the turn-of-the-century elegant and classic example of Florida architecture.