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Valparaiso History, Florida

Valparaiso history can be linked to the history of Florida-cities like Fort Lauderdale (incorporated in 1911) and Panama City (incorporated in 1909) but not to an old city like Pensacola that saw continuous habitation for over 400 years.

Valparaiso History – The Beginning

The region where Valparaiso stands today had been nothing more than woodland owned by the Federal Government at the turn of the 19th century. At the onset of the new century, this forest was thrown open by the government for occupancy and the region saw the first settlement in the very first year, when Allen Brown, Jr. bought 15000 acres and went on to set up a farm on his property.

Then came 1909 and the entire forest was acquired by the Consolidated Land and Lumber Company. Soon a sort-of-settlement started taking shape in the proximity of Tom’s Bayou, with few families joining the community.

Owing to its scenic beauty and its health-benefices, this new settlement started attracting tourists. John B. Perrine, a Chicago-based entrepreneur, was one among them and it is his liking, his penchant for this scenic bayou-community that led to the establishment of Valparaiso. Perrine not only named the settlement Valparaiso (Spanish for ‘Valley of Paradise’), but also bought land and even set up the Valparaiso Development Company in 1918. By then, of course, the area had become a part of the Okaloosa County (created in 1915) of Florida. Following his land-purchases, assessment and planning, Perrine forwarded a petition to the Florida Legislature for a municipal charter for the settlement. The charter was granted in 1921, marking the true beginning of Valparaiso history.

It is worthwhile to mention that John B. Perrine died in the very same year, i.e., 1921 and his death also led to an abrupt closure for the Valparaiso Development Company.

Valparaiso History –The 20th Century

Following the closure of VDC, Valparaiso did face a crisis and yet another Chicago-banker/businessman, James Plew, came to its rescue, buying the assets of VDC. Valparaiso did progress under the clever guidance of Plew and it was basically his efforts that saw the city being chosen for the Eglin Air Force Base in 1935. By 1937, the Base, spread over an area of about 350000 acres, had become the identity of the city; thereafter, Valparaiso history, more or less, became the history of the Eglin Air Force Base. Be it the WWII days or the after-war years of the 20th century, the Base has been in focus nationwide as a pilot training camp meant for the US Army Air Corps.

Valparaiso History – Present Times

Present-day Valparaiso is certainly not how Perrine had planned it – a very standard city with its distinct residential and commercial areas, its broad streets and tree-lined side-walks, its parks, golf-course, playfields but still very different because of its community farms.

Today there are no community farms to be found and even the 18-hole golf course is not open for all, but Valparaiso is famous for the Eglin Air Force Base, which is one of the world’s largest air-force. The present-city may not be 60,000-resident strong (as Perrine had dreamt) but happens to be part of the Fort Walton Beach–Crestview–Destin Metropolitan Statistical Area with its 6400+ population.

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