“Langford Landing,” a Tribute to the Late Frances Langford? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Frances Langford and Ralph Eventide photographed before their trademark Tiki Hut and pond, Jensen Beach Estate, 1961. (Photo Aurthur Ruhnke with permission of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Frances Langford and Ralph Evenrude photographed before their trademark Tiki Hut and pond, Jensen Beach Estate, 1961. (Photo Arthur Ruhnke with permission of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Frances Langford
Frances Langford as young movie star. April 4, 1913 – July 11, 2005 

“I am sure the new development will be re-landscaped very beautifully, but it is hard to see the once serene property so desecrated.” –Local historian, Sandra Thurlow, 2016

“Frances Langford,” the name is as beautiful as the woman. She is a legend here in Martin County and much of the world. No one has been more generous, loving, and appreciative  towards our community. A true philanthropist, her name graces buildings, parks, and centers from the Indian River Lagoon to Indiantown.

As a singer and movie star, she is best known for “entertaining the troops” during World War II aside Bob Hope. Through her family, young Frances was exposed to Jensen Beach, and later, after the war, came back to create her dream:  “Frances Langford’s Polynesian Outrigger Resort.” It sat along the beautiful St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon just north of Sewall’s Point.

Over time, inspired by her travels, Frances and her husbands created a tropical paradise known far and wide. Cottages, a restaurant, a marina, palm trees, rare foliage, freshwater ponds, peacocks, and even swans graced the property. Famous movie stars often visited. She gave Martin County a reputation and she put it on the map. She made Martin County’s Jensen Beach her permanent home.

Frances chose to build her personal residence near Mount Pisgah, the highest point of the peninsula. Lore has it that pirates and Indians once lived here too, standing on the high bluff looking for passing ships in the ocean. The property is steeped in beauty, history, and mystery. Sadly, in the end, the remaining 53 acre parcel was treated like any other piece of real estate.

After a long wait since the 2008 Great Recession, the property is finally being developed ironically as “Langford Landing.” The manner in which this is being done has taken most us by surprise.

Is it really necessary to remove every beloved palm tree, stately strangler fig, and blade of grass? Surely Frances thought some of her legacy might stand. It has not. The majority of the property has been scraped clean for new development. My sister said it best: “Jacqui, from the water, it looks like the property has been Napalmed.”

There has to be—-a better way.

the Tiki Hut and pond, Frances feeding her swans. (Aurthur Ruhnke courtesy o Sandra Thurlow, 1961)
The Tiki Hut, bridge and pond, Frances feeding her swans. Many fundraisers were held here and many movie starts attended “in the day.” (Arthur Ruhnke courtesy o Sandra Thurlow, 1961)
Langford Estate 1961. Aurthur Ruhnke.
Langford Estate 1961. (Arthur Ruhnke/ST)
Langford Estate 1961.
Langford Estate 1961. (Arthur Ruhnke/ST)
View of estate from river by kayaker. This photo was sent to me from a Facebook friend.
View of estate from river by kayaker. This photo was sent to me by a Facebook friend.

Video of Ed and my flight over Langford Estate 1-1-16, juxtaposed to historic photographs, created by Todd Thurlow. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuUVlsk9TXs&list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06&index=1)

Tiki hut in ruins 2016. (Rebecca Fatainger.)
Tiki hut in ruins 2016. (Rebecca Fatzinger)
Around the pond, 2015. (Photo by Rebecca Fatzinger)
Around the pond, palm trees lay in a heap. 2015. (Photo by Rebecca Fatzinger)
Today, photo of Langford property by Rebecca Fatzinger.
Today in 2015/16 photo of Langford property by (Rebecca Fatzinger)
The grounds 2015. Rebecca Fatzinger.
The grounds 2015/16  (Rebecca Fatzinger)
Estate sold for development. (Courtesy Todd Thurlow)
Estate sold for development. (Courtesy Todd Thurlow/Google Earth)
Scared clean, Frances Langford estate today. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)
From the air–history scraped clean, 1-1-16, Frances Langford’s estate after all foliage has been removed. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch )
Langford Estate 12-3-16. (Photo by Todd Thurlow)
Langford Estate seen from the St Lucie River, 12-3-16. (Photo by Todd Thurlow)
Photo of Frances Langford's peacock on her estate...1980s. (A gift to me from her housekeeper)
Photo of one of Frances Langford’s peacocks on her estate, 1980s. (A gift to me from her housekeeper 2006.)
Young Frances. Public photo.
Young Frances. Public photo.
Frances in her later years.
Frances in her later years.

Development documents Langford’s Landing:

(https://documents.martin.fl.us/Documents2010/content/Agenda_Items/gmd/2015/8D1-2014-12-16%20Langford%20Landing%20Final%20Site%20Plan.pdf)

Frances Langford: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Langford)

22 thoughts on ““Langford Landing,” a Tribute to the Late Frances Langford? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. I’m sick about that….sick!!!! Btw in beg of article, auto correct spelled evinrudes name even tide;). Xoxo u

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Jackie, No big thing but he was Ralph Evinrude of the famous Evinrude Motors family, not Eventide. May want to fix for your archives…  Karl Wickstrom, Founder Florida Sportsman 2700 S. Kanner Hwy. Stuart, FL 34994 772-219-7400 ext. 118

