family. The park, then and now, sits on the triangular-shaped lot at the intersection of the two main roads in front of the Flatiron Building. In the early years it consisted of a gazebo, a fountain
and a few benches. Townspeople gathered there for holidays and
evening concerts by the Melbourne Municipal Band.
In the 1920s a dramatic change greatly affected the sleepy town of
Melbourne and the entire state of Florida. This event was called the
Florida Land Boom and it brought thousands of people to Florida each day to share in the dream of owning a piece of paradise. Melbourne began building homes and businesses to accommodate the influx of prospective home owners, business people and investors.
Very quickly old structures were torn down to make way for the new, modern buildings. The most popular architectural style widely used during that time was known as Mediterranean or Spanish Revival. The style was an eclectic version based on Spanish, Moorish and Italian complete with a stucco exterior. It would later become known as "Boom" style architecture. Continue reading below...
The term 'flatiron" refers to the triangular shape of a building similar
to that of a flat iron.
In 1880, Melbourne was a coastal town along the Indian River with a business district on Front Street. With the emergence of the railroad in 1893 and the Front Street fire in 1919, the town began to move west to its present-day location. The business district became centered near the railroad depot. The first businesses were simple wooden structures primarily on New Haven Avenue and Melbourne Court. A prominent gathering place downtown was Campbell Park, named for the pioneering Campbell
By Ann Raley Flotte. Local Historian/Author. All photos from the collection of Karen Raley and Ann Raley Flotte.
Construction began in the early 1920s on the Melbourne Hotel (currently the 1900 Building), the Flatiron Building, the Van Croix Theater, the Melbourne Arcade, McCrory 5 & 10 Store, and the three iconic Melbourne Schools, west of town. Additionally, "Boom" style buildings on Dixie Highway began to appear with travelers now coming by car.
The firm of Kibbe and Clark was hired to construct the Flatiron Building for $50,000 in January of 1925. Local businesses were to be housed on the first floor with professional offices on the second. Soon after construction began, a decision was made to add a third story featuring a luxury hotel.
The term “flatiron” refers to the triangular shape of a building similar to that of a flat iron. Melbourne's Flatiron Building, was so named because of its similarity to the famous triangular Flatiron Building in New York City and others throughout the US.
In the 1950s and 60s, Melbourne's
baby boomers remember accompanying
dad for their first haircut
at Wagg's Barber Shop.
It took only five months for construction on the ground floor to be completed and in June of 1925, Miles Barbershop (catering to ladies too), a shoe store, a real estate office, the Fan Tan Shop and Brotchie Jewelers were opening for business. Dr. Franklin Mullins, Melbourne’s second dentist, had his practice there for many years beginning around 1929.
The Flatiron Building has always included a barber shop in its long history. In the 1950s and 60s, Melbourne's baby boomers remember accompanying dad for their first haircut at Wagg's Barber Shop. For many years, Kemper Jennings, a mens apparel store, also occupied one of the stores on the ground floor. Later the second story became known as Mel-Haven Studio Rooms and for a time, it was painted a bold teal to distinguish it from the first floor. In more recent times, various restaurants, up-scale bars and retail stores have welcomed visitors and locals alike. Campbell Park, although smaller, continues to play an important role in downtown Melbourne today. A modern sculpture stands where the coquina fountain was once located.
As in years past, the Flatiron building remains a focal point of Melbourne. It is a reminder of our part in the exciting, frenzied 1920s Land Boom. Thankfully this beautiful structure survives today and had found new life and purpose with those who treasure our past and want to make it a part of today and the future.
The Melbourne Times advertisements from
1925 of the Flatiron Building Ground Floor tenants