Tag Archives: historic

Port Mayaca’s Beautiful Gem, The Cypress Lodge, SLR/IRL

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Historic Postcard courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
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Back of post card

If one drives to end of Kanner Highway adjacent to the C-44 Canal connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee, there is a gem to see. A place that will take you back to an earlier time. The name of this place is the “Cypress Lodge,” in Port Mayaca.

According the “History of Martin County,” this beautiful lodge first opened its doors in 1938 and is *now operated by Mr and Mrs Charles Dorrell functioning as a resting stop for tired motorist crossing the state from north to south, or east to west.”

Page 253 reads: “The lodge, boasting an outstanding cellar, is colonial in design, built  originally as a tavern, has been operating ever since. The two-story all cypress building with a large dining room, is staffed mostly by residents of Pahokee, Canal Point, and surrounding towns. It is said more people work in Port Mayaca than live there.”

Just last week I learned that friend, and long time Stuart resident, Elsie Jean Stewart, has deep ties to the property as her parents were married there. She recently shared with me a wonderful family photo of the young couple. Their tremendous smiles in black in white were full of color. What days these must have been…

I recently drove out past the lodge on my way to Belle Glade while daydreaming what the area was like as in the mid-1800s between Seminole Wars. I saw a giant cypress forest full of wildlife and there was no dike around the lake, so from horseback, I could see over the wide expanse of  Lake Okeechobee….

Those things are gone and the lodge was built later, but it is still connected. I have been curious to see the structure as I have been missing it on my recent drives to Belle Glade. On my last trip, I figured out that at some point the historic Connors’ Highway had been rerouted so now at the Lake, one must turn north rather than south to see the familiar structure.

When I found the lodge, I took some photos to share. Still beautiful. Still timeless. I believe today it is a private residence. Thankfully it is still here and remains a gem of Martin County’s fascinating history around Lake Okeechobee.

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Historic Register: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMAVCV_Cypress_Lodge__Port_Mayaca_FL

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The Cypress Lodge and Port Mayaca are located west near S-308 at Lake Okeechobee. You can see the C-44’s connection from the Lake to the South Fork of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. 

2-18-17: Correction!

Today I figured out, thanks to an article by the Luckhardts, that although not mentioned in the “History of Martin County” on page 252-3 , it was Paul M. Hoenshel of Miami who originally built and operated the lodge. Hoenshel is the grandfather of Elsie Jean Stewart whose “parents were married in the lodge” that I mention…. Jacqui

History Cypress Lodge by Alice and Greg Luckhardt: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/your-news/martin-county/reader-submitted/2017/02/17/historical-vignettes-historic-cypress-lodge-port-mayaca/98056346/

Let’s Quit Fighting and Have a Drink at the Clewiston Inn, Everglades Lounge! SLR/IRL

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These photos are from a recent trip to Clewiston taken at the historic Clewiston Inn. The Everglades Lounge is an inspiration. May we think about more than ourselves in our decisions. A drink may help.

Jacqui

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This is oil put on canvas by J. Clinton Shepherd, Palm Beach artist, 1945
http://www.clewistoninn.com

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The History of the “EAA” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie Gardens

This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of reed from Disston. (overlay created by Todd Thurlow)
This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of Disston to Reed. IRL east and PSL west.(Overlay created by Todd Thurlow)

 

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
Lands purchased by Sir Edward J. Reed from Hamilton Disston, as platted in the late 1880s/early 1900s. This land includes areas of Martin and St Lucie Counties…overlay on Google map by Todd Thurlow.

It all started with a recent comment by Bob Ulevich, at a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting.  In the course of his presentation and questioning on the history of the water management districts, Bob noted that the EAA, the Everglades Agricultural Area, was not historically “just located” where it is today, south of Lake Okeechobee, but basically included all of Disston’s lands. Are you kidding me? “Gulp”….

TCRPC meeting excerpt, no video, just sound: (http://youtu.be/acP_ri2vElc)
Mr Ulevich’s powerpoint: (http://www.tcrpc.org/council_meetings/2015/SEPT15/Final_Reports/Water_Presentation.pdf)
 

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)

Hamilton Disston. Remember him?  The “savior,” “the drainer” of our state—-who basically bought the entire state from a bankrupt entity, the Internal Improvement Fund? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)
The more I read and think about it, I think what Bob meant was that almost of all the swamp lands sold to Disston and then others were marketed for people to purchase and farm….basically creating a giant Everglades agricultural area…but it wasn’t always so easy….

Orginal everglades document of the state of Florida. (TT)
Orginal Everglades document of the state of Florida. (Downloaded by TT)
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Ddisston’s AGCCOL Co. (TT)

When I was trying to figure all this out, I went back to a map I had seen before, reread a chapter in my mother’s Jensen and Eden book, and contacted my brother, Todd,  to help me answer a question.

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Map of Disston’s lands.

“Todd, why isn’t St Lucie Gardens in pink on the Disston map? …And wasn’t this area supposed to be farmland?”

