FORT WALTON BEACH
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The City of Fort Walton Beach, home to approximately 22,000 people, was first created and chartered as a
municipality in 1937. Though Fort Walton Beach is a relatively young city, its history actually goes back thousands of years.
There is evidence from radioactive dating of artifacts back to 10,000 B.C., and archeological evidence of five distinct Indian
periods between 600 - 1650 A.D. There were pirates, the most notorious being Billy Bowlegs between 1500 - 1800, and there
was a Civil War encampment. In the early days Fort Walton was known both as Brooks Landing when John Thomas Brooks and
his family settled here in 1868 and Camp Walton for the Civil War encampment by the Walton Guards. It was renamed Fort Walton
when a Civil War cannon was discovered in 1932 and excavated from an Indian mound in the present downtown area on
Santa Rosa Sound.
Tourists, resort hotels, and the waterfront have been a part of Fort Walton Beach since its earliest days. Tourists came from the
North, Midwest, and Southeast to spend months at a time at several of these full-service, American plan hotels on the shores of
the Santa Rosa Sound. Dancing nightly in an over-the-water pavilion (where Fort Walton Landing is today), taking a water taxi
from the hotel docks back and forth across the Sound to the beach, chartering fishing trips in the gulf and bay, receiving ice
and mail by boat from Pensacola, and shopping in stores built over the water, visitors and locals alike enjoyed the relaxed
lifestyle for which Fort Walton was famous.
Okaloosa County was formed from two counties, Santa Rosa and Walton, in 1915, and Eglin Field was created in 1937.
In 1930, the population of the area was approximately 90 people; between 1940-1950, the population quadrupled. Between
1950-1970, Fort Walton Beach grew 700% and was recognized nationally as one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
The existing Brooks Bridge was built in 1964, replacing the two-lane swing bridge, Eglin Parkway was widened to six lanes,
and seven new traffic lights were installed. The tax base expanded, the Fort Walton Beach Civic Center complex and auditorium
were built, as well as neighborhood parks and tennis courts, the Library, the Senior Center, the Tennis Center, the Municipal
Golf Course (now the Fort Walton Beach Golf Club), and three neighborhood recreation centers--Docie Bass, Chester Pruitt,
and Fred Hedrick.
In the last two decades, growth in Fort Walton Beach has slowed, and today the City looks towards innovative and exciting
ways to bring the spirit of yesterday into the plans of today and tomorrow. Activities continue on the banks of the Santa Rosa
Sound, and every June, the notorious Billy Bowlegs returns for a fortnight of merriment and fun. The City sponsors quarterly
Sunday in the Park events at the spot where there was once an over-the-water pavilion. In 1997, Fort Walton Beach was
honored to be named by Money magazine as #10 Best Place to Live among the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.A.
read full wikipedia reference about Fort Walton, Florida
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