History

Indian River County’s Rich Local History

There’s so much more to Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian than just our beautiful beaches and small-town charm. While you’re visiting, make sure to carve out some time to explore the rich history of our area.

The Treasure Coast

Check out the McLarty Museum in Sebastian and immerse yourself in the story of how the Treasure Coast got its name. In 1715, a fleet of twelve ships set out from Havana loaded with Spanish treasure, but a hurricane drove them into the coast of Florida between St. Lucie and Sebastian Inlets. Their cargo of gold, silver, jewelry and other artifacts were lost in the wreck, waiting for discovery centuries later. Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of the treasures that have been recovered!

Jumping forward a couple of centuries, the Vero Beach Historical Society is housed in a restored 1903 train station.  The Historical Society dedicates itself to the restoration and preservation of historic sites and is a great starting point for a tour of the area.  Nearby, the Heritage Center/Citrus Museum is housed in the original Community Building circa 1935. Saved from demolition in 1991, The Vero Beach Heritage Center still serves as a community meeting place for both public and private events. The Vero Beach Citrus Museum has fascinating displays featuring photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia of the pioneers of the local citrus industry.

Built in 1918, the Hallstrom House located in Vero Beach is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Originally a  pineapple plantation circa 1909, this museum was bequeathed to the Historical by Ruth Hallstrom. The farmhouse is a fascinating look back at a bygone era. Another local historic place of note is the Laura Riding Jackson House. The Florida Cracker home of this acclaimed poet is being faithfully restored and made available for public viewing.

The First National Wildlife Refuge

Next on your tour, head north on the Jungle Trail Greenway and enjoy a scenic drive along the Indian River. Constructed in the 1920s, it was the first county road on the island. Sebastian is the proud home of the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt to protect pelicans and other avian species, this sanctuary became known as Pelican Island by signing an order making it the first Wildlife Refuge in the country.

Historic Fellsmere

Fellsmere may be a small town, but you’ll find it’s packed with historical landmarks waiting to discovered. It’s a city of firsts – first city south of the Mason-Dixon line after the reconstruction to allow women the vote as well as having the first library, the Marian Fell Library, which you can still visit today. The first public school, railroad depot and hotel were also built in Fellsmere.

These are just a few of the historic local landmarks that Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian have awaiting your exploration. We’d love to show you why we’re considered the jewel of the Treasure Coast!

 

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Indian River County's Rich Local History

There's so much more to Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian than just our beautiful beaches and small-town charm. While you're visiting, make sure to carve out some time to explore the rich history of our area.

The Treasure Coast

Check out the McLarty Museum in Sebastian and immerse yourself in the story of how the Treasure Coast got its name. In 1715, a fleet of twelve ships set out from Havana loaded with Spanish treasure, but a hurricane drove them into the coast of Florida between St. Lucie and Sebastian Inlets. Their cargo of gold, silver, jewelry and other artifacts were lost in the wreck, waiting for discovery centuries later. Don't miss this opportunity to see some of the treasures that have been recovered! Jumping forward a couple of centuries, the Vero Beach Historical Society is housed in a restored 1903 train station.  The Historical Society dedicates itself to the restoration and preservation of historic sites and is a great starting point for a tour of the area.  Nearby, the Heritage Center/Citrus Museum is housed in the original Community Building circa 1935. Saved from demolition in 1991, The Vero Beach Heritage Center still serves as a community meeting place for both public and private events. The Vero Beach Citrus Museum has fascinating displays featuring photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia of the pioneers of the local citrus industry. Built in 1918, the Hallstrom House located in Vero Beach is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Originally a  pineapple plantation circa 1909, this museum was bequeathed to the Historical by Ruth Hallstrom. The farmhouse is a fascinating look back at a bygone era. Another local historic place of note is the Laura Riding Jackson House. The Florida Cracker home of this acclaimed poet is being faithfully restored and made available for public viewing.

The First National Wildlife Refuge

Next on your tour, head north on the Jungle Trail Greenway and enjoy a scenic drive along the Indian River. Constructed in the 1920s, it was the first county road on the island. Sebastian is the proud home of the nation's first National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt to protect pelicans and other avian species, this sanctuary became known as Pelican Island by signing an order making it the first Wildlife Refuge in the country.