St Lucie Gardens was a huge subdivision in the region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon including the savannas filed in 1911 by the Franklin Land Company of Jacksonville. According to my mother’s book, “the land was advertised as far away a Kansas and a few families bought land and tried to make a living farming. However land that had been pine flat woods continued to have cycles of flooding a drought and was impossible to farm profitably. The families that came to farm in St Lucie Gardens either gave up or turned to other ways to make a living.”

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens…overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1881. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1910. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Matin was Brevard.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Martin was Brevard. (TT)

Todd and I never found our why those lands of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon were not included on the 1881 Disston lands map, and the people who created it are not around to ask, but Todd did create the awesome visuals at the beginning of this post and he did find the deed of the purchase of the lands in our region. To have this document is an incredible part of our history.

Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed, 1881. (TT)
Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed, 1881, page 1. (TT)
Page 2. (TT)
Page 2. (TT)
Disston 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida in 1881, which included much of the land within the savannas. ( Public map, 1881.)
Disston bought 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida then sold half to Reed. Some of those lands included land in the SLR/IRL region. These lands are not shown on this map. ( Public map, 1881.)

And the EAA? With all the water problems we have today, I am glad it does not include everything in pink and green on the map and that something remains of our Savannas along the Indian River Lagoon.

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An interesting email from Todd; Thank you Todd for all the research!

Jacqui,

It was fun to go through some of the stuff on my computer tonight. I just downloaded this publication “Disston Lands of Florida”, published 1885. I attached the intro page.

Disston had the pick of ALL the public lands owned by the state. It took three years to make the selection. Perhaps the pink area had been picked as of the date of the map and St. Lucie Gardens had not yet been picked?

Or maybe the St. Lucie Gardens land is not shown in pink on the map because Disston directed that the St. Lucie Gardens property be deeded directly from TIIF to Sir Edward James Reed. The Florida Land and Improvement Company never took title.

The TIIF deed that we pulled up for Sir Edward James Reed (attached) is dated 6/1/1881. In includes a little more land (21,577 Acres) than ended up in St. Lucie Gardens (e.g. Section 1, of T36S R40E is not part of St. Lucie Gardens but is included in the deed.)

Disston Lands of Florida: https://archive.org/details/disstonlandsoffl00flor
St. Lucie Gardens Plat: http://plat.martinclerk.com/St%20Lucie%20County%20Plat%20Books/BK%2001%20PG%20035-001.tif

Todd Thurlow (http://www.thurlowpa.com)

1906-2014, Water Depth Changes in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)
Hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point’s water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby’s proposed New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point. Willoughby came to Sewall’s Point in 1906 in hopes of establishing a Southern New York Yacht Club. (Map and history courtesy of  Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow.)

If Hugh Willoughby had not been searching for a southern location for the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1906, we would not have the remarkable hand drawn map above. The New York Yacht Club’s southern headquarters was never established at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point, but we can see the water depths in the area were substantial, at 20 feet, around the tip of the protected west side of today’s High Point subdivision.

I stumbled upon the information about the New York Yacht Club again, because of trying to track water depths in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon over the past century in my mother’s book, The History of Sewall’s Point.

From my parent’s old timer friends, over the years, I have heard stories about the the water depth and clarity being extensive in many areas of the St Lucie River, from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and how over time the sediment, due to canal run off from C-23, C-24 and C-44, has “filled the bottom of the river” in many areas, even forming “islands” north of the Palm City Bridge. C-44, connected to Lake Okeechobee, was first connected in 1923, and then deepened and widened again in the 1930s, and 50s and “improved since.” C-23 and C-24 were built in the 50s and 60s. Tremendous amounts of sediment and pollution has filled the river over time from these once thought “harmless” canals.

Today this sediment fill is often referred to as “muck.”

Anyway, for a baseline comparison of water depths, I started looking thorough my historian mother’s maps and asking questions to my attorney brother, who is a wiz at any type of map old or new, and although I did not get mapping for all of the the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I did for my own beloved Sewall’s Point. I imagine it is a microcosm of the rest.

Let’s take a closer look:

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(http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11428cgd.shtml)

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)

NOAA, 2014 electronic water depth map juxtaposed to hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point ca. 1906.

Comparing the two maps, one can see that the southern tip of Sewall’s Point in the NOAA map is not documented, I imagine because it is too far away from the Okeechobee Waterway. Disappointing. Nonetheless, if one looks at Sewall’s Point’s mid area, across and north of Hell’s Gate (the narrow part of the river) one can see water depth numbers like 19; 15; and 14 feet. Today those numbers on the NOAA chart read 4; 8; and 7.

Looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map reads 10; 8 and 12 feet. The 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet. Mind you, the channel has been dredged many times by the Army Corp, and Florida Inland Navigation District since 1906 and this certainly affects depths overall in the river as well. Nonetheless, for me, it is interesting to compare as even the channel depths in this area are no deeper than 11 feet and often more like 8 or 6  feet.

The famous mid 1900s environmentalist editor of the Stuart News, Mr Ernie Lyons, once said “Life too, is a changing river.” I  wonder if he knew how much we were going to fill it in…

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After I wrote this blog , friend, Kevin Stinnette, sent me the insert for south Sewall’s Point as he has experience as an avid sailer. I am adding for interest although I will not adjust my blog. The same principles hold true. 🙂 Thank you Kevin!

InsertD-Chart 11472b SP