A BRIEF HISTORY OF MELBOURNE, FLORIDA
One fine morning on December 22, 1888, a group of 23 qualified electors gathered, to create the "Village of Melbourne" by a spoken vote, to reap the benefits provided to towns under Florida law. By night fall, they had elected their first officer and had settled on a corporate seal, consisting of a pineapple plant, along with a crane and a palmetto tree. Up until that time, the small community, located on a natural harbor on the Indian River Lagoon had been known as "Crane Creek". The name reflected the importance of the harbor, a freshwater creek flowing into the saltwater lagoon. At the time, barge traffic going both north and south along the lagoon was vital for the latest arrivals on the peninsula.
Eight years before the town was officially established, people began calling the area "Melbourne". A post office was being built to serve area families and a name was needed. Cornthwaite John Hector was the first postmaster, an Englishman who spent the majority of his life in Melbourne, Australia, before the opening of his general store in Crane Creek. Mrs. R. W. Goode was the one that was actually accredited with suggesting the Melbourne name, it is said that Hector favored a different name. There will always be more than one version of how the naming was accomplished. The most common story dictates that straws representing various names were drawn and the "Melbourne" straw as the one picked.
By the late 1880's, much of Melbourne's commercial activity was operated out of wooden buildings which were clustered up and down Front Street. Front Street was located on the Indian River Lagoon shoreline at Melbourne Harbor, and several piers went up in the Lagoon to receive goods and travelers. In 1893, the railroad arrived and the pioneering enterprise began to change, and the Lagoon began to lose its attraction as a transportation route. Slowly, businesses were attracted toward the iron tracks nestled on high ground to the west a few blocks away.
One day, tragedy struck hard in this quiet little settlement, and the original downtown area was forever changed. It is said that a renter in a waterfront boarding house hurled a kerosene lantern out of a second-story window, reportedly after someone shot it full of holes. The wooden sidewalk along Front Street was ignited, and a strong wind fueled the flames; causing the downtown area to be engulfed in flames, forever changing the original downtown area.
Melbourne features two "old" downtown areas, each with specialty shops and other attractions and a commercial area that no longer exists, provides an interesting historical note.