My mother gave me a late birthday present: antique post cards and a bottle once filled with “Florida Water,” a popular tonic sold for health and beauty around the world. Believe it or not, “Florida Water” is still selling across the globe, and has been since 1808 ~for 210 years!
It was poignant to receive such a rare and special gift from my mother because if Murray & Landman began marketing Florida water today, the product would not be so romantic; in fact, the branding would more look like war.
We are up to page 10 in our history lesson and today’s photos are some of my favorite. The first is an aerial of the St Lucie Inlet entitled “Stuart on the St Lucie River.” Since its earliest day’s, Stuart has always been defined by its proximity to the river. Below the aerial it boast: “World Famous For its Fishing, Provides an Ocean Entrance for Small Craft.” And by today’s standards, a rather comical or un-comical plug can’t be missed: “Where the Waters of Lake Okeechobee Meet the Atlantic.”
It is also fascinating to note the shape of the south side of the St Lucie Inlet as today it has shifted and filled in. I am sharing my brother’s Time Capsule Flight used in former posts as it is so interesting and shows the various inlets of this area and land shapes as documented on various historical maps. Although today, we try to make barrier islands, beaches, and inlets permanent, by watching my brother’s video the message is clear: “the only constant is change.”
As we continue our historic journey, today we view pages 8-9 of the 1937 Stuart Daily News. Today’s ad for the City of Stuart is so large that it is featured side-to-side rather than top to bottom in the publication. Proudly, because of the completion of the Stuart to Ft Meyers Cross-State Canal, Stuart has branded itself as “the Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico,” particularly for the nation’s yachtsmen.
Although this image below was not in the publication, I wanted to include it because one might drive by and not recognize this recently renovated, now officially registered historic structure in Rio for what it really is, ~a monument to the cross-state canal!
Of course also in the ad Stuart lauds itself as a fishing mecca touting: “Florida’s finest fishing in adjacent waters.” The truth of the matter is that the quality of the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon, as documented by local fishermen, had been deteriorating since the opening of the St Lucie Canal to Lake Okeechobee in 1923. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie) Nonetheless, the rivers and ocean remained “marvelous” fishing arenas as this 1938 Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide shows.
Today, the City of Stuart remains the vibrant and beautiful heart of Marin County, but it no longer brags about being “the Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.” As much as the St Lucie Canal has caused issue with our local waterways, I do think the Stuart to Ft Meyers connection, and being a starting point for a historic boat trip across the state is worth re-boasting about!
Today, Ft Pierce’s deep water port is the star of the 1937 Stuart Daily News historical newspaper commemorating the completion of the Stuart to Ft Meyers cross-state canal. The port has a long been one of the more developed areas of the Indian River Lagoon and has an interesting start-stop history that is best documented by St Lucie County:
Port Authority History, St Lucie County web site: The Port of Ft. Pierce first came into existence in 1920 when a manmade opening, the Ft. Pierce Inlet, was cut through the land barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. St. Lucie County became the Port Authority in 1918 and a continuum of legislation has named the County as the Authority since that time. In 1918 a special act of the Florida Legislature established a taxing district to fund this project. Approximately 65 percent of St. Lucie County was in this Ft. Pierce Inlet District, which was empowered to sell bonds to finance the project and to satisfy bond obligations through real property tax revenues. The Florida Legislature abolished the Ft. Pierce Inlet District in 1947 and replaced it with the Ft. Pierce Port Authority, which retained the same power but was also granted the legal right to acquire and lease real estate. In 1961 a Special Act of the Florida Legislature replaced the Ft. Pierce Port Authority with the Ft. Pierce Port and Airport Authority, both of which were run by St. Lucie County. In 1989 the name of the Authority was changed to the St. Lucie County Port and Airport Authority. In 1997 the Florida Legislature provided reorganizing, updating and clarifying provisions for the Authority. In 1998 the Legislature dissolved the St. Lucie County Port and Airport Authority and transferred its assets, liabilities, and responsibilities to the Board of County Commissioners of St. Lucie County.
Today, the Port of Ft Pierce is ready for more expansion and will be loading more than fruits and vegetables in the near future. I wish them all the best. This portion of the Indian River Lagoon south of Harbor Branch to Ft Pierce Inlet is known as the “healthiest” part of the ailing IRL so may the developers be delicate with their planning and execution! We must save what we love!
Today we study page five of the historic 1937 Stuart Daily News. A message at the top of the page “invites participation” in a celebration, both in Stuart and Ft Meyers, for the completion of the cross-state canal. This was a celebration of navigation and the commerce and growth it would bring to these areas. As we know today, this cross-state canal is not just used for navigation, but also to drain Lake Okeechobee.
