Dredge/Fill, “Changing History,” Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort, Indian River Lagoon

Aerial of Francis Langford's Outrigger Resort's marina, ca. 1955. Visible is the dredge and fill it took to accomplish this project. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)
Aerial of Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort’s marina, restaurant, and compound, built in Jensen/Sewall’s Point ca. 1955. Visible is the dredge and fill it took to accomplish this project. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)


"Mt Pisgah," the area contiguous with north Sewall's Point that was her home. (Photo ca. 1950s, courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)  Note cleared lands and orange groves.)
“Mt Pisgah,” the area of Rio, contiguous with north Sewall’s Point, that was Mrs Langford’s home. (Photo ca. 1950s, courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)

At last week’s Everglades Coalition Conference, (http://evergladescoalition.org), one of my favorite quotes was repeated by respected Martin County resident, and nationally renowned environmentalist, Mr Nathaniel Reed:

“Not knowing your history, is like walking into the middle of the movie.”

For us to be effective advocates for the now impaired St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf), it is important to know our history, especially the history of ourselves.

Prior to the 1970s, the passage of the Clean Water Act, and the national environmental movement, “dredge and fill”was commonplace. Dredge and fill includes the dredging of canals that have created our Atlantic Inter-coastal Waterway; the dreaded Okeechobee Waterway; canals draining South Florida below and around Lake Okeechobee; the Everglades Agricultural Area; as well as  many prominent subdivisions and commercial centers that we relish today.

Postcard photo of Francis Langford's Outrigger Resort ca. 1960s)
Postcard photo of Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort ca. 1960s)

After people realized the environmental degradation that unfortunately went along with these projects, (some include: turbidity in the water column, destruction of seagrass and wildlife habitat, and sometimes the release of heavy metals and other pollutants harbored in the bottom sands and sediments,) getting permits to “do such” became much harder.

Today the FDEP, Florida Department of Environmental Protection,(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/erp/dffact.htm), and the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, together with the Army Corp of Engineers, (http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/primarily oversee such projects; many are not granted or take so long people give up. 

Another aerial of the completed  marina in 1965. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)
Another aerial of the completed marina in 1965. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.) Note healthy looking seagrasses right off shore.

Mrs. Frances Langford  (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Langford), who built the well-known “Outrigger Resort and Marina, “in the 1950s, just north of Sewall’s Point, became an “environmentalist” in her later days, bestowing tremendous monies toward the Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island, (http://www.floridaocean.org).

And yes, she gave to just about every charity in town! The point is, she loved helping “create” Florida Oceanographic in her later years, and in the 1940s and 50s people really did not realize the true extent of the destruction their dredge and fill projects were causing to the world that they loved. I believe this even holds true with some of the worst offenders of the agriculture and development industry who have, in essence, destroyed Florida and its waters. 

But times change, and people change. I believe there is a movement of change right now to “send water south” again…to fix our state, and yet to allow businesses that came into being, during earlier times of our history, to survive and adapt.

Frances Langford 1940s. (Public photo.)
Frances Langford 1940s. (Public photo.)
Singing to the troops with Bob Hope. "The favorite time of her life..." (Public photo.)
Singing to the troops with Bob Hope. “The favorite time of her life…” (Public photo.)

As I mentioned, to be able to change the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we first must learn to look around, to be aware, and to be able to recognize the history of our own area as we try to change the bigger state picture as well.

Once you start looking, you will see that “dredge and fill” is all around us.

You may ask yourself:

“How is a huge boat, going through the IRL that on average is three feet deep?”

“How are those boats coming from Ft Meyers across Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?”

“Am I living on what used to be a spoil island or the edge of a coastal community of fish and birds?”

“Am I living in a former wetland?”

I know, that although I do not live on the river, “I am;” I live in a coastal hammock in Sewall’s Point, a bird sanctuary.

There is no turning back, but we can change how we create a new history in the future.

By knowing history, there is a way to “rebuild”and “reeducate.” Whether it is starting in your yard, or changing state policy…

So look around you. Learn your history, view the “full movie”…And may the great waters of Florida flow again with life, beauty, and all the generosity of the late Frances Langford.

Francis Langford in her later years stands before photos decorating the Francis Langford Outrigger Resort. (Public photo>)
Francis Langford in her later years stands before photos decorating the Francis Langford Outrigger Resort, Rio, Florida. (Public photo.)


14 thoughts on “Dredge/Fill, “Changing History,” Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort, Indian River Lagoon

  1. Even when they built the eaa everyone was ok with it including Majorie Stonham Douglas. Again thanks for this blog. I was always fascinated as to why Frances loved it here so much! and I am physically surrounded by her generosity with a parks on all around that she made happen. I remember seeing that when married Mr Evenrude she had a huge boat.

