Tag Archives: Sandra Thurlow

The Stuart Middle School Pond That “Was Made to Disappear…” SLR/IRL

Left, 1947 photo of Stuart High School that today is the location of the Martin County School Board Administrative Buildings. Right, “The Log Cabin,” that is now located at Langford Park in Jensen Beach/Rio. Today’s Stuart Middle School along East Ocean Blvd. is located exactly where this pond used to be. Photo shared by historian Alice Luckhardt from Clyde Counant, Thurlow/Collection.
Google Earth (from opposite direction) shows 2017 image of today’s Stuart Middle School (large roof in middle of photo, marked as #102 East Ocean, Stuart) at corner of Georgia Ave and East Ocean Blvd.  The school is built IN the area where large pond once was located that you see in the 1947 black and white photo above . Notice the small depression to the right of the building. That is what is left of the pond.

This week, with a short reprieve from politics, I have been sharing historic photos and videos of the once wetlands and ponds of East Ocean Boulevard. Land use changes interest me as land use is of course directly connected to the water quality and health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

After reading yesterday’s blog, historian and family friend Alice Luckhardt, shared the remarkable 1947 photo above. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it as well! Look at the size of that pond that once was at Stuart Middle School! I remember it; do you? Now it’s gone.

The question posed to Alice in a conversation thread on Facebook was “why was the school board allowed to drain and build over the pond?”

It appears “the powers that be” had been eyeing the land under the pond for some time…

Alice has included two old news articles, featured below, explaining how students, two different times, did save the pond from destruction in both 1964 and 1971, but no one spoke up during the real estate boom era of the 2000s when the “new Stuart Middle School” was built. Why didn’t the adults save it?

Now I must state that I love Stuart Middle School as I attended there as a student and taught there as a teacher, but this disappearing pond act is incredible and should be noted. At the time I saw it happening, I did write a personal note of concern and disbelief to the current principal who did not write me back. Now that I am a “politico” person, I understand the principal does not make these decisions.

Many locals who grew up here still have memories of the pond. My Dad does as he went to hight school here in the 50s. Generational Stuart resident Boo Lowery  says:”Jay Davey and I fished in that pond a lot 1949-53, we caught a lot of bream.. there were two  islands then, –they later connected them to shore; I guess to make mowing easier.”

Yes, the goal is always to make it “easier,” for we humans, unfortunately over time this adds to the desolation of our St Lucie River…Easier is not the answer.

Well enjoy Alice’s articles below! Thanks, everyone; see you at the fishin’ pond.

Jacqui

P.S. Go Jaguars!

 

Center JTL 6ht grade at SMS. Nice hair doo.
Full page SMS 1975-76, recognize anyone? 🙂

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Photo Stuart, Florida, in 1947. Source: Clyde Coutant Photography, Thurlow/Collection. An aerial with Stuart High School on left and the pond and Log Cabin on right.

By Alice Luckhardt
Alice can be reached and her Historical Vignettes are available at: http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com

JULY 16, 1964, THE STUART NEWS, SCHOOL POND IS TO BE ‘SAVED’ BY CONSERVATIONIST GROUPS
The pond at Stuart Junior High School will not be filled. Instead, its water level will be restored, its banks will be graded to stop erosion and it will again be the habitat of water lilies and fresh water fish. Martin County School Board Monday night approved a plan advanced by six local conservation groups: Garden Club of Stuart, Izaak Walton League, St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, the Historical Society, Junior Conservation Club and U. S. Soil Conservation Service. Charles Kindred, president of the Isaak Walton League, detailed the plan, which involves grading of the banks with county equipment, stabilizing them with Bahia grass and other plantings, installation of a well and one and a quarter-inch pump, operated by the city, to maintain the water level at three or four feet during drought periods and the planting of bream and bass.

JAN 10, 1971, THE STUART NEWS JUNIOR HIGH POND IS DUG OUT

The pond on the campus of the Stuart Seventh and Eighth School is in the final stages of renovation. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jack Smouse said that the pond is somewhat of a landmark in the community and that it has been here “as long as I can remember.” School officials have intended to update the pond for some time, Smouse said and with the cooperation of the city and the county the work has been done. The county donated a dragline and the city provided fill for the project. The pond was originally designed with two separate islands in the center. Smouse said the design made maintenance difficult. Transporting mowers and other equipment from one island to the other was virtually impossible without a boat. With the fill which the city provided, the two islands have been connected. Smouse said the pond was originally dug to provide fill for other areas and that the spoil taken from the recent work will be used on the campus. Moves to fill in the pond in the past were blocked by local conservationists, Smouse said. They felt that if the pond is eliminated the city will lose one of its areas of beauty. The digging is now completed and the next step is to clear the area of cattails and other debris. When this work is complete the area will be planted and stocked with fish. Smouse said it will provide a fresh water pond for the area and will be used primarily as a “classroom” by the science department at the school. The pond is filled by surface water from the campus. In the past, storm sewer drainage went into the pond, but with the present drainage system this is impossible, Smouse explained. With the present low water table the surface water will be the only method of fill in the pond. Smouse said that eventually the school hopes to erect a flagpole at either end of the island with a school sign.

