“Port St Lucie” Originally Planned for “Martin County” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Port St Lucie
An ad for the town of “Port St Lucie,” by Sewall’s Point Land Company that ran around 1913. It reads: ” Sewall’s Point Land Company is developing the new town of PORT ST LUCIE  in the northeasterly corner of Palm Beach County at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian rivers, directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County, today it is Martin. (Ad courtesy of Tom Thurlow)

I have often wondered why Port St Lucie is inland. Where’s the port?  Well apparently the name “Port St Lucie,” had been around before the City of Port St Lucie was incorporated in 1961, as originally Port St Lucie was going to be a town that would have been in today’s Martin, not St Lucie County.

The above ad ran around 1913 and was part of Henry Sewall and Hugh Willoughby’s  Sewall’s Point Company’s original development campaign to develop Port Sewall and Golden Gate as the “Great Port of Stuart.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County but became Martin County in 1925.

Under the ad’s photo it reads: “Looking across one of the Lakes toward the St Luice River and the Inlet.” I imagine the lake was either North or West Lake, still located in today’s Willoughby Creek area. The ad also states that the location of Port St Lucie will be “directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” Viewing  a copy of the 1911 Port Sewall promotional map below, one can see exactly where that is located, Old St Lucie Boulevard, Stuart.

port sewall

The advertisement in the long winded style of the day continues:

“The lands west of the railway is laid out in tracts for FARMS and GARDENS. East of the railway are the business lots and large residence lot for the PORT OF ST LUCIE and the WATERFRONT is divied into lots of about two acres each for FINE RESIDENCES and WINTER HOMES. Ten acres are reserved for a PARK and five acres for a large TOURIST HOTEL on the water front. Situated at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian Rivers and St Lucie Inlet with a climate tempered by the soft breezes from the GULF STREAM and every month in the year a GROWING MONTH and FRUITS, FISH, FLOWERS and VEGETABLES in abundance….TENNIS, FISHING, MOTOR BOAT, SAILING RACES, CRUISING INLAND WATERS.

The kicker phrase: PROFIT AND PLEASURE combined in an IDEAL LOCATION…

Well, the land bust and the Great Depression came to Florida in the mid 1920s so the “Town of Port St Lucie” and its great port were never built, but let’s fast forward to 1961 a bit north in St Lucie County, and the “City of Port St Lucie” surely did!

Believe it or not, today Port St Lucie is the 9th largest city in the state of Florida. With their high population they are a bigger political player than Martin County and I am thankful for their commission’s support of strict fertilizer ordinances and pro river issues in this year’s legislative session. Port St Lucie is a key player today and in the the future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The county has also been very supportive!

Back to our history lesson…

Before the 1950s, Port St Lucie was mostly ranch and fishing camp lands as this photo from Bud Adams for the publication Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski shows.

PSL ranches

The story goes that in the 1950s the wilderness favored by hunters and anglers was discovered by Mike Cowles  whose company published Look Magazine and also had ties to the Ft Pierce Tribune. Cowles was “taken by the beauty of the St Lucie River and the land along its banks” buying eighty-five hundred acres south of Ft Pierce. In 1953 through his “St Lucie River Land Company,” he filed the River Park plat, and began to develop and promote it. (Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, Chapter 2.)

Cowles eventually traded  his land holdings for stock in, newcomer to the game, General Development Corporation, (GDC), becoming chairman in 1959. After acquiring more ranch tracks, GDC made plans to incorporate into a city and with “hardly any residents” did so with full support of the legislature in 1961.  And as we know, the rest is history…..

It’s interesting to note that the history of Martin and St Lucie Counties has always been intertwined, and that whether 1913, 1961, or today,  it is the beauty and attraction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that on a core level connects us all. Our future long-term  job, together, is to save it.

Southern PSL 1957

This photo is not great quality but allows one to see  how undeveloped St Lucie County was…This photo is courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, and is on the inside cover of “Port St Lucie at  50.” It is a rare aerial of the southern portion of St Lucie County taken in 1957 before its incorporation and development.

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The book Port St Lucie 50 Years, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski, can be purchased at the Historical Society of St Lucie County (http://www.stluciehistoricalsociety.org)

4 thoughts on ““Port St Lucie” Originally Planned for “Martin County” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Jacqui, Nice blog today. Interesting history lesson. I hope you are feeling better. Missed you on the cruise. Dan

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