Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 IGUIDB Walkabout - Town Of Seabreeze

(Official logo of Seabreeze)

This will be a lengthy and image heavy blog post.  Will break it down in chapters:
CONCLUSION:  Links to things we talked about


I have tried to create an annual tradition, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, to organize a "walkabout" somewhere in the City Of Daytona Beach.  The reason is more to just get together, share memories, enjoy a nice walk in a location that you may not find yourself walking in otherwise.  It is possible that you may learn some historic details about your home town and see patterns of changes, good and bad.  For our 2017 IGUIDB (I Grew Up In Daytona Beach) Walkabout, we revisited the lost town of Seabreeze, FL, located in current day Daytona Beach.

The facts and dates contained in this blog are generalizations and may not be exact or accurate, but are close enough.  That being said, where did Seabreeze come from, and where did it go?  To understand that, you have to understand a little history of the area.

There was not a lot going on around Daytona in the early days.  Timucuan Indians were native to the area.  As Europeans came over with diseases and progress, most of them died off.  The Spanish laid claim for some time, and Seminole Indians migrated to the area as well.  In about 1763, Spain traded FL to the Brits, in exchange for control of Cuba.  With British in charge, there was an era of development, and migration of population in an effort to make the area productive.  This era ended after the US defeated Britain in the revolutionary war, and Spain took control again into the 1800s.  Large tracts of land began switching from the Spanish to private Americans, who then parced them out and developed them.  Such was the case of the "Daytona Beachside".

Holders of large parcels of land have names you may or may not recognize, but they are responsible for the layout, and history of the area.  David D. Rogers owned most of the Main Street Area, the Brush family had a large tract north of that, and Charles Ballough further north.  This would have been around 1884-1886,  Each owner had their own vision.

In 1886, the area got it's first post office.  The government called it Halifax.  Anyone in the general area getting mail at that time got it thru the Halifax post office.  It was located about where current day Main St and Halifax are.

In 1892, C.C. and Helen Wilmans Post arrived and settled on half of the Ballough property which generally encompassed the area where current day Seabreeze blvd is today.  They were a colorful couple with a deep, interesting history.  Helen was an original advocate of what was known as "mental science".  She was from Washington State, but had made her way to other places in the country before settling permanently on the property she obtained from Charles Ballough.  She envisioned the creation of a town she called "The City Beautiful", and proceeded to carve it out.  She made her money thru the mail, selling her newsletter and healing services.  At that time she was making between $25k and $50k a year!  That afforded her the ability to have a good life and finance much of the growth of the corridor where Seabreeze Blvd is today.

The names of all the streets have changed, so for conversation, I am using the current day street names.  For the record, when the Posts developed, Seabreeze Blvd was then known as Ocean Boulevard.  Main Street today was known as Seabreeze Avenue, and Halifax Drive was known as Valley Street.

The picture above from 1893 is Mrs. Post in the carriage, looking east toward the beach from Halifax Drive.

Mrs Post at the Post office...

In 1890, the Post Office of Halifax was renamed Seabreeze, in deference to the name that David Rogers had been using for his development. By 1897 the Posts were getting so much mail that the government moved the post office from current day Main Street to current day Seabreeze Boulevard, to be closer to Mrs. Post.  This infuriated the residents of Seabreeze and most especially a congressman from Maine and part time resident named Ernest Goodall.  Goodall spearheaded an effort against Mrs. Post to have her charged with mail fraud for using the mail for the purposes she was using it for.  Mental science was a new concept that she would have to defend in court.  If you are interested, you must google information about her and her trials in court.  She lost and won on appeals, but the fight ruined her.  In the meantime, the post office on Main Street was renamed as Goodall.  You will see historic references to the town of Goodall, and post cards with the name.  Goodall was an official name from 1898-1905.

Meanwhile development continued.  The first bridge (Main Street Bridge) appeared in 1897.  It remained a wooden bridge into the 1950s, and when replaced with the modern bridge, both bridges stood at the same time briefly.

