You know, I hate to be a broken record from the past, and I know the rules. Fights should lie dormant after they are fought, and won, or lost….
But I just can’t help myself…
Recently my husband Ed and I received a postcard in the mail advertising Langford Landings’ Grand Opening on March 10th, 2018.
It made me so sad to see this card. It looked like an ad from Rooms to Go.
I just don’t see how we as a county allowed such a tropical, historical piece of property to go to the “cookie cutter mill.”
Albeit the homes are expensive, pretty, and modern, they have no character of the original famed, Frances Langford Estate. None. Scraping all the trees off the land was the greatest sin, as these modern homes could look more tropical, more Frances Langfordish, if they had left some of the stately trees that she planted.
Yes, the developer “did not break any rules,” but we did, the Martin County Commission did. The rule broken? To show respect and honor to those who have walked before us. Especially, Mrs Langford.
Photos speak a thousand words.
Below are many from my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, and Facebook friends, Bobbie Blodgett, and Rebecca Fatzinger. Local, Pop Delancy and others. People who shared with me as the property was be cleared and dismantled beginning in 2015…
Today I am sharing photos taken yesterday, 2-8-17, by my husband, Ed, over Langford’s Landing, the controversial development along the once high bluff of the St Lucie River located on the northwest border of Sewall’s Point in Rio. Of course this property was the long time home of philanthropist, singer, and movie star, Frances Langford and years after her death, as she wished, those handling her estate put the monies from the sale of this land towards the trust in her name and legacy of giving. Whether the nature-loving long time Martin County resident would have approved of the conditions of the sale, we can only speculate…I know what I think.
Even though the naked property remains visible from the bridges it is nice to see it close up. Thank you Ed for the photos!
As we can see, since December of 2015, all trees have been wiped out, the marina appears completed, the roads are in, the once historic high bluff is now flat and even, and few blades of grass are now visible.
Today I wanted to get caught up on Langford Landing, the 53 acre property along the St Lucie River that I have written about before. This property used to belong to the late, great Frances Langford.
As time goes on, from the air, we can see that development seems to be “coming along…”
Months ago, when I first called and asked about the property, I was told that the high bluff along the river would not be flattened as rumored by some residents of Sewall’s Point–that “the elevation was why the property was so valuable.”
I guess I did not ask the right questions, because although it was not flattened, it certainly has been altered.
Ancient lore states that in the early days of the Spanish’s exploration, Don Pedro, the famed “black-beard” pirate, sat drinking wine along this bluff to watch for approaching ships. Now it is fitted and flattened for houses of a subdivision.
I think I rather it be fit for a pirate. How about you?
My Frances Langford theme continues. Today I will share some photos of Frances’ St Lucie River estate treasures given to me by blog reader and salvage director, Bobbi Blodgett. Bobbi recently contacted me. Not only did we have a very interesting conversation regarding the recent destruction of the Langford property and the difficulties of getting developers to “reuse and recycle,” but Bobbi also shared some good news about what was “salvaged” from the Langford Estate in 2008 when it was first being “deconstructed,” as part a tax write off for the developers via Habitat For Humanity.
Her email reads:
Langford additional pics during 2008 deconstruction project. Frances was very into Polynesian style and the “tapa cloth” pictured, we salvaged also, It was all handmade and imported. It was laid on the bars, walls etc.
The long bar was in the river house. I believe it was purchased by a couple who bought the house she owned on Hutchinson Island, which is awesome.”
Yesterday’s conversation regarding Sewall’s Point’s Mount Pisgah, at 57 feet, in the area of Frances Langford’s former estate got people talking about many things. One of the less controversial, but interesting was “heights.” My brother Todd wrote:
“Jacqui, with respect to Mt. Pisgah being the highest point, I think you are correctly specifying “along” the rivers (e.g. adjacent to the water). There are higher points listed in my video below. But all the ones on the waterfront are less than 37ft. The highest waterfront in Hobe Sound is 50ft and we ran US-1 over it!”
