History Happened Here

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Fort Walton Beach

Okaloosa County

Year Founded: 1941Founded by: State LegislationPreviously known as: Town of Fort Walton

History

As early as 600 B.C., Indian tribes were attracted to Fort Walton Beach from the Mississippi and Tennessee River Valleys and the Southeast Georgia coast.

The beginning for the City occurred following the War Between the States, when Alabama war veteran John Brooks selected a site to build a three-room cabin. This was in 1867. Other settlers soon followed and in 1884 the population of the area required the establishment of a small schoolhouse. The area was known at that time as Brooks’ Landing. In 1902, the first hotel, Brooks House, was built along the Santa Rosa Sound and shortly thereafter the first post office was built in 1906.

In 1933, Maxwell Field military base in Montgomery, Alabama, expanded its operations and developed an airfield in Fort Walton Beach, to be used as a bombing and gunnery range.

The most significant factor in the City’s growth was the creation, and later expansion of this airfield. The expansion in 1937 was the same year the City Charter was adopted. This airfield is now known as Eglin Air Force Base, the largest military installation in the world.

The presence of the military base provided the key economic stimulus for the City’s early growth, supplemented by the attractiveness of the location. The City enjoyed a substantial population and economic boom from the 1950’s through the end of the 1970’s.

New development began to take place in the surrounding communities. The City, having nearly run out of developable land, started to focus attention on finding ways to induce private enterprise investment in the City, thus capturing a greater share of the local and regional market.

Story of City's Founding

Originally chartered as a municipality under the laws of the State of Florida, actual formation of the City was in 1941 when the Florida Legislature officially named it the Town of Fort Walton Beach. In 1953, the Florida Legislature granted the City a new charter at which time the name was changed to Fort Walton Beach. The name Walton originates from Colonel George Walton, who was Secretary of the East-West Florida Territory from 1822 to 1826, and was the son of George Walton, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Georgia.

Historical Sites

Name: Heritage Park and Cultural Center
Location: 139 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Historical Significance: The park houses three museums: Indian Temple Mound Museum, a sacred Indian burial ground; the Old Schoolhouse Museum; and Garniers’ Post Office Museum

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