Okaloosa Island, Florida
Okaloosa Island is an unincorporated community on Santa Rosa Island in Okaloosa County, Florida. Okaloosa Island is home to hundreds of residential homes, low rise condominia and major hotels and motels. The area is unincorporated and uses Fort Walton Beach as a mailing address, but it is not actually part of that city. The island is part of Florida's Emerald Coast and features spectactular sugar-white sand beaches.
Okaloosa Island is connected to Fort Walton Beach via the Brooks Bridge and to Destin, Florida via the Destin Bridge. Both 4-lane bridges are part of U.S. Highway 98. The island is surrounded by water with Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The other major thoroughfare on Okaloosa Island is Santa Rosa Boulevard. One unit of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is located on the island.
An 875-acre (3.54 km2) parcel of Santa Rosa Island with three miles (5 km) of Gulf frontage was conveyed to Okaloosa County on July 8, 1950 in an informal ceremony at the county courthouse in Crestview, Florida. The county paid the federal government $4,000 to complete the transaction, which was the result of the efforts of Congressman Bob Sikes. This area had been known as Tower Beach with the establishment of an amusement park, boardwalk and hotel from the mid-1930s. Tower Beach, with a board walk, casino, restaurant and concession stands, and operated by Thomas E. Brooks, of the same family for whom the Brooks Bridge is named, was largely destroyed by fire on Saturday, March 7, 1942. Wartime priorities precluded its reconstruction. Thomas E. Brooks would serve as Fort Walton Beach mayor from 1953 to 1956.
The last of three county-owned buildings on Okaloosa Island was torn down on May 31, 1995. The buildings had originally housed the Okaloosa Island Authority and more recently the Okaloosa County Council on Aging. The 1.3 acre tract on the north side of Santa Rosa Boulevard was sold.
- Fort Walton, Florida, "Island Tract Turned Over To Okaloosa - Formal Transfer Completed With $4,000 Payment", Playground News, Thursday 13 July 1950, Volume 5, Number 24, page 1.
- Crestview, Florida, "Amusement Area Of Tower Beach Is Destroyed By Fire", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 13 March 1942, Volume 28, Number 8, page 1.
- Fort Walton Beach, Florida, "Today in Local History", Northwest Florida Daily News, Sunday 31 May 2015, Volume 69, Number 120, page B4.
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