Daytona Beach History

Daytona Beach history is about as interesting as history gets, and familiarizing yourself with it can only help you enjoy your upcoming visit. Long before the Spanish started arriving in Florida in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the state was inhabited by Native Americans, or Indians if you prefer. The Timucuan Indians were the Native Americans who called the Daytona Beach area home, and they erected fortified villages near the sea.

Seafood was definitely a part of the Native American diet, as can be evidenced by the middens, or refuse piles that they left behind. The Tomoka Mounds and Middens archaeological site is the best place to see the Timucuan Indian's burial and refuse mounds, and you can also find other mounds in the area. At the Canaveral National Seashore, for instance, the tallest shell mound in the country can be found. Turtle Mound tops out at around 40 feet tall, and it is believed to have been a shell dump that was used by the Timucuan Indians for more than 600 years.

As is true of many natives in the Americas, war and disease eventually combined to bring the Timucuan Indians down, and by 1700, there were only about 1,000 remaining. The history of Daytona Beach took one of its most significant turns earlier on in 1565, which is when the Spanish established their Florida capital in nearby St. Augustine. The missions would soon be built, and the effort to convert the Timucuan people to Christianity began thereafter. Though Spain controlled Florida for a couple hundred years, the province was never more than a minor part of their far reaching empire. In the 1700s and 1800s, the Spanish settlers did maintain plantations in the state, as did some British newcomers, which can be evidenced by places like the The Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, which can definitely offer some insight into Daytona Beach history.

This Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park boasts the Sugar Mill Ruins, which figures on the National Register of Historic Sites. Other ruins here include a small house, remnants of the plantation house's foundations, and slave cabins. Most of the plantation was destroyed during the Second Seminole War in 1836, which helped to delay the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States. Florida was actually acquired by the United States in 1821, though it wouldn't be until after the Second Seminole War that the new state really starting taking to its new identity. After the Civil War, tourism became a rather prominent industry, and it's been that way in destinations like Daytona Beach ever since.

When it comes to interesting facts about Daytona Beach, it's worth noting that the city was founded in 1870. By 1876, it was incorporated, and ten years later, the arrival of the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway put the city on the fast track to becoming one of the state's featured destinations. The American tycoon and railroad magnate, Henry Morrison Flagler, purchased the railroad in 1889, and he was instrumental in making the state's east coast popular with travelers. Daytona Beach was one of the top stops along the Florida East Coast Railway, and it wouldn't be long until it also became a featured place to race. Around the turn of the century, the city's wide, hardpacked beaches started attracting automobile and motorcycle racers, who came to test many a new invention. It was in 1902 that the racing began in Daytona Beach, and in 1936, the famed Daytona Beach Road Course started hosting races. This racing course is integral to the racing history of Daytona Beach.

The Daytona Beach Road Course, which featured both road and beach sections, would figure as the city's main racetrack for decades, until a man by the name of Bill France Sr. started planning a new stock car racing association. France founded NASCAR in 1948, and by 1959, the Daytona International Speedway opened, replacing the Beach and Road Course. The city has never been the same. Every February, NASCAR holds the Daytona 500 here, which is the biggest stock car race in the world. If you want to impress some locals when it comes to facts about Daytona Beach, you can talk about how the first Daytona 500 race at the Speedway happened in 1959 and that it was won by Lee Petty. Lee Petty's son, Richard, won the Daytona 500 on seven occasions, which is more than any other driver.

If you're really interested in Daytona Beach history, visiting one of the city's museums once you get here is recommended. The Halifax Historical Museum is one of the best places to learn all about the history of Daytona Beach, and you won't want to miss the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse if you want more insight into the city's maritime past. Another place where you can fill up on interesting facts about Daytona Beach is the Museum of Art and Science, which among its other exhibits, has one that is dedicated to Florida history.

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