All Aboard Florida and NOT All Aboard Florida have Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway on the front page of every paper along Florida’s Treasure Coast.
History and urban legend have some railroad stories of their own I’d like to share….
According to the book, The History of Martin County, Henry Flagler wanted to extend his railway through Sewall’s Point between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, but instead had to take a sharp easterly turn near Rio in order to cross the shortest point of lands along the St Lucie River, near today’s Downtown Stuart.
Quoting from The History of Martin County:
By February of 1894, Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway was as far south as Fort Pierce, and he planned to extend it along the Indian River Lagoon through Jensen Beach on through Sewall’s Point, and then to build a bridge across the St Lucie, to what is now Port Salerno, and so on to Palm Beach where he had already built a luxury hotel. Running into opposition from pineapple growers who did not want railroad tracks through their plantations, and refused to sell him the right of ways he needed, Flagler faced a serious problem. Far sighted Walter Kitching with an eye to commercial improvement of his own property, was only too happy to solve the problem.
Owning property on the St Lucie including at the area where the railway bridge now crosses the St Lucie River along side the present Roosevelt Bridge , Kitching offered Flagler the right of way he needed provided the railroad went through his property: “I offered the railroad $200 in cash and all the land they required if they would give us a railroad dock and a depot on this side. They accepted the land and built the dock.” Downtown Stuart was born.
History is sometimes hard to really know as it “becomes” what is written. However, one thing is certain, for now, the sun always rises and the sun always sets, and a bridge is a symbol of the people and the times along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Thank you to photographer of Whiticar Boat family fame, John Whiticar, for allowing me to share his beautiful photos. His words: “Going across the old Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart Florida this morning facing the new Roosevelt and old Railway bridges; Second photo is the fishing pier under the bridge.” September 22, 2014.
The book, The History of Martin nCounty can be purchased at Stuart Heritage: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)