2000s: “quiet as a mouse”….pave it over!

Stuart Middle School along East Ocean Blvd. 2017. Photo courtesy of website.
The remaining pond at Stuart Middle School. Photo courtesy of website.

Stuart Middle School:http://sms.martinschools.org/pages/Stuart_Middle_School

The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Boulevard, SLR/IRL

 

 

4th Street/East Ocean Blvd 1957, Stuart, Florida, Arthur Ruhnke. Courtesy archives of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  
“See that white strip just below the wetland? That is the extension of Flamingo Drive that skirts the pond behind the old car wash. They just dug a retention pond and conducted the water to it. All of that pineland is covered with condominiums today.” (Cedar Point, Vista Pines, and Kingswood)~ Sandra H. Thurlow


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Today we drive over the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River surrounded by “civilization,” and forget that once it was once a wetland and pine forest full of wildlife. In the course of a lifetime, these things are long forgotten.

The above 1957 photograph hangs in my brother’s law office. When I visit him, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time. It is one of those rare photos that really puts things into  perspective. The road construction through the wetlands, (note it going through the pond, and pine forest) was all taking place around the same time that the “Bridges to the Sea,” from Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, were completed. It’s amazing to see what the landscape once looked like. The road in the photograph, Fourth Street, was renamed “East Ocean Boulevard” in 1960, and is a major thoroughfare to the  beaches today.

Jenny, Todd and I 1973, alligator in background.
I remember early East Ocean Blvd, although it was already quite changed by the time I was born in 1964. My family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive in Stuart, a short distance away from these wetland ponds under development. I recall Scrub Jays in our back yard and feeding them peanuts. By 1974 the family moved across the river to Sewall’s Point “growing and improving” with the changing landscape.

By 1979, when I was fifteen  years old, riding my bike over the bridge to Stuart to work at the Pelican Car Wash, the beautiful wetland pond had been relegated to a retention pond for run off.  Over the next two decades, you didn’t see wetlands and ponds anymore, or wildlife, just condominiums, office buildings, and shopping plazas. The state four-laned East Ocean Boulevard and built higher bridges to the ocean too.

Believe it or not, the pond in the aerial is still located behind a gas station that used to be the car wash. It is not even a shadow of its former self. Two days ago, I drove by and noticed that there was an extensive algae bloom in the pond backed up to the  parking lot and gas pumps; the water reflecting a sickly shade of green.

I sat there thinking about the long forgotten pond in the middle of East Ocean Boulevard in the photo I love in my brother’s office, wishing the developers had figured out a way to go around the pond. As the shortest distance between two points, over time, is not always a straight line.

East Ocean Blvd 1957, courtesy historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Flamingo and retention pond at Flamingo and East Ocean 2017, once a wetland.
Google map of East Ocean Blvd. through what was once wetland and forest, 2017.
1940s Dept of Agriculture photographs of Martin County showing wetlands. Courtney Todd Thurlow and UF archives.
Overlay 1940 aerials over Google map today, Todd Thurlow.
USDA History of Wetland Development in Florida: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1252222

Bridges to the Sea, Luckhardt Vignette TCPalm Series: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/historical-vignettes–martin-county-bridges-and-bridge-tenders-ep-306449407-342336761.html

He Shall Be King Again! The “Silver King” Tarpon of the St Luice River, Indian River Lagoon

Tarpon Fishing, Kent Hagerman 1893-1978. Courtesy, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Fishing map of McCoy Bros. SLR/IRL date unknown, notice the extensive tarpon fishing grounds,  Thurlow Archives.
IMG_8848.JPG
Tarpon on the line!  Dave Preston

If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…

We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better.  And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.

The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”

Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”

Ingeniously, and with more insight,  in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.

The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…

By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”

The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean….  But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.

This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?

I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂

Close up of solidarity fish on Florida’s Capitol steps, Clean Water/Amd. 1 Rally 2-17-15.) (JTL)

FWC Tarpon: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/tarpon/information/facts/
Tarpon Trust: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/tarpon-research

*Thank Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, whose work in Stuart on the St Lucie served as the basis of this blog post!