Mr Don Quazzo in his comments noted the even higher heights than Mt Pisgah of the inland sand hills in the Skyline Drive area….interesting. Fascinating. Talk about history!
Today I will transcribe a piece of “Martin County’s 1982 Coastal Management Zone” shared with me years ago by Mr. Mark Perry. It talks about high places, ancient sand dunes, through out our county.
The 1982 Coastal Zone Management Study of Hutchinson Island, Martin County, Florida, 1982, wa written by Florida Oceanographic Society and the Martin County Development Department.
Part II is entitled “Natural Geologic History.” It reads: “Just before the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin, which lasted from 100,000 to 11,000 years before present, the sea level was approximately 25-35 feet above the present mean seal level…At that time the sea was covering most of Martin County except for the Orlando Ridge, which was a narrow peninsula or series of islands and shoals, and the Green Ridge which was an offshore bar with the crest at sea level…The sea beating against the much smaller Florida coast formed, by erosion and deposition, a broad terrace of Pamlico sands.
These sands were composed of mostly quartz, fossils and some carbon materials. The Atlantic Coastal Ridge was of pre-Pamlico origin was altered by an advancing Pamlico sea. This is evident by the south and north boundaries of the Jensen Beach and Jonathan Dickinson Sandhills which have spit-like structures projecting westward, as shown in Figure 3. (above)
The tall sandhills together with Sewall’s Point and Rocky Point form the backbone of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. It is breached by the St Lucie River between Sewall’s Point and Rocky Point. During times of high sea level, like the Pamlico Period, the drainage basins of the St Lucie River and Loxahatchee River probably formed and ancient lagoon such as the Indian River Lagoon does today, with the older sandhills of Jensen Beach and Johnathan Dickinson acting as the barrier islands and dunes of that time. It was also during this time when Hutchinson and Jupiter Islands began forming as offshore bars….
—-Excerpt from MC 1982 Coastal Zone Management Study
Whether it is 100,000, 11,000, or 60 years ago, the more we know about the history and formation of Martin County the more likely we are to respect our natural resources.
Today I continue documentation of the former Frances Langford Estate, the 53 acres bordering Mount Pisgah and the Town of Sewall’s Point. Mount Pisgah, at 57 feet, is the highest point in the region along the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
I have written on this topic extensively already. Perhaps, too much. So I’ll keep it short and just say, once again…”There has to be a better way to develop property with such historical significance, and once, such tremendous natural beauty.”
Yes—- this type of development is within the law, but is it within our conscience? What was Martin County and the Commission thinking when they approved this transfer? How can we stop this from happening again? Can we?
Anyway—I did recently visit the site and the “Engineer of Record” assured me the high bluff will not be leveled to allow for more homes as is rumored.
“It is the lot’s majestic view of the water that we want…” he said. Six will face the river. You can see that lots are small compared to Sewall’s Point.
Personally, I think it would have looked even more majestic if some of Mrs Langford’s world-famous tropical vegetation and pond had been left and the lots were not so crammed in.
In conclusion, here are some photos for “the record.”
Thank you to my husband, Ed Lippisch for taking the aerials. All were taken yesterday, January 20th, 2016.
Oh, by the way, when I was leaving I noticed the documents stated that the cleared land had to be “seeded” within 30 days. We’re getting close. The lot was cleared at Christmas. I bet they put in sod. From tropical paradise to sodded conformity. What a loss.
Sometimes things are a mystery and reveal themselves slowly through many days…such is the story of black and white sketch of “The Hut” you see above.
I first saw the piece in an email dated January 14th, 2016, sent to me by my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow. Her email read: “I came across this in a box of treasures. It was an invitation to a joint birthday party for Talley Crary, Frances Langford Stuart, and Jane Merrell. I guess it was “The, with a capital, Hut.” Mom
Prior to receiving this email I had traveled on a yacht up the St Lucie River with my next door neighbor Mr Rohloff—this was two days after Christmas. This was when Ed and I saw up close the destruction of the former Langford Estate. Cleared to the bone.