SO now with the separate post offices and community identities set apart, the residents of the Seabreeze area agreed to incorporate into an actual city in 1901.  They elected Mr. Post the mayor.  The first Seabreeze Bridge, known then as the North Bridge was built in 1902 to connect Seabreeze to Daytona.  The Posts had built their home on the NW corner of Seabreeze and Halifax where the base of the bridge landed.

  In 1905, the residents of Goodall voted to incorporate, and named their city "Daytona Beach".  In 1925, the communities of Daytona, Kingston, Seabreeze and Daytona Beach decided to incorporate as one city known as Daytona Beach, and that was formal in 1926.   And here we are today, back to current day.


SO YEARS LATER a bunch of us are going for a walk, taking note of what is and what was.  I arrived at our staging area, and found a natural gas leak was being dealt with!  I was afraid we were not going to be allowed to stage there, but they got it repaired before the walk, and the smell cleared!

The staging area was available thanks to Doan Management company who allowed us to use this facility to meet up.  Here is a pic of the same building in the 50s.

We then headed east to Halifax Av.

We pointed out Brooke of course where the post office was historically, and remembered the Las Novedades building which housed many places, including the Wedge.

    I mentioned that the walk from Main to Seabreeze would not be the most exciting, save for the wonderful original homes that still stand along the road.

This is the Greek Orthodox Church, which was constructed in the mid seventies.  The property here has a very interesting history, which I will share.


Where the church sits today was historically a 400 foot wide lot that was owned by Ransom Olds, the race driver and creator of the Oldsmobile.  He had a pretty big footprint in the Daytona area, owning and developing several properties.  He purchased this lot and built a home for his parents.  After his parents passed, he expanded the home into a lavish mansion, It was massive with 7 BR and 6 baths on the second floor alone. The living room was 25x45 with exposed cypress beams.  Between the house and other bldg was a separate structure with a 40 foot indoor swimming pool.   The Olds family had it until about 1949, when they sold to Mr Howard Dayton, who was a hotelier, and owned the hotel on the NW corner of Seabreeze and A1A among others.  In 1957, the Daytons sold it to the Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista, who titled it in his wifes name.  He paid just over $82k for it.  He had planned to relocate his entire family to this house, but when Castro overthrew the Bastista government, the US would not allow him to reside here.  The Batistas deeded the northern half of the property to the city of Daytona to be used as a Cuban Museum, containing art and items donated by the Batistas as well.  There is controversy over this collection which continues to this day, as the Cubans want it back because it was pilfered and stolen by the Batista regime.  The city is holding its ground until a friendlier government is in place in Cuba.

The southern end of the property was listed for $70k but was sold for $35k with the stipulation that is HAD to become a church of some sort.  The existing building was used temporarily for a church, with the outbuildings, boathouse, garage and pool demolished in 1970.  Construction of the existing facility started in 74 and ended in 77.


Then we arrived at Seabreeze.  We explored Mrs. Posts old property, which became a hotel, then was demolished to make way for the Diplomatic Towers.  They still stand, although a few days ago the roof of the south tower collapsed from heavy rains, flooding the south tower entirely.  The new high rise bridge lands between the towers, so we went underneath and visited the old boat ramps and the remnants of the old road that ran to the old bridge.

The Post house as a hotel...


and how it looked in 59

and today... 

Headed back east on Seabreeze...taking note of the fact that at one time, Seabreeze, Main St, and Beach St all were their own independent hubs of commerce to serve their communities.  As the city has consolidated and sprawled, some areas have been left behind and evolved into different places, while still retaining some character from the past.

The Posts built much of what was historically along Seabreeze blvd, including the opera house, which also housed the print shop where all her books and literature were published from. They also had their own department store, and built or financed many of the finer hotels including the Breakers, Collonades and the Princess Issena.   

One of the last vacant field lots.  I believe they are planning on building a 7-11 here to replace the old 7-11 in the background.   

The Wells Fargo is sitting on the site of the Princess Issena.  Mrs Post gave her daughter Ada the hotel, and she sold it.  The new owners allowed Mrs Post a room to stay in for free until she passed away. 

Formerly the St. Regis.  

DelMonicos became Dinos became Razzles....