Link to 2016 unveiling of Silver King by sculptor Geoffrey Smith: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBwR1iHV3e8)

Vintage Catch and Release pin designed by the late Curt Whiticar.

Dave Preston of Bullsugar and Silver King, 2017.

Hugh Willoughby’s 1920’s Dream, New York Yacht Club; Today’s Dream, Clean Water, SLR/IRL

1933 photograph shows Hugh Willoughby flying over Sewall's Point and Willoughby Point in Port Sewall. The insignia of the the New York Yacht Club is on th side of the biplane. (Dale M Hudson via Sandra H. Thurlow's book Sewall's Point.
“1933 photograph shows Hugh Willoughby flying over Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point in Port Sewall. The insignia of the New York Yacht Club is on th side of the biplane.” (Photo, Dale M. Hudson from Sandra H. Thurlow’s book “Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community of Florida’s Treasure Coast”.)

One of my favorite aerial photographs from my mother’s history books on Martin County is of the infamous Hugh Willoughby flying over the St Lucie River at Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point. In more familiar terms for boaters, this location is known as “Hell’s Gate” due to the bottle-necking of  the rushing tide.

Mr Hugh de Laussat Willoughby, one of the “early birds” of aviation, and a resident of Sewall’s Point, (http://earlyaviators.com/ewilloug.htm) had the idea of locating the New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of the peninsula as envisioned in the map below. It is difficult to see in the aerial, but the insignia of the New York Yacht Club is on the side of the biplane.

The yacht club never materialized as the market crash of the late 1920s and following depression of the 1930s dashed that dream. Today many local pilots fly over the St Lucie River at this same location to photograph a different dream. –By showing the devistation, inspiring a dream for our state and federal agencies, of clean water…

Would Mr Willoughby ever have imagined his paradise would be one of controversial pollution? Never in a thousand years….

This year, the ACOE has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since January 29th 2016; in 2013 they released May through October, and in 2014 nothing…

May the photographs or today’s ailing river inspire change, and may the spirit of Mr Willoughby keep adventure and love alive in our hearts—and the wind— ever at our backs.

New York Yacht Club Station courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.
New York Yacht Club Station courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.
Cub taking photo of a cub. Ron Rowers. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2014, St Lucie River.)
Cub taking photo of a cub, pilot Ron Rowers. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2014, St Lucie River, Stuart.)
Sewall's Point and Willoughby Point 2016. (Ed Lippisch)
St Lucie River at Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point 2016 with dark waters from Lake O releases and area run off. (Ed Lippisch)
....further away
….further away–Hell’s Gate.
Sewall's Point 2016
Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point, 2016
Sewall's Point and Willoughby Point 2014.
Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point 2014.JTL
East side of Sewall's Point and confluence SLR/IRL2013 (JTL)
East side of Sewall’s Point and confluence SLR/IRL  Lost Summer–(JTL)
2013 SLR JTL
2013 SLR JTL

 

 

ACOE Lake O level: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/plots/okehp.pdf

The Straight Roads of Golden Gate and Port Santa Lucia’s Demise, SLR/IRL

 

Golden Gate 1954 US1 and Dixie (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Historic aerial of Port Sewall’s Golden Gate area in 1954, US1 and Dixie in foreground. (Photo courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

If you ever drive the easterly location of Indian Street in Martin County, you are in the historic subdivision for the proposed Town of Port Sewall. According to the “History of Martin County,” in 1910, Hugh Willoughby and Captain Henry Sewall established the Sewall’s Point Land Company which developed Port Sewall–of which Golden Gate is part.

I  was taken by these old aerials from 1954 showing the straight roads of the Golden Gate section of the development with Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet in the distance; I wanted to compare the photo to a cool old plat map and a Google map of today.

I love this old area of Martin County. So much history. It is fun to drive along Old St Lucie Boulevard and through Golden Gate. There are still remnants of the past. To visit the old Golden Gate building on Dixie Highway now getting a new life as the office of House of Hope—that was once a real estate office…..an awesome old Whiticar Boatworks from a bit later…

One of the long forgotten thing about this area is that Sewall and Willoughby’s vision for this development  was a deepwater port off of Sewall’s Point. According to historian Sandra Thurlow, “The port was to be established at the junction of the waterways known today as the Crossroads. It would be called “Port Santa Lucia” and would handle the vast amounts of produce that would be shipped out of the interior of Florida via the cross state canal.”

