Early human occupation
Evidence for the presence of Paleo-Indians in the Melbourne area during the late Pleistocene epoch was uncovered during the 1920s. C. P. Singleton, a Harvard University zoologist, discovered the bones of a mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) on his property along Crane Creek, 1.5mi from Melbourne, and brought in Amherst College paleontologist Frederick B. Loomis to excavate the skeleton. Loomis found a second elephant, with a "large rough flint instrument" among fragments of the elephant's ribs. Loomis found in the same stratum mammoth, mastodon, horse, ground sloth, tapir, peccary, camel, and saber-tooth cat bones, all extinct in Florida since the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago. At a nearby site a human rib and charcoal were found in association with Mylodon, Megalonyx, and Chlamytherium (ground sloth) teeth. A finely worked spear point found with these items may have been displaced from a later stratum. In 1925 attention shifted to the Melbourne golf course.
A crushed human skull with finger, arm, and leg bones was found in association with a horse tooth. A piece of ivory that appeared to have been modified by humans was found at the bottom of the stratum containing bones. Other finds included a spear point near a mastodon bone and a turtle-back scraper and blade found with bear, camel, mastodon, horse, and tapir bones. Similar human remains, Pleistocene animals and Paleo-Indian artifacts were found in Vero Beach, 30mi south of Melbourne, and similar Paleo-Indian artifacts were found at the Helen Blazes archaeological site, 10mi southwest of Melbourne.
The Hotel Carleton c. 1907
After the Civil War, pioneer families arrived, and Melbourne was founded in 1867.
The first settlers arrived after 1877. They included Richard W. Goode, his father John Goode, Cornthwaite John Hector, Captain Peter Wright, Balaam Allen, Wright Brothers, and Thomas Mason. Three of these men, Wright, Allen, and Brothers were black freedmen.
The city, formerly called "Crane Creek", was named Melbourne in honor of its first postmaster, Cornthwaite John Hector, an Englishman who had spent much of his life in Melbourne, Australia. He is buried in the Melbourne Cemetery, along with many early residents in the area. The first school in Melbourne was built in 1883 and is on permanent exhibit on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology. By 1885, the town had 70 people. The Greater Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1885 and is still active.
In the late 1890s, the Brownlie-Maxwell Funeral Home opened and it is still in business. The oldest black-owned business in the county is Tucker's Cut-Rate plumbing. It opened in 1934.
In the early 1900s, houses were often built in the frame vernacular style.
In 1919, a fire destroyed most of the original downtown along Front Street. At the time, it was rebuilt west of US Hwy 1.
During the Jim Crow years, black people were required to enter movie theaters via a different entrance from whites and sit in the balcony. Gas stations had signs for rest rooms labeled "Men", "Women", and "Colored." This persisted until integration in the late 1960s.
In late 1942 the Naval Air Station Melbourne was established as a site to train newly commissioned Navy and Marine pilots for World War II. The program ran until 1946, and the land that was used for that program makes up most of what is currently the Orlando Melbourne International Airport.
In 1969, the cities of Eau Gallie and Melbourne voted to merge, forming modern-day Melbourne.
In the 1950s, Babcock Street was extended north to intersect with US 1. The Melbourne Shopping Center was constructed on Babcock, the area's first strip mall. Consumers were sufficiently attracted to this new mall, that the traditional downtown, off New Haven, suffered. Urban blight there was successfully attacked there in the 1980s.
A board was created by the legislature to spend a 10% tax on electric bills. This was used by the Melbourne Civic Improvement Board to build the Melbourne Auditorium, the first library and fire station, and various parks. The board was dissolved when Melbourne was merged with Eau Gallie in 1969. That merger doubled the size of Melbourne.
Streetlights were gradually added until, by the early 1960s, streets east of Babcock Street had lights. Lights were added to streets west of Babcock after the early 1960s.
In 1969, the city elected Julius Montgomery, its first black councilman. Mr. Montgomery was also the first African American student of Brevard Engineering College, later Florida Institute of Technology which named their Pioneer Award after him. Mr. Montgomery was also the first African American Professional hired by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in 1956. His accomplishments are recounted in the chapter A Man of Firsts in the book We Could Not Fail by Richard Paul and Steven Moss We Could Not Fail by Richard Paul and Steven Moss
On August 2, 1995, the city received a record 9.06in of rainfall from Hurricane Erin.
During the week of August 22, 2008, a record 17.54inch of rain fell caused by Tropical Storm Fay.
A 2009 Halloween street party sponsored by a downtown restaurant attracted an estimated 8,000–10,000 people. This overwhelmed the downtown area. Street parties were curtailed until public safety issues were addressed.
On 18 February 2017, president Donald J Trump held his first post-inauguration rally at the Orlando-Melbourne International drawing a crowd of 9,000.