Growth & Development
Niceville grew as roads were improved. In 1916 Congress passed the Federal-Aid Road Act but the beginning of World War I took priority for federal funding. In Okaloosa County elected officials and citizens took it upon themselves to build and improve existing roads. Instrumental in this effort was Niceville's County Commissioner, B. P. Edge.
Woodmen of the World
The Woodmen of the World sponsored an annual picnic at Niceville. Citizens attended from every section of the county arriving in log carts, automobiles, launches and steamboats. Activities included fishing, swimming, boating and talking politics. In May 1918 about 500 to 600 people attended. The W.O.W.'s Hall was located near the First Baptist Church.
Early in Florida's land dispensations some parcels along Choctawhatchee Bay, Boggy Bayou and Rocky Bayou were transferred from the United States to the State of Florida and from the state to the railroad companies. The railroad companies in turn sold land to the lumber and timber companies. The land could be developed after the trees were removed and the swamps were drained.
Robert E Lee McCaskill, a third generation resident of Walton County, was the most imposing personality in the early development of the area. After several business transactions he owned the Boggy Mill Company, the Consolidated Land and Lumber Company and the Mutual Land and Lumber Company. After acquiring these businesses located at Niceville he was in a position to control development. He had land offices in DeFuniak Springs, Pensacola, and in the Tribune Building in Chicago. Marketed as 'The Riviera of America' perhaps Niceville's name was chosen for Nice, France situated on a beautiful bay with a temperate climate along the French Riviera. As interest in the local area grew McCaskill marketed land along the Choctawhatchee Bay as "The Vale of Paradise." On one promotional map it reached from Black Point near Shalimar to White Point near the Mid-Bay Bridge in Niceville.
The primary occupations in 1910 and 1920 for those living in Niceville were turpentine farms, sawmills, shipbuilding and commercial fishing.
In 1915, Niceville resident B. H. Sutton was appointed the first Sheriff of Okaloosa County.
In 1921, a portion of Niceville on the west side of Boggy Bayou was incorporated as Valparaiso.
The oldest existing school in Niceville is at the corner of Crestview Highway (SR85) and Nathey Street. In 1924 George Nathey deeded seven acres that he inherited from his father's homestead for a new high school to the Okaloosa County School Board for $1. The building was first damaged by fire, then by a hurricane. Postmaster Lula Edge, also a member of the School Board, was instrumental in rebuilding the school with labor provided by the Works Progress Administration. The school was first designated Niceville High School and was the only high school in the southern section of Okaloosa County. In 1943 the school at Niceville became the first school in the county to have a nine-month school term to accommodate members of the military families at Eglin Field. In 1952 the school was changed to Niceville Elementary and in 1962, to honor Ms. Edge's commitment in preserving the school, it became Lula J. Edge Elementary.
In 1926 4-H Camp Timpoochee located on Choctawhatchee Bay at Niceville was established as the first residential 4-H camping facility in Florida. It was also one of the first 4-H residential camps in the nation. Today it is one of four 4-H camps in use in Florida.
Civilian Conservation Corps
The only Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Okaloosa County was at Niceville. Company F-1402 was organized April 30, 1933 at Ft. Benning, Georgia under the command of Captain Walter Bigby, 67 th Infantry, U.S Army. The executive officer was Captain C.H. Hagg, and the medical officer was 1 st Lieutenant J.W Howard. The company consisted of 172 "junior" enrollees from the northwestern and northern counties of Florida. On May 18, 1933, filling four passenger cars and one baggage coach, a train took them through Montgomery, Pensacola, and Crestview. At Crestview they boarded trucks and arrived in Niceville on May 19th. They established a temporary camp on the Niceville school grounds. Among their duties were fire tower construction, erosion control, seedling plantings, mosquito control, construction of recreational facilities and landing fields. On October 1, 1939 Company F-1402 moved to Otter Creek, Florida where they established Camp P-83 on October 2nd and worked on private timberlands. On October 1, 1940 CCC Company (Army) Number 1413 was relocated to Niceville from Homerville, Georgia. It occupied the established area of the previous Camp where permanent barracks were constructed near Jackson Guard to assist soldiers assigned there to construct facilities for Eglin Field.
Fire of 1934
A fire in January 1934 destroyed almost all of the business section of Niceville located along Boggy Bayou on Bayshore Drive. Space was made in Adolph Finck's Restaurant to accommodate businesses most affected. It represented the bay country's first and only complete arcade; a post office, the Niceville Fish Company, a grocery, a restaurant, a bakery and the bay country's only draft beer dispensary. The Niceville Masonic Lodge occupied the floor above. CCC Camp enrollees were instrumental in fighting the fire. In July 1938 Niceville had a population of approximately 1500. It was numbered among Northwest Florida's enterprising towns. An election showed overwhelming sentiment for a proposal to incorporate. The vote was 329 to 4. The first Mayor was J. M. Reynolds. The first City Council included Claude Meigs, Wallace Spence, G. B. Anchors, Herman Anderson and Thomas Powell. J. W Windham was named Clerk and Hughie Holmes, Marshal. House Bill 1302 to incorporate was submitted to the Senate and approved May 25, 1939. The first consideration for the incorporated city was a water system and a cold storage plant for the benefit of the all-important fishing industry.
U.S. Army Airport
The establishment of the U.S. Army Airport brought a military presence and more newcomers to Niceville. On June 20, 1940 Clerk James Faircloth listed about 130 personnel, including two officers, at the U. S Army Airport (Eglin Field) in a portion of the Census for Niceville's Enumeration District 46-18.