We then headed south toward the Boardwalk, stopping along the way to remember the Plaza/Clarendon and all of its incarnations, then to the Russian construction site where they are building the new towers at Oakridge, and the new parking garage has already been completed.

The boardwalk was a pleasant diversion.  There were quite a few visitors about, but I would not call it crowded at all, especially given the nice weather.  We made mention that the city has set aside a million dollars to renovate the bandshell completely this year.  We looked at how different the area is with all the City Walk Shoppes and hotels dominating the area. We looked at how sparse the boardwalk area was, and how much had changed by the closure of access to Ocean Ave and the directional traffic.   Many of the old buildings have now gone and become paid parking lots.  

Ocean Ave was once a main destination for tourism, full of affordable hotels, dining options, access to the sea, the pier, casino and boardwalk.  This was how we became the Worlds Most Famous Beach.  The Seaside Inn dominated the NW corner of Ocean Av and Main Street for decades.  

Here is the original Keating Pier and Casino...

NE corner Ocean and Main

South side of the Seaside with bikes on Main Street between Ocean and Atlantic...


A shot from Main Street looking east toward the Seaside and pier.

Looking east on Main from Atlantic

 SE corner Ocean ave and Main, became Baron Von Funfrites Haunted Castle for many years before demo. 

Looking South down Ocean Ave from Main.

80s Ocean Ave, back in the drug and hooker heyday.  I used to work at that Majik Market then.

This is the Francis Irvin Inn, which sat where Steak and Shake went, which begat Wendys, which begat Starbucks. 



So we left Ocean Av and crossed over A1A to the newly remodeled Streamline Hotel.  The Streamline was built in 41 and is recognized as the birthplace of NASCAR, as the documents creating NASCAR were forged there by Bill France, and others.   The hotel found its way into disrepair and became a very seedy place, eventually housing a youth hostel and a notorious gay bar.  Eddie Hennessey purchased the property with a vision to clean it up as a boutique hotel.  He was featured on Hotel Impossible and was looking at a million dollar renovation, which became a SIX million dollar restoration, fully gutting and redoing all systems and finishes.  IT LOOKS is absolutely stunning.  Forty of us walked in and bum rushed the lobby and took their elevator and stairs to the roof to enjoy the view.  They have a restaurant and bar up there that ARE open to the public.


Some folks were getting a little wore out by this point in the walk, so we started meandering back to the starting point.  We left the Streamline and took Grandview back to Main Street.  Main Street too is feeling a bit run down, and could use some energy that does not involve a new night club or biker hang out.  It is sad to see Main Street looking so sad, but maybe that will change in the future.  ISB is even worse to be fair.  I had planned for us to cover ISB, but after touring it on my bike to plan the walk route, Seabreeze was far more interesting.  Main Street, in its day, was the social and commerce hub of the Seabreeze/Goodall/Daytona Beach area.  

IN CONCLUSION...I will leave it at this for now, until next year.  If you would like to discuss any of this, join us at our Facebook group, I Grew Up In Daytona.  CLICK HERE TO VISIT GROUP

On the walk, I mentioned a movie that was filmed in Daytona in 1961 that featured lots of scenery from the city back then.  Here is a link to where you can view it online.  The story is not that good, but you will have a blast picking out where the scenes were filmed!  CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE MOVIE (dont mind the racy trailers before the movie...just go past them if you like.

CLICK HERE FOR 100 STILLS from the movie to give you an idea of what to look for

Here is a link to a file with MANY more links to stuff of area interest, including the movies we shot in 95 documenting the Seabreeze Bridge, traffic circle and other landmarks.  CLICK HERE TO SEE LIST

You can google Helen Wilmans Post for more info, BUT here is a link to a pretty good blog that tells about her, and her history at Douglasville GA before coming here.  CLICK HERE FOR BLOG

If I have forgotten anything, just let me know!  THANKS to all who attended the walk, or went vicariously with us via this blog or at the group.  See you next year!



Patty said...

Great presentation and very interesting! Brought back some memories for sure!

Altered Window Experience said...

Thank you for this post. I was born in Halifax and hope to come back soon.