Daytona Beach was named after Mathias Day, Jr., from Mansfield, Ohio, who purchased land on the west bank of the tidal channel known as the Halifax River. He decided to build a grand hotel bringing visitors from afar. In 1872, due to financial problems, he lost title to his land. Bust since he was instrumental in bringing tourism to the local area, the residents voted to name the city Daytona, in honor of Day.
The area where Daytona Beach is today was once inhabited by the Timucua Indians. From 1649 to 1656, the population of the Timucua tribe began to diminish. Though they were not known as warriors; they were brought into The war with the English which exposed them to many diseases. By 1700, the Timucuan population had been reduced to just 1000. Fighting coupled with a series of epidemics, such as smallpox reduced their population considerably. In 1726 there were 176, and by 1752 only 26 remained. By the time the United States acquired Florida in 1821, only five or fewer Timucua remained. They became extinct as a people and it is believed that those who survived may have joined the Seminole Tribe.
In 1886, the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway ran thru Daytona. The railway line was purchased in 1889 by Henry M. Flagler, who made it part of his Florida East Coast Railway. As such, commerce began to thrive having a railway bringing goods to and from the area.
Daytona’s wide beach of smooth, highly compacted sand attracted automobile and motorcycle races beginning in 1902. It hosted land speed record attempts beginning in 1904. In 1935, the record was set at 276.816 mph. March 7, 1935 was the last day of Daytona’s land speed racing days; however, automobiles are still permitted on most areas of the beach, but the maximum speed is 266 mph less than the record set – as it is now 10 mph. And be sure not to exceed this – as the police really frown upon this.
In the 1920s, Daytona Beach became known as “The World’s Most Famous Beach”.
On March 8, 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, located in the present-day Town of Ponce Inlet. In 1958, the Daytona International Speedway was built to replace the beach course.
In 1978, Bike Week started and now this, and many other world-known events help attract over 8 million visitors per year to Daytona Beach, Florida.