The cross-state canal in this reference? Yes, the cross state canal of the 1920s was the dreaded St Lucie Canal or more lovingly know today as C-44…the canal that connects Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Willoughby and Sewall’s development and the Port of Santa Lucia never succeeded as the Great Depression of the 1920s killed that dream. But unfortunately part of the dream of that era lived on. Today the cross state canal or since named “Okeechobee Waterway” (C-44 in Martin County) does not transport vast amounts of fresh produce, but rather is used to “manage” the waters of Lake Okeechobee and to send sediment and nutrient filled Agricultural run off to feed algae blooms and destroy the property values of Sewall’s Point, Port Sewall, Golden Gate, and the rest of Martin County.

Golden Gate 1954
Golden Gate 1954
Historic Port Sewall plat map 1913 - Version 2
Historic Port Sewall plat map 1913 – Version 2 (rotated for comparison.)
Google maps of area today, 2016.
Google maps of Port Sewall area today, 2016.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image. The canal goes from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River exiting at the ocean near Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island.
Waters off of Sewall's Point where the Port was to be located in August 2013 during high levels of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. (JTL)
Waters off of Sewall’s Point where the Port was to be located in August 2013 during high levels of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. (JTL)
Releases from Lake O at tip of Sewall's Point, 2016. Photo Ed Lippisch.
Releases from Lake O at tip of Sewall’s Point at the Crossroads, 2016. Photo Ed Lippisch.

ACOE Okeechobee Waterway partially the C-44 canal:http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/OkeechobeeWaterway(OWW).aspx

St Lucie River Drainage Districts, a Look Back to the Days of “Drain Baby Drain!” SLR/IRL

Economic Survey of Ft. Pierce and St Lucie County, 1936. Shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Economic Survey of Ft. Pierce and St Lucie County, 1936. Shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Looking back at history is such an amazing thing.

It clearly allows us to see “where we have come from,” and “how we got to where we are today”–especially in regards to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region.

In the early decades of the 1900s, Chapter 298 of Florida Statues allowed for Drainage Districts to be created, (most still exist today), by early settlers across the state so they could begin the hard work of “settlement.” These early Floridians often chose areas around rivers for their location, riches and soils.

Nonetheless, “drain baby, drain!” was the mantra.

Drainage of small tributaries of the forks of the rivers such as the St Lucie created rich farmlands and the ability to develop the lands. This was expected of settlers.  During this same era, giant public works projects such as the St Lucie Canal, (C-44), linking Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, were dug through the cooperation of state and federal governments  to create what would become the Everglades Agricultural Area, or EAA, south of Lake Okeechobee.

“The rest is history…”

As we sit here today with news of a substantial blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, and cringe as the ACOE dumps it into our estuary, I find this small booklet my mother came across recently “a through looking-glass” —–of the mentality of the times when all this over-drainage was the goal and the repercussions were not understood.

Counties all over our state had such little booklets. As you can read, this one is from St Lucie County connected to the North Fork of the St Lucie River. These hard-working people of the day dug their canal around 1936 so it would “veer to the southeast and then east to the St. Lucie River….” certainly they were not thinking about toxic algae blooms or water quality at this time. It did not even cross their radar. But it does ours….What will our little booklets look like for future historians to read ? Well, that’s for us to decide.

 

Text
Text
Map for drainage around north fork of SLR
Map for drainage around north fork of SLR
....
….

 

Florida Statutes Chapter 298:http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0200-0299/0298/0298ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2012&Title=-%3E2012-%3EChapter%20298

“Marvista” and “Lagunita” of Willoughby Creek, Today and Yesterday….SLR/IRL

Willoughby Creek
Willoughby Creek in Stuart, Martin County 1949. Photo courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.

Today I will share an historic aerial photo along Willoughby Creek together with a brief history lesson by my mother. Following, there are recent Google Map photos to compare…Stuart is still “paradise,” but sometimes I wish I were born 100 years ago. 🙂

“Jacqui, I came across this in my computer and thought it might be interesting for you to see. The date is Feb. 26, 1949. You can see Marvista… I think the house in the middle is the one that became Lee Rasch’s home. Patty Irons Child’s mother, Marge Irons was Lee’s second wife. The house at right was originally “Lagunita” built by Hugh Willoughby, Sr. (There is a big write-up on it on page 158 of the History of Martin County.) It later became a small hotel-like place call “Inlet Tides.” Both of the structures on the right side have been demolished… I am sure you know that Marvista was built by Hugh Willoughby, Jr. in 1924-25.”

—-Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Historian

 

You may have to “look” a bit, but if you do you will find Marvista and Lagunita today.

...
…2016
....
….2016
...
…2016 Blue dot is my home in Sewall’s Point not Willoughby Creek area. The islands that housed Marvista and Lagunita are near the left upper part of the upside side down triangle in the area of Hell’s Gate.