“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Quote attributed to Anglo-Irish philosopher, George Berkley 1685-1753.
To play off the famous quote by philosopher George Berkley: “If a house falls in a neighborhood and no one notices it, did it exist?”
Today, I am writing about the demolition of the “Quisenberry House,” in Sewall’s Point, along the Indian River Lagoon. The demolition of the house is quietly taking place. The house is over 125 years old, and certainly has a story to tell of its long existence…
Of course, the only reason I know really anything at all about the house is because of my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. She has told me about the house since it was a bus stop for the kids going to Jensen Beach Elementary in the 1970s. Every day, sitting on the bus on the way to Highpoint, I would see that old-looking house, and every day, my imagination was set ablaze by its sight…
“Who lived there?”
“What did they do back then?”
“Why do people say gangsters lived there?”
According to Sandra’s book, Sewall’s Point, The History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast, the house was built by Edgar and Katherine Harmer around the late 1800s. Mr Harmer died in a car accident at the Crossroads on Indian River Drive in 1920. His wife’s sister married Mr Jensen, (of today’s Jensen Beach), so the two families were very interconnected and helped with attracting other pioneer families to the remote Indian River area. The Harmers were prominent citizens of their day.
Later, in the 1920s the house was stuccoed, and became the home of Frank Quisenberry , a Detroit banker who worked for the well-known Knowles family for whom Knowles subdivision in north Sewall’s Point is named.
Mr Roger Quisenberry, who now own the home, tells stories of the house being used by Al Capone during prohibition. These stories have circulated for years, and when I was a kid in middle school, along that same bus route, I used to picture dark-suited gangsters in that house, laughing, smoking cigars, and counting their riches, with a giant bottle of rum or moonshine, and some shot glasses, sitting along a hard wooden table….
“It certainly seems like more fun than we are having today,” I thought, dressed in my cheerleading uniform, books in my lap, on the way to school…
Who really knows the truth, but certainly there is truth, that if the walls of that house could talk, there would have been stories to tell of a beautiful, fish and wildlife filled river, of gentle breezes and harsh storms, and of dreams broken and built, along the Indian River Lagoon….
Due to a code enforcement infraction and law suit dating back almost a decade, the entire duration of my “commissionship” in Sewall’s Point, after much money spent, and lots of lawyers racking in the dough, the conflict has finally been resolved, and the house is being demolished. Built in the late 1800s, it is certainly one of Sewall’s Point’s and Martin County’s oldest homes. One of the few historic homes saved, the Captain Sewall’s Home/Post Office that used to sit at the tip of south Sewall’s Point was built in 1889; the House of Refuge was built in 1876; the Stuart Feed Store was built in 1901.
Primarily due to the stucco over the frame, the old wood house held moisture and had become extremely deteriorated. No one has lived in the home for many years. Any salvageable pieces of wood will be collected; and concrete, steel and other valuable materials will be salvaged.
Good bye to the old house upon the Indian River, and to the stories, known and unknown, that you held…