When I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s, there was a bookstore called VAL’s BOOKS. It was located on East Ocean Boulevard across from the Martin County Courthouse. My parents were very fond of Val and we would often visit, browse, and buy. Visiting the bookstore was an escape from the wonderful but limited world of early Stuart.
Years passed, and the businesses along East Ocean changed, and the beloved owner of Val’s Books, Mr Val Martin, moved his bookstore to Hobe Sound. Today you will see it if you drive south on Dixie Highway from Stuart to Bridge Road. It is located at a fork in the road and is a large, attractive spanish style building. The sign reads FLORIDA CLASSICS LIBRARY. (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com)
This bookstore is the absolute coolest for the “river enthusiast,” River Warrior, the person who appreciates Florida history or just wants a break from the norm.
There are copies of very old maps, old books, out of print books that have been reprinted by Mr Martin, and a great selection of children’s books as well. All have to do with Florida.
It was at this bookstore that I first found maps and books that would give me great insight and historical reference for the destruction of South Florida and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Val has fought for the Indian River Lagoon himself since the early days and you will see his name now and again in a Letter to the Editor. At the bookstore, he is a great “guide.”
The first book he called to my attention was the one in today’s featured photo, A Study in Bureaucratic Self-Deception, South Florida in Peril–-How the United States Congress and the State of Florida in cooperation with land speculators turned the River of Grass into a billion dollars sand bar.
It’s cover photos features a poor alligator in the Everglades struggling to find water in a culvert in the same “land” its ancestors thrived.
The book itself is a collection of documented congressional and state meeting minutes/summaries. Reading it is sometimes a collection of nauseating run on sentences but very educational and mind-blowing.
For instance on page 21, in an excerpt from 1881, entitled: Note 2, Agreement Between *Hamilton Disston and Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund for the Reclamation of overflowed Lands, the book reads in discussion of Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie River, and the Caloosahatchee:
“…by cuts or canals, including both those already patented as well as those that may hereafter be patented to said State by the United States, the said lands are to be reclaimed and drained and rendered fit for cultivation by permanently lowing and keeping reduced the waters of Lake Okeechobee, and thereby permanently lowering and keeping reduced the high water level of said river, and by thus lowering the waters…it being understood and agreed that the drainage, reduction of lowering of the waters of Lake Okeechobee may be made by a series of canals or cuts from the waters of said lake to the Caloosahatchee River on the west and by cuts and canals from said lake eastwardly to the waters of the St Lucie or other available point…”
For me, it is hard to believe this conversation took place in 1881!
The book goes on to document the state’s efforts to introduce sugar cultivation into south en Florida around the fertile muck lands of Lake Okeechobee and is a documentary record of “those efforts at both the State and National level to ditch, dike and reclaim the Everglades for agricultural production which ultimately resulted in the legacy of destruction of ecosystems across the south region of Florida and its adjacent seacoast.”
The only way to change history is to know history. A visit to Val Martin’s Florida Classics Library is a great place to start!
The address of Florid Classics Library is: 11300 Se Dixie Hwy, Hobe Sound, FL 33455. Here is the website from which you can also “browse:”(http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com)
*Hamilton Disston was the first successful “drainer” of our state, it is widely believed that despite his “success” and great riches, he ended up committing suicide in a bathtub because of the repercussions of the “Financial Panic of 1893;” some reports say it was heart trouble. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)