    From: Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch To: kywickstrom@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, January 4, 2016 9:40 AM Subject: [New post] “Langford Landing,” a Tribute to the Late Frances Langford? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon #yiv3952382180 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3952382180 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3952382180 a.yiv3952382180primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3952382180 a.yiv3952382180primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3952382180 a.yiv3952382180primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3952382180 a.yiv3952382180primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3952382180 WordPress.com | Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch posted: “”I am sure the new development will be re-landscaped very beautifully, but it is hard to see the once serene property so desecrated.” –Local historian, Sandra Thurlow, 2016″Frances Langford,” the name is as beautiful as the woman. She is a le” | |

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  3. The cheapest and easiest way to make the most money in land development is to clear the lot from property line to property line stack the houses in at the highest rate allowed by zoning and relandscape with smaller, less mature plant material. Period.
    I have been taken aback by what is allowed by our county in regards to trees, what was removed from the Frances Langford estate cannot be replaced in our lifetimes, it is gone and sadly the only thing that will cure this problem is an enforced code that requires protection of our mature trees. Hint to you.

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  4. Excellent documentation of the “desecration,” as Sandra so aptly describes it. After scanning the planning docs my brain glazed over after page 200, but saw nothing about the historic significance of this property. Endless boilerplate detail about lots of stuff, important stuff, but nothing about the most obvious factor of all – this was the estate of a nationally significant entertainer, with a unique if ad hoc landscape design. Irreplaceable.

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  5. What a great state park this would have made, Everyone could have had public access to the lagoon and a piece of American history at the same time for generations to come, Still it should be metal detected to see if there is untold history of strategic location for pirates or others,

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    1. Langford was given an offer by the guy who lives next to the property. He wanted to leave the land as it was – her home would be turned into a museum. He wanted to buy her land – she refused his offer – she wanted condos built – she wanted people to come enjoy the land –

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      1. I heard this from many people who knew her but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have wanted it desecrated. you can build things without destroying the flavor of the land. I think it’s call schooners landing in rocky point. all the old trees were left. one of the commissioners live there. The other thing is these builders have a bad reputation.

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  6. So very disappointing. Will we get another, “Darth Vader House” like we did on the tip of Sewalls Point? How do responsible town, city and county officials allow or permit such travesties to be perpetrated on the “unique in all of Florida” paradise that is Martin County?

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  7. I have been one of the lucky people to have known Mr. & Mrs. Evenrude. They were the most kind and thoughtful people I have had the privilege to know. I wish I could say this is progress but it is just greed in its fullest form.

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  8. Jacqui-nice article. Love the videos and the history is terrific. I’m not surprised by the comments here, but what we must all realize is this is what happens unfortunately in the world of development. The Langford property, at one time, was truly beautiful. After being vacant for almost nine years, however, it had become dilapidated and overgrown. It was an attractive nuisance for the homeless and unwanted animals. (coyotes) A large majority of the trees that were removed were exotic, non native species. By Florida statute, they must be removed before development can occur. To my knowledge, the homes that are being planned for this site will be in the 3,000 to 5,000 sf on 1/3rd acre to 1 acre lots. They are not “stacking them in at the highest rate allowed” by any means, unless they are planning to apply for a zoning change, which I don’t believe is happening. As much as anyone else, I am unhappy that the property was “scraped”, but the reality of it is that it is not practical. The developer will replant once the houses have been built and the development comes near completion.

    It would have been nice if this would have been a park, but Ms. Langford wanted this property to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Condos, as someone mentioned before. Also, we must keep in mind that this developer paid good money for this property and is entitled build. We have very little say now. Think about the positives for Martin County-our tax base will increase and we will get a new round about at Palmer, Dixie and Sago, making that part of Dixie Highway safer for all of us that drive in the area.

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  9. It does not take 50 acres to have a nice public park for everyone to enjoy, I just came back from castaway point park where I have been catching and releasing specald trout, parking lot is allways full and excitement is in the air , As I walked out on the dock a young boy ran by me and said–they are catching sail cat now!! I heard others telling how red fish were comeing in and feeding around the oysters, The shore line foamed as new coquina shells churned in waves, Thousands of birds made their evening flight trying to make it home before dark, like a kid leaves a dirty ring around the bathtub –there is now a ring around our lagoon—All our sea walls have barnicals that have died and left their calcium shells , They are like vertical reefs that support life of all sorts,The lagoon I grew up with IS COMMING BACK

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  10. A couple of years ago I found a aluminium step in the water on the west shore of our lagoon, It was obvious it had been discarded from construction of the UBS bank building, I thought about selling it for scrap but I did not have the time, This year I found it again and it looked like it was a hundred years old, I do not have the testing equipment some people have but I have a strong suspicion that after winds have blown continuously for a while mercury in the water will build up along the shore, I think this is what pitted and corroded the aluminium ladder, Winds have been blowing against this shore for a while now and today I will look for aluminum panels I put in water a few months ago, I will also see how quickly aluminum foil in potato sacks will corrode, it may be very simple to remove mercury from our waters

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  11. Mullets on east shore of lagoon have more parasites than mullets on west side, west shore and east shore are like 2 separate environments, West shore has more wind–waves–and fresh water run off—-East shore has more circulation from inlet, They are still grinding —sand blasting and pouring concrete on west shore bridge, It is my opinion they need to STOP immediatly until after spring time when cold water will not hold so much oxygen

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  12. Most of our sewage treatment plants are located on the west shore of our lagoon, Last year they said 5 million gallons of sewage went into the lagoon in an overflow event at Turkey creek—Turkey creek is just 3 miles from bridge construction—both are on west shore of lagoon

    Liked by 1 person

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