The past is our future.

Crestview History

Back in 1883, if you were traveling across the Florida Panhandle by train you'd have made a brief stop at a little make-shift train depot operating out of a single box car which sat at the crest of the hill among the woodlands between the Yellow and Shoal Rivers. This was the future site of Crestview, then called Crest View Station. Back then, there was little else in the area but the tall pines and the near by towns of Baker and Milligan. In 1890, the P&A Railroad built an official wood frame depot building with waiting areas and freight room at the same location, but the area remained almost completely undeveloped for the next two decades. Prior to the coming of the railroad, most of the inhabitants were farmers, lumberman, or turpentine workers. These early residents realized the natural advantages offered at this particular site for the building of a city and they set out to provide the foundation for such an undertaking.


Muddy roads, such as this rural highway, were typical of the area back when Crestview became the Okaloosa Coutny seat in 1917. The large pine forrests were the backbone of the local turpentine and lumber industry.


The Crestview L&N Depot, built in in 1891, was the original namesake of the town - Crest View Station.

Originally, Crestview was located in Walton County. In 1915, under the direction of State Representative W.H. Mapoles, the eastern most parts of Santa Rosa County and western half of Walton County were combined to create the new County of Okaloosa. Almost immediately the citizens and politicians began to deliberate over the location of the new county seat. For a while Milligan was the temporary county seat, even though Baker was the most populated city in the area. In 1917, after a vote by the citizens, it was decided that rural Crestview would be the official county seat, no doubt because of its proximity to the railroad - that most important of transportation arteries.
Within the year, a stately red brick courthouse was constructed just up the road from the depot. The first brick mercantile store opened its doors that same year, with many to follow. One of the early developers of the city was W.J. Rice. Rice was part owner of the Crestview Land Company. He and his partner, H.J. Brett, platted the downtown, and even donated the land for the county to build the courthouse. Rice also built the first brick home in Crestview in that innaugural year of 1917. His home still stands today on Cedar Avenue.
An old postcard of Main Street in downtown Crestview, c. 1940’s.


A
t its peak Crestview's Main Street hosted three movie theaters, two hotels, a newspaper, a bank and a grocery store. Today, two of those early businesses remain on Main Street – Coney Island and Crestview Hardware, the latter has been on Main Street for nearly 70 years.

 

In the 1930's, several community leaders convinced the Crestview City Council to float bonds for around $25,000 to build a 40,000 square foot mixed use building, to serve as both an industrial site and City Hall. At the time this may have appeared to be folley for such a small rural town. On July 21, 1937 in a special meeting, the Crestview City Council approved the building inspector's report and accepted a joint shirt factory and town hall combination. Riverside Underwear corporation (Smith Johnson) of Florala, Alabama leased the majority of the building. Later Alabama Textile, or Alatex as it was known locally, moved in. There are residents and businesses in our city today that would not be here had someone in their family not moved here for a job at that factory.

 

Crestview is located at the junction of three major highways; U.S. 90, State Road 85, and Interstate Highway 10, which resulted in its acclaimed designation as the “Hub City” of Northwest Florida. The current population is over 21,000 and growing. The main economic drivers of Crestview are the military (Eglin Airforce Base) and tourism (thanks in large part to the nearby beaches of Destin and Ft. Walton)