The Brevard Hotel

My Dad's father, Hartley C. Laycock, Sr., was President and Chairman
of the Board at the People's Bank in Chicago when the market crashed and the economy
collapsed with the Depression. He was a man of high moral and ethical standards, ensuring that depositors recovered as much of their money as possible. When the process was done there was little left.

Dad's family sold the house they had just recently built and moved south to Florida. To help raise raise money for the family my Dad's brother, my Uncle Bill, bought a truck and hauled loads of fruit to Ohio. Dad joined him on some of these trips.

What followed is a remarkable story. As Dad's father recovered from the Chicago ordeal he grew interested in an old abandoned hotel building —  the Brevard Hotel — on the Indian River in Cocoa, a short distance from the ocean, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. He envisioned restoring and reopening it, and headed back to Chicago to raise funds for the project. He was met there with tremendous generosity, raised more than hoped, and soon returned to Florida.

This story reminds me a bit of Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey does all he can to protect his depositors — and then karma kicks in.

Cocoa, Florida

After complete renovation of the building, the new Brevard Hotel opened its doors in December 1934 and soon became a popular Winter getaway in Central Florida. As a child I recall we had a 78 rpm recording of a Betty Crocker radio show broadcast from the hotel. I listened over and over. That record is long gone, unfortunately, and I haven't found any online archive that might have the broadcast. Too bad! The Brevard welcomed famous guests over the years, including Vice President Hubert Humphrey, according the Humphrey's visit was after we had sold the hotel.

Among the regular Winter guests every year at the Brevard was Constance Emerson Geil, widow of Dr. William Edgar Geil and my Mom's adoptive

Hartley C. Laycock, Sr.

Map data ©2016 Google

Ralph B Laycock Interviews

grandmother. My parents met there at the Brevard and fell in love. They married up north at the Barrens, Geil's estate in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

I have various memories of the hotel as a child, some quite funny. Among them I performed heart surgery on ladies in the lobby, much to everyone's delight and amusement. I also recall the Brevard as a skyscraper despite being just two stories. Perspective is relative.

Our family sold the hotel in the early 60s after my Uncle Bill died. Eventually, in 1996, the owner at that time was forced to sell for financial reasons and the building was torn down to make room for the Oleander Pointe Condominiums. The hotel is a celebrated part of Cocoa's history. Pieces of the building were salvaged before demolition and have been incorporated into other buildings in town.

In 1987 and 1996, my brother, John, and I did video interviews with our father. I did the first interview and John did the second. We talked about his life generally but focused a lot on the family's life in Florida and the Brevard Hotel. John's interview in 1996 was especially detailed about the Brevard.

These interviews are not the best quality in picture or audio. They were filmed on VHS tape with a camcorder Dad owned. I later had them transferred to digital format. Each video opens with footage that John and I filmed at the places our parents were living at the times these were recorded. They lived in Orlando in 1987 for my interview and on Merritt Island between Cocoa and Cocoa Beach in 1996. John's video in 1996 includes exterior views of the Brevard Hotel as it appeared shortly before it was demolished.


My hope & intent is to update this page. I've been contacted numerous times over the years by people having interest in or historical connection to the Brevard — which I greatly appreciate!

I regret that for various reasons I have not gotten around yet to this project. I still hope to, and encourage those interested to continue reaching out & nudging me. You can write to me by clicking this icon. The message will be sent to my personal email.