Tag Archives: 1920s

Historic Mistreatment of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (Royal Poinciana Cottages, Jensen, ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Draining oil, changing oil, over the IRL. Jensen 1930s. Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.
Changing oil over the IRL, Pitchford Filling Station, Jensen 1920/30s. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)

As bad as things are today for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, in the past we did things that today would be inconceivable, like having sewer lines drain directly into the river, or draining oil into the lagoon from a car…. For centuries people have put waste into the water so it could just “flush away.” Things  like this were done when very few people lived along the river and the waterways  could actually handle this misuse. Today with over a million people living along the 156 mile lagoon such ignorance  is not an option; we know better now. It is interesting to wonder what photos from today will look so atrocious as these above  in the future? Lake Okeechobee and canal releases full of filth? Fertilizing one’s yard? Herbicide and pesticide use by the water?  Septic tanks? Only  time will tell… and it always does.

“Stuart on the St Lucie,” Real Estate History and the Cluelessness of Developers Regarding the Health of the Indian River Lagoon

St Lucie Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, Stuart Florida, 1926 booklet. (St Lucie Estates, Inc.)
St Lucie Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida, 1926 booklet. (St Lucie Estates, Inc.)

In the 1960s, I grew up in St Lucie Estates, Stuart, Florida, the neighborhood just north and south of Kreugar Creek close to the St Lucie River, not too far from Downtown Stuart. Until I was ten, we lived at 109 Edgewood Drive. I loved that little brick house. I had full reign over the neighboring empty lots and could ride my bike on the “black road,” to get to a park, along  the river, next to the Granfield’s house. The kids of the neighborhood often met there, and we pretended the gigantic, falling Australian Pine was a ship and we made it into our fort. We traveled across oceans. We fought pirates. It was a wonderful childhood.

As a kid, I had no idea of the long running issues with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the canals, and Lake Okeechobee. I just knew I loved the river. I loved that I could escape there. Even when I was in high school, living in Sewall’s Point, I’d steal away and sit under the bridges and “think” in the privacy of the river’s ancient calm.

Today, at half a century, I am still in love with the river, but I view it in a different light. A light of history and destruction. My heart aches because I really don’t know if it can make it against the odds. Now that I am older, I know its complete destruction has been coming for a long time, kind of like a cancer. I am miffed that since 1923, when the ACOE first connected the C-44 to the South Fork of the St Luice, that locals were not able to stop the “drainage machine,” as Ernie Lyons, previous editor of the Stuart News, called it. I am miffed also that the state and federal agencies would so blatantly kill an ecosystem.

When I look through my mother’s historical data and read the ads for selling land in Stuart in the early 1900s, it is ironic that they all incorporate the St Lucie River into their sell while they were killing her.

“Stuart on the St Lucie, 1907;” “St Luice Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, 1926;” “Stuart, Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, ca. 1926.”

The are all bragging about draining the Everglades; they are bragging about the digging of the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart to Ft Meyers thorough Lake Okeechobee; they are basing the draw of the Stuart area on its  location/proximity to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and yet they seem to have no clue that by supporting the over draining and over dredging of everything, they have created the rivers’ own destruction!

All news adds and photos from Stuart on the St Lucie, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow, 2001)
All news ads and photos from Stuart on the St Lucie, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow, 2001)

IMG_5887 IMG_5882 IMG_5883;IMG_5877 IMG_5884

This is an excerpt from the St Lucie Estates sales booklet:

” St Lucie Estates is situated in one of the most gorgeous spots in Florida—the beautiful St Lucie River County…The St Lucie and the Indian River meet here to form one of the most wonderful bodies of water in the world—one hundred miles of navigable waterway,  edged with luxurious tropical foliage able white sandy beaches…”

“In the introduction to my mother’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie, she writes” Pioneer businessmen of Stuart…realized the St Lucie River was the town’s greatest asset. To foster awareness they of the town’s superior location, they used “Stuart on the St Lucie” in promotional literature, on signs and as newspaper headings. Time has not changed the fact that the St Lucie River is the best thing about Stuart.”

Promotional signs to "Stuart on the St Lucie"  along Dixie Highway from Jacksonville read as shown on list and stated, ca. 1919. (SHT)
Promotional signs to “Stuart on the St Lucie” along Dixie Highway from Jacksonville read as shown on list and stated, ca. 1919. (SHT).

The St Lucie is still the best thing about Stuart, and now we know better. The drainage of lands surrounding the St Lucie/IRL was too extensive. In order to make way for agriculture and real estate development.  The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon now take on more than twice what was originally drained into them. 

The excess fresh water and pollutants have all but killed the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This chart shows the original drainage in green and today’s drainage which has been added to the green area  in yellow. Lake Okeechobee’s  discharges, in pink, are often on top of this. It is too much.

The old adage says “history repeats itself.” Well, here in “Stuart on the St Lucie,” history cannot repeat itself anymore. We must create a new future.

Drainage changes to the SLR.
Drainage changes to the SLR 1900s to today.(Citizen’s Report to Congress, 1995)