It is interesting to note that the “Stuart to Ft Meyers Cross-State Canal” must later have become known as the “Okeechobee Waterway:”
Although this celebration was about the benefits of navigation, Edwin Menninger on the front of the 1937 historic edition wrote:
“Construction of the St Lucie Canal began in 1921 when the fact dawned on the Everglades pioneers that canals through muck lands were useless – they refused to carry water out of the lake. Four of them had been dug, and were utterly worthless. The St Lucie was completed in 1924 and for 13 years has been the only functioning outlet from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.”
So perhaps the opening of the cross-state canal in 1937 was the beginning of “shared adversity” or shared destruction of the two coasts as it was not until 1937, after great investment by the Federal Government, that the Caloosahatchee River finally had a “navigable channel 7 feet deep and 80 feet wide,” before that it was very limited.
Considering that today the poor Caloosahatchee takes about two-thirds of the water drained from Lake O, we here on the east coast have to consider the possibility that if the “improvements” of the 1937 cross state canal were not done, the St Lucie might still be taking 100% of Lake O’s drainage water!
In 2009 my husband Ed and I took the our dogs Bo and Baron along the cross-state canal trip from Stuart to Ft Meyers, but stopped in Lake Okeechobee. Lots of storms! It was insightful and fun. One day I do hope to go all the way to Ft Meyers. This is definitely a “Florida bucket-list to do!”
As a young child, I remember my parents taking me to visit McKee Jungle Gardens near Vero. What a magical place! That visit certainly planted seeds in my head, and a love for all things “Florida.”
I remember towering magnificent palms; a mammoth-sized cypress tree trunk that looked like it came from the age of the dinosaurs; interesting rustic structures that matched the mood of the tropical paradise; beautiful giant lilies floating in shallow ponds reflecting purple and greens like a Monet painting; a gigantic, long, mahogany table; as well as my favorite thing to see at the time, monkeys, parrots, and other animals!
The McKee Jungle Gardens was founded in 1929, when engineer and land developer, Arthur G. McKee teamed up with famed Vero legend and entrepreneur, Waldo Sexton, in the creation of an 80-acre tropical hammock just west of the Indian River Lagoon. Tropical landscape architect William Lyman Phillips was hired to design its beautiful and acclaimed streams, ponds, and trails. The indigenous vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants and seeds from around the world. In 1932, the garden was opened as a tourist attraction. Although very successful for several decades, it shut down in 1976, post Disney and I-95, and most of its land was sold for development. The site remained vacant for twenty years until the Indian River Land Trust rescued the area legacy, purchasing it in 1995. The current Garden, McKee Botanical Gardens, was formally dedicated in 2001 and is now a Florida landmark. On January 7, 1998, the property was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places under its original name, “McKee Jungle Gardens.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McKee_Botanical_Garden)
Perusing page 4 of the 1937 Stuart Daily News, celebrating the opening of the Cross State Canal from Stuart to Ft Meyers, featuring McKee brings back happy memories for me. About three years ago, I visited the new McKee Botanical Gardens and the magic is still there! I find Florida’s old-time famed gardens so much more appealing than today’s focus on boring “floratam lawns and perfectly manicured hedges.” Today or yesterday, showcasing Florida’s tropical beauty is Florida at its best!
My brother, Todd Thurlow, created a new “Time Capsule Flight” to give us historic perspective into my last blog post asking a question about an aerial photograph on page 3 of a 1937 Stuart Daily News, special edition, featuring Jupiter Island’s Golf Course.
“Fill or not fill?”
This was my question!
I had written: “When I first saw this photograph, it struck me that I did not recognize the area with exposed white sand on the east side of the island. I wondered if that was a remnant fan-like formation from an ancient inlet. Then it struck me that perhaps it was fill dredged from the Indian River lagoon for the golf course – or a combination of both.”
Todd’s video flight, using historic maps from 1883, 1885, and 1940 as well as today’s Google Earth technology, answered this question.
Jacqui: “Todd so after watching your time capsule flight it appears that the Jupiter Island Golf course was a natural wetland or mangrove something? It is sticking out into Indian River Lagoon on your oldest 1800s map- so it’s not entirely dredge and filled? Right?”
Todd: “Yep. Probably was swampy like Indian River Plantation (Marriott) and filled in with dredge from the ponds or Hobe Sound but more than likely before the channel/canal was dredged by the Feds in 1935. The Jupiter Island web-site says the Golf Course was built in 1922.”
Watch Todd’s video below and see for yourself the fascinating changes over time. Good for the golfers, not so good for the birds! Mystery solved by a Time Capsule Flight! Thanks Todd!