Our Town

Founding of Indialantic
The bathhouse on the Indialantic, Florida, beach in the early days.It all started in 1915 when Ernest Kouwen-Hoven moved to Melbourne and purchased a strip of beachside land lying between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. He envisioned this property as becoming an exclusive beachside resort and indeed it did. This one-square mile became known as “Indialantic-by-the-Sea” The first map of this area was recorded in 1916.

Back then the only means of access to Indialantic was by boat or ferry. In 1919 Kouwen-Hoven began construction of a wooden bridge across the Indian River from Melbourne to Indialantic. It became known as the “Kouwen-Hoven’s Folly” because of predictions it would never be completed. Kouwen-Hoven financed the construction by issuing his own bonds at 8% interest and using his land in Indialantic as an incentive for prospective buyers. If a person purchased a $100.00 bond, he could buy a lot for $20.00. The bridge was finally completed in 1921 and used for many years. Lighted by kerosene lanterns, the bridge was often set afire when they were blown or knocked over. It was not uncommon for drivers to travel with hammers to pound loose nails back into the wooden planks.

In 1941, a new concrete and steel swing bridge was begun. Construction, delayed with the onset of World War 11, was completed in 1947. This bridge was used until the existing high-rise was completed in 1985.

A stable community of homeowners was established in Indialantic during the Florida real estate boom that reached its peak in 1925. The 1.05-square mile area was incorporated in 1952 with a population of 1,500. It is today a quiet, primarily residential Town with a population of 2,844. Strict zoning codes and enforcement of these codes keep Indialantic a unique and prestigious community. Even though a large portion of the population is retired, there is still a diversity of residents consisting of young couples with children, professionals, business people, artists and students.

Indialantic stores and businesses cater to all the basic needs plus more exotic demands. Restaurants vary from fast food and family establishments to ethnic and gourmet dining. Residents and tourists can enjoy the public beach area from Miami to Watson. Swimming, fishing, boating and surfing are favorite pastimes. Threatened and endangered sea turtles nest along the shore from May through October. The recently refurbished boardwalk offers a place to stroll along the ocean and the parks throughout the Town provide getaways from the day’s routine.

Designated a bird sanctuary in 1975 by a Town Council proclamation, the Town has taken measures to protect its abundance of animal species and plant life. Indialantic remains a natural, unspoiled paradise

Mary and Walter Hayward – Founders of the Town of Indialantic
Town of Indialantic, Florida, founders Mary and Walter Hayward.

Indialantic Town Founders
by Karen Raley

Mary Leubuscher Hayward was a professional actress and singer performing on Broadway when she met her husband-to-be, Walter Sumner Hayward, a noted author and historian, at the home of mutual friends. They were married in 1944 and came south on the train to see Walter’s house in Indialantic. Walter had visited the Indian River area in the 1930s and purchased a riverfront home in Indialantic-by-the-Sea, then a struggling development. A sometime winter resident, Walter rented the Indialantic house to a military family during the war. When they arrived in Indialantic, the Haywards couldn’t help but feel this area’s contrast with New York. Here, there were very few cultural activities, a sparse population, and a property in need of work.

Mary and Walter Hayward circa 1952

Other than a few massive live oaks and some sandspurs, there were few plants on their lots. The Haywards set to work transforming the house and grounds. At that time, their house was at the end of the road, then named Magnolia Drive. On the east side of the road, the Haywards raised a large vegetable garden. By the early 1950s, the community of Indialantic was experiencing problems—poor street maintenance, inadequate fire protection, lack of building and zoning restrictions, and a developer’s threat to the public ownership of the beach. The Haywards were among a group of concerned citizens who organized the Indialantic Civic Association, the committee that guided the incorporation of the Town of Indialantic. Walter served as Recorder for the group, was elected to the first Town Council, and later became President of the Council and Mayor. Mary became secretary of the ICA, chaired the committee that took the first census of the Town of Indialantic, and continued to serve on various town boards for over 40 years.

The Haywards commuted to Sharon, Conn., for the summers, but their love of Florida, even in the hot months, led them to remain here year-round after the 1960s. Perhaps part of the reason for this was their dedication to community activities. The Haywards were movers and shakers, especially in the areas of the arts and politics. Further, as a result of Walter’s interest in horticulture, they created a botanical paradise on their property. Nicknamed “the Jungle,” the Hayward grounds are the result of over 50 years of patient care by the Haywards, particularly in association with Merritt Island nurseryman, Bemis Gordon, and croton expert, Frank Brown. Inside the home, Walter’s talent as carpenter is evident, too.

Mary was a founder of the South Brevard League of Women Voters and served as its first president. She was a charter member and president of the Melbourne High School PTA. She and Walter were early supporters and organizers of the Indian River Players and the Surfside Players. While both the Haywards acted in productions, Mary also directed many plays and served on the Surfside Board of Directors during the period when the Cocoa Beach group was building its own theater. Another of the Haywards’ contributions was their role in organizing the first concert series in the Melbourne area. In the 1970s, they assisted in the formation of the BACAM, now the Brevard Museum of Art and Science. The Haywards have long been supporters of art, theatrical, and musical organizations in South Brevard.

In the 1970s, Mary became a photographer, doing her own darkroom and color print work. She became known for her loving portraits, Florida landscapes, and nature close-ups. Exhibiting in local galleries, Mary also had a one-woman show in Indialantic.

The Haywards came to the Melbourne/Indialantic area when it was so small that everyone knew each other and everybody had an important place in the community. Both remarkable people, their contributions were noticeable in the areas of culture and government. But the greatest treasure they have given to others is the immense pleasure of their friendship. Walter, who died in 1993 at the age of 99, was known for his gregarious personality and truly amazing intellect. Mary, who still resides in the Riverside Drive home, has always been known for her talents, graceful charm, and loving generosity.

Indialantic’s Colorful Past
In the 1920’s rum-running off the coast of Indialantic was prevalent. It was during this time that the Indialantic Casino and the Indialantic Hotel were popular resorts with visitors from all parts of the world. The names were later changed to the Bahama Beach Club and the Tradewinds Hotel.

The former Tradewinds Hotel in the Town of Indialantic, Florida.

The Indialantic Casino was a fashionable place to gather for recreation, fun and swimming. Being right on the ocean, it provided a perfect vacation spot. There was a saltwater swimming pool, cabanas and an elegant shopping center. In 1944, it was purchased by Karl Abbott who changed the name to the Bahama Beach Club. Walter Rolland purchased the club in the early fifties and turned it into an exclusive private club. For years it flourished but in the 1960’s it began to decline and was opened to the public in 1961. Later in the 1960’s, it was purchased by the Town of Indialantic. The building had deteriorated to the point where it was razed by the Indialantic Fire Department in 1970. The property is now a beautiful park with public facilities. It is used by thousands of people annually.

The Tradewinds Hotel, located on Shannon Avenue, was a famous elegant hotel which lured people from all parts of the world. Completed in 1925, it boasted luxurious rooms, a grand lobby and a beautiful dining room. It also had a pool and golf course. The hotel was visited by many dignitaries and flourished for many years and then fell into decline. In the early 1970’s it was owned by Florida Institute of Technology and was used as a dormitory. After that, many attempts were made to find a plan to refurbish the grand old building but to no avail. The building continued to deteriorate and became an unsightly nuisance and fire hazard in the Town. Finally in the 1980’s a group of developers bought the property to build single family residences.

Even though the building was an eyesore, there were many sad people in Indialantic on the day the developers brought in the wrecking ball to destroy a landmark that had become a part of Indialantic’s history. Today, there are beautiful single family residences on the site where the Tradewinds Hotel once stood.