      1. Oddly enough it was JUST parked in the IRL a few days ago!! Someone in Martin County Memories posted numerous pictures of her!

  2. Some great comments from my Facebook friends I wanted to share:

    Larry Latisse: Great pic, Jacqui! Oddly enough, last night, my uncle was reminiscing about the night Francis and Ralph Evinrude were over having cocktails and discussing the timing of building the Outrigger. Ralph wasn’t for it, Francis was. The rest they say is history…….
    6 hrs · Like

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Hi Larry Lassise that is really ironic that you were just talking about Mr and Mrs Evinrude. What an experience for your uncle to sit and have cocktails with them! Those must have been amazing times along the IRL.
    4 hrs · Like · 1

    Robert Pilla Great set of image scans. Glad to see some of the old large format images are still around.
    4 hrs · Unlike · 1

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Thanks to my mother!
    3 hrs · Like · 2

    Rebecca Fatzinger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch..loved Francis Langford and all she did for our town…after she passed I was in the thrift shop in town and noticed a nice lamp that hadn’t been put out yet..asked about it and the lady said it needed repair but had come from Franceses estate..I bought it..then a couple of weeks later when I went in the lady told me she had been saving this dress of ?Francises for me..its a beautiful handmade gown..well I then became a collector of her stuff..menus..brochures etc from the outrigger..one Christmas my son was down and he was looking at my stuff..he said,,Mom..look at this…there..on the outrigger menu was a pic of Frances sitting with Bob Hope..wearing the dress!!!!I had never noticed!…it was very exciting and made that Christmas even more special!

    Unlike · 3

    William Johnson My father saw Francis Langford perform in the Pacific during World War II. The Outrigger Restaurant was one of his favorite spots.
    1 hr · Unlike · 1

    Harry McVay Several times sadly now i have missed hearing Nat Reed’s talks. i have met him, quail hunted w him & his *brother’n’law for whom i painted a wall mural and furthermore i was not been able to start a requested painting of Sandhill Cranes for him because of previous art commission. I mark an event of mine with his signing of the bill to Restore the Everglades and that is the wc painting ‘Everglades Homestead, U.S. Sugar & Homing Pigeons’ done the same date ‘en plein air’ near Bryant, FL . I appeared in the newspaper on same page for my painting & his eco-poiltcial speech sometime ago.
    There was a time when i perused the early arial photos & road atlas’ of Florida. I didn’t have the privilege of owning a ranch & a plane. Nearly all wetlands, marshes, ponds & lakes were connected by draining ditches initiated by the campaign to drain the land of Florida. The jungled creeks that slowly lowered high water levels connecting the myriad of lakes along the Lake Wales Ridge were canal-ed enough for out-board motor boat navigation. Prairie creeks having expansive flood plain savannas were simply bulldozed straight eliminating the deep holes & troughs (excellent for fishing) formed by fallen live oaks & cabbage palms making quick drainage for pastureland & then housing developments. For a time dredge & fill activities was allowed creating land developments like Bird Key(Sarasota) & Nettle’s Island(here, IRL). Agricultural lands west of Ft.Pierce are at the maximum conversion to man-made controls over what was natural.
    When @ Univ.of FL i drove (in my 3/4 Chev pickup w camper shell) the rural roads during deluges to trace & foto the flow of flooding rainfall. It seemed the Creator’s design had many tricks to impede & postpone the fresh water’s seaward end. I was totally amazed when witnessing the sculpturing a 50yr flood did to the land & a small creek between Arcadia & Sarasota. Seeing that gave thought to imagining the size of mega-hydro-forces that left Peace River banks with huge deposits of sand forming high dune ridges. And then consider the monster dunes formed here in Jensen Beach along Skyline Dr.
    I didn’t get personally meet Francis Langford. But I would have liked to meet the woman who protected the peacocks. HWM

    1 hr · Unlike · 1

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Harry McVay what a beautiful recollection and comment. Yes the creatures image is there like a negative…I would love to see your paintings should you be able to post them. Mr Reed is a fabulous speaker —so inspirational. When he is gone, he will never be replaced, just like Mrs. Francis Langford….
    2 mins · Edited · Like

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch William Johnson that is just a great story about your father. I would so have loved to see her in those times although she was very nice and real in her older years when I saw her at the grocery store!
    1 min · Like

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Rebecca Fatzinger that story of the dress and lamp are short stories in themselves. Thank you for sharing. Just wonderful memories of a wonderful and giving lady…
    Just now · Like

  3. The true death of the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon is the result of all the development in the Orlando/Kissimmee area started by Disney. They dredged and drained all the swamp and all the residential runoff comes down the Kissimmee River which used to slowly meander but was dredged and straightened by the Army Corp of Engineers further speeding the water flow and sediment into Lake Okeechobee,

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