Gulf Breeze, Florida
Gulf Breeze is a city located on the Fairpoint Peninsula in Santa Rosa County, Florida and is a suburb of Pensacola, FL. The population was 5,665 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 6,333, an 11.79 percent increase.
Gulf Breeze shares the rich history of Pensacola Bay. Shell mounds here date back over one thousand years, evidence of the Native Americans desire for seafood. The first European settlement was attempted in 1559 by Tristan de Luna, but was abandoned two years later. The Spanish returned in 1698, but transferred all of Florida to the British in 1763. It was the British who named Town Point. English Navy Cove was the area where ships were careened, a process of hauling ships aground to allow the hulls to be scraped free of barnacles.
Florida became American territory in 1821, and by 1824 a road ran through the peninsula all the way to St. Augustine. Part of this road can be traced in the Naval Live Oaks Reservation of the Gulf Islands National Seashore today. President John Quincy Adams authorized Naval Live Oaks, a federal tree farm dedicated to providing live oak timber for U.S. Navy ships, in 1828.
The Pensacola Navy Yard across the bay from Fair Point dates to 1825, and the Army began building forts to protect the yard and Pensacola Bay in 1829. Beginning with Fort Pickens, the Army built harbor forts off and on through World War II, all of which are located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore (a unit of the National Park System). Fort Pickens was one of only four forts in the South to be held by the Union for the duration of the American Civil War. In November 1861, Union-held Fort Pickens exchanged 6000 rounds of cannon fire for two days with Confederates at Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee. Both Confederate held forts were heavily damaged and the Confederates abandoned the area in May 1862.
In 1931 the first bridge across Pensacola Bay was opened to Gulf Breeze with great fanfare. This concrete drawbridge connected the cities until they were replaced by the current bridge 1960. The original bridge was converted into two fishing piers. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 substantially destroyed the fishing piers, and demolition of the remaining portion of the structure is ongoing as of 2007.
A wooden bridge to Pensacola Beach was also built in 1931; this structure was replaced with a concrete drawbridge in 1951. It, too, was repurposed as a fishing pier following the construction of a taller span, the Bob Sikes Bridge, in 1973.
Gulf Breeze traces its name to the Gulf Breeze Cottages and Store, which opened a post office branch in 1936 where Beach Road Plaza now stands. The community began to grow following the opening of the improved bay bridge in 1960, and continues to grow today.
From 1995 to 2005, Gulf Breeze has received several direct hits and severe blows from numerous hurricanes. In 1995, Hurricane Erin and Opal made landfall just south of the city. While Erin caused moderate damage to the area, Hurricane Opal devastated much of the community. Nine years later, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan made landfall west of the Gulf Breeze but caused widespread damage in the city, destroying many homes and businesses. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis passed just east of the city. Damage from this storm was more severe than that received in communities lying further west.
The City of Gulf Breeze is now often referred to as "Gulf Breeze Proper." This differentiates it from other communities further east which are assigned Gulf Breeze addresses by the U.S. Postal Service but lie outside of the city limits.
Growth of the city itself is geographically restricted, surrounded by major water bodies on three sides. Additionally, the eastern portion of Gulf Breeze is occupied by the Naval Live Oaks Reservation. As a result, new growth occurs outside of the city limits along U.S. Highway 98. This growth has been tremendous; many new subdivisions, schools, fire and police stations, and businesses have been built within a few miles of Gulf Breeze Proper.
Point of Interest
Gulf Breeze became famous in 1987 as the site of several UFO sightings. It has been referred to as the UFO capital of the United States.
AAA has designated Gulf Breeze as also one of seven "strict enforcement areas" for traffic laws in the United States. This rating is one level short of speed trap, and is only shared by six other cities and towns nationwide.
Gulf Breeze also received media attention for instituting a program to allow volunteers to drive police cars within the city and report traffic violations to police. Volunteers receive training in radio use and first aid but are not empowered to make arrests or traffic stops. The City of Gulf Breeze is known as a "Speed trap" due to a major east-west highway (U.S. HWY. 98) dividing the City in half.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,665 people, 2,377 households, and 1,678 families residing in the city. The population density was 460.5/km² (1,192.0/mi²). There were 2,553 housing units at an average density of 207.5/km² (537.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.39% White, 0.25% African American, 0.55% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.18% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.36 percent of the population.
There were 2,377 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.7% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were non-families. 25.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.3 percent under the age of 18, 4.6 percent from 18 to 24, 22.5% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 89.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $52,522, and the median income for a family was $61,661. Males had a median income of $44,408 versus $28,159 for females. The per capita income for the city was $34,688. About 3.8% of families and 4.2 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.5 percent of those under age 18 and 1. percent of those age 65 or over.