When the captain of Mr Rohloff’s yacht heard me gasping as I saw Mrs Langford’s wrecked estate he told me he used to live on there, and was married there, and that he actually worked for Mrs Langford for some time. His name is Rick Copeland. Captain Copland continued to talk about Mrs Langford throughout the trip and told stories of what a remarkable person she was.
He told a story that as she was aging she gathered all the painting of Emile Gruppe who she and her husband collected and gave them to the artist’ son. “These were very expensive paintings……” She wanted to make certain they were given to the right place and appreciated….
Now fast forward to last weekend. I attended an Environmental Studies Luncheon and sat next to Matt Kelly, who oversees the real estate for Martin Health Systems and years ago was my swimming coach. He took his phone out showing me the same ‘The Hut” piece going back in an email to the son of Emile Grippe and with my sister who works for MHS.
It’s a small world and the heart of Frances Langford lives on!
By just doing a quick search on the internet I found an article about an art show in 2013 in Naples of these Langford/Evenrude paintings! The Gruppe family is very famous and there were three generations of paintings as you will read.
It would be fun if I could find more of the the paintings to share. Here’s one I found. Mrs Langford called her house along the St Lucie River, the “River House,”—maybe this is hers?
As we all know, movie star and local philanthropists, Frances Langford, was and is very loved in Martin County. Nonetheless, recently her 53 acre river estate, in Rio, was mowed down for development to create ironically “Langford’s Landing.” Yes, it was legal, but what a shame. What a crime of local history. Part of that history included Frances’ flock of peacocks.
Invasive or not, Frances brought the exotic birds to her property in the 1940s and they had been happily living here ever since. They became part of the cultural landscape of the Rio area. Over the years the county even erected signs warning drivers about the birds.
After Frances’ death in 2005 there were tougher times for the peacocks, peahens, and peachicks but they managed to survive. They had become “wild” living off the land although some residents would joyfully feed them. Kind of like cardinals…. 🙂
Sometimes stopping traffic as they lollygagg across State Road 707, the birds cause smiles and sometimes cursing and horn blowing from drivers. Inconvenient? Maybe— but so cool! So local! So “Frances”…..a reminder of her philanthropic spirit and love for our area with every sighting!
Of course since the 53 acres has been clear-cut and scraped the peacocks have lost their home base habitat. Did anyone even think about this? I mentioned it at a county commission meeting years ago. Perhaps the county thought no one would notice when the birds fell on hard times or were possibly eradicated?
This was not the case. Not along the Indian River Lagoon…not in the land of River Warriors.
Yesterday there was a great win for the spirit of Frances Langford and the peacocks when resident Toni Rummo used social media to inform the public that a bank and real estate agency had “ordered the trapping of the peacocks at 1547 SW Sottlong Avenue.”
The house is in foreclosure and the cleaning people were apparently put off by all the birds. This led to the trapping or quote for such. According to Rummo some birds were trapped but after the outcry the others were left alone. Even the media, Sheriff’s department, and Martin County Commission got involved. It was crazy!
Than you to Toni Rummo and the others! Just to follow up, I spoke to Bill Dean head of Century 21 on Hutchinson Island whose company was incorrectly linked with the sale and he said it was a day like no other. The phone rang off the hook!
At the end of the conversation I said: “But isn’t it great? The love of Frances Langford and the people standing up for her spirit?”
We laughed. I recommended having a gin and tonic in her honor.
Thank you Toni for the peacock win! It was a win for the people of Rio. A win for the spirit of Frances Langford, and a win for the spirit of St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon!
Today I am featuring two more time line videos on Frances Langford’s property created by my brother Todd Thurlow. Through viewing history, we get a better understanding of how we got to where we are today…
“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.”