BREVARD HISTORY: Brevard Hotel Among Most Popular Retreats For Seven Decades

By  //  June 22, 2019

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DIGNITARY GUESTS INCLUDED VICE PRESIDENT HUBERT HUMPHREY

Demolished in in 1996, the Brevard Hotel was an iconic resort that hosted dignitaries including Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Demolished in 1996, the Brevard Hotel was an iconic resort that hosted dignitaries including Vice President Hubert Humphrey. (Catherine Goretsky image)

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – For seven decades, the Brevard Hotel in Cocoa was among the most popular retreats for locals as well as tourists.  

Located on a four-acre estate overlooking the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, Brevard Hotel’s 18,000 square-foot estate offered 53 rooms for “rest and relaxation.”

Known as “The Grand Old Lady,” the hotel, which was built in the early 1920s, hosted many dignitaries – including Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

In 1990, reports surfaced that the hotel’s owner, Tony Ninos, was saddled with tax and property maintenance issues. In 1996, Ninos was forced to sell the property.

Ultimately, a condo developer purchased the land and constructed Magnolia Pointe Condominiums.

Bob Laycock has provided an interesting and detailed chronology of the renovation of the hotel in the 1930s and subsequent events during the hotel’s glory days.

“My dad’s father, Hartley C. Laycock, Sr., was president and chairman of the Board at the People’s Bank in Chicago when the market crashed and the economy collapsed with the Depression,” said Laycock on his website highlighting the history of the Brevard Hotel.

“He was a man of high moral and ethical standards, ensuring that depositors recovered as much of their money as possible. When the process was done there was little left.”

The former Brevard Hotel in Cocoa is pictured in the postcard image cira 1930s.

Laycock went on to say:

In this tourism brochure, cira 1950s, the Brevard Hotel in Cocoa invites “snowbirds” to Brevard County for the winter. The hotel was among the most popular retreats for locals as well as tourists. Located on a four-acre estate overlooking the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, Brevard Hotel’s 18,000 square-foot estate offered 53 rooms for “rest and relaxation.”

Dad’s family sold the house they had just recently built and moved south to Florida. To help raise money for the family my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Bill, bought a truck and hauled loads of fruit to Ohio. Dad joined him on some of these trips.

What followed is a remarkable story. As Dad’s father recovered from the Chicago ordeal he grew interested in an old abandoned hotel building — the Brevard Hotel — on the Indian River in Cocoa, a short distance from the ocean, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.

He envisioned restoring and reopening it, and headed back to Chicago to raise funds for the project. He was met there with tremendous generosity, raised more than hoped, and soon returned to Florida.

This story reminds me a bit of Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George Bailey does all he can to protect his depositors — and then karma kicks in.

After a complete renovation of the building, the new Brevard Hotel opened its doors in December 1934 and soon became a popular Winter getaway in Central Florida.

As a child, I recall we had a 78 rpm recording of a Betty Crocker radio show broadcast from the hotel. I listened over and over. That record is long gone, unfortunately, and I haven’t found any online archive that might have the broadcast. Too bad!

The Brevard welcomed famous guests over the years, including Vice President Hubert Humphrey, according to SpaceCoastDaily.com. Humphrey’s visit was after we had sold the hotel.

Among the regular Winter guests every year at the Brevard Hotel was Constance Emerson Geil, widow of Dr. William Edgar Geil and my Mom’s adoptive grandmother.

My parents met there at the Brevard Hotel and fell in love. They married up north at the Barrens, Geil’s estate in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

I have various memories of the hotel as a child, some quite funny.

Among them, I performed heart surgery on ladies in the lobby, much to everyone’s delight and amusement. I also recall the Brevard Hotel as a skyscraper despite being just two stories. Perspective is relative.

Our family sold the hotel in the early 1960s after my Uncle Bill died.

Eventually, in 1996, the owner at that time was forced to sell for financial reasons and the building was torn down to make room for the Oleander Pointe Condominiums. The hotel is a celebrated part of Cocoa’s history. Pieces of the building were salvaged before demolition and have been incorporated into other buildings in town.

The former Brevard Hotel in Cocoa is pictured in the postcard image, circa 1940s.

Entrance to Brevard Hotel in 1957. Photo Courtesy of Catherine Goretsky

Entrance to Brevard Hotel in 1957. (Catherine Goretsky image)

The below photos were submitted by Catherine Goretsky. In an email to Space Coast Daily, Goretsky wrote:

“These were originally 35 mm slides that my husband took in the summer of 1957.  I scanned the slides into my computer and have had prints made of many of the slides that he took.  

“If I remember right, the room rates were incredibly low – less than $10 per day. They served continental breakfast in the lobby. I do remember you paid for six days and the seventh day there was no charge for your room. Wow! Have things changed!”

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Goretsky

The view from the east lawn of the Brevard Hotel, facing Merritt Island and the Indian River Lagoon. (Catherine Goretsky image)

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