Historic Fellsmere

Fellsmere may be a small town, but you'll find it's packed with historical landmarks waiting to discovered. It's a city of firsts - first city south of the Mason-Dixon line after the reconstruction to allow women the vote as well as having the first library, the Marian Fell Library, which you can still visit today. The first public school, railroad depot and hotel were also built in Fellsmere. These are just a few of the historic local landmarks that Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian have awaiting your exploration. We'd love to show you why we're considered the jewel of the Treasure Coast!  

Bethel Creek House of Refuge

The first house of refuge was completed on February 28, 1876, built by the United States Life-Saving Service. This house was to provide a safe haven for those shipwrecked along the then desolate coast of Florida. During World War II, the Coast Guard took over the station and built a 40 foot observation tower to watch for submarines.
 Marker located at Jaycee Beach Park , Vero Beach , FL32963

Birthplace For Equal Suffrage For Women in Florida

“The population of Fellsmere is of a high type of intelligence, with lofty ideals and wise execution. Progressive in all things, perhaps no better indication of the fact may be given than the unanimous vote of the town granting unrestricted suffrage to women.” Fellsmere Tribune, March 8, 1916. In the June 19, 1915 city election, Mrs. Zena M. Dreier was the first woman to cast a ballot in Fellsmere, in all of Florida, and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The town residents took much pride in this unique woman’s right, and urged neighboring municipalities to follow the ‘Fellsmere Way’ to equal suffrage. In 1919, a U.S. Constitutional amendment granted suffrage to women. But history will note that Fellsmere led the way.
 Broadway Street , Fellsmere , FL32948

Breconshire Marker

The Breconshire was an iron steamship that was built in 1883. On the night of April 29th, it ran aground in 20 feet of water due to faulty navigational charts. The Coast Guard, responding to the call of distress, attempted to tow the steamer off the reef, but the Breconshire began taking on water. On April 30th, the order was issued to abandon ship. No lives were lost, and at low tide, the boiler of the ship is still visible from Humiston Park.
 Marker is located at the North end of the Boardwalk of Humiston Park , Vero Beach , FL32963

Captain Forster Hammock Preserve

A 110-acre preserve, which contains one of the largest remaining maritime hammocks on Orchid Island and was home to Captain Frank Forster. Forester was one of the first Orchid Island residents, he established a post office, which he called Orchid and became the first postmaster in 1887. A one-room school, the Orchid School, was located on his homestead.  
 Parking is located one mile south of County Road 510 on Jungle Trail , Wabasso , FL

City of Fellsmere Historical Marker

The Fellsmere marker inscription reads: Fellsmere is a dramatic account of floods, land "Booms" and land "Busts". Named for E. Nelson Fell, Fellsmere was first incorporated in 1911, as part of St. Lucie County. The Fellsmere Farms Land Development company promoted the area's rich soils and natural resources. By 1915, Fellsmere had a railroad, an electric company, two hotels and women could vote...a first in Florida. Overwhelmed by torrential rains and the great depression, Fellsmere struggled until the sugar cane fields brought prosperity. These cane fields are gone, but the rich soils and natural resources of the marshes still remain.
 Located at S. Carolina Ave & Community Rd. , Fellsmere , FL32948

Fellsmere Historic Church

Early members of the Methodist Episcopal Church held their early services in a tent and occupied the pulpit in the Union Church on the first Sunday of each month. They reorganized in 1922 and then built this sanctuary out of lumber from a recently demolished apartment house. It was completed and dedicated in April of 1924.
 39 N. Broadway St , Fellsmere , FL 32948

Hallstrom House

Built in 1918, the museum is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The farmhouse documents and demonstrates a bygone way of life in southern Indian River County. Collections include artifacts, photographs, furniture, and memorabilia.
 1723 SW Old Dixie Hwy , Vero Beach , FL32960

Historic Dodgertown

Founded in 1948, Dodgertown occupied a former Naval Air Base in establishing a permanent Spring Training home for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Creating an environment where both minor and major league players could live and train was a key component, especially as pioneer Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in becoming the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.
 3901 26th St , Vero Beach , FL32960

Historic Fellsmere School

The Fellsmere Public School, the first masonry school building in what is now Indian River County, was constructed during 1915 and 1916 at 22 South Orange Street. The 22,680 square foot, two-story school with a raised basement was designated by Frederick Homer Trimble, a former Methodist missionary architect who had worked in Fuzhou, China. Trimble, who began his architectural career in the United State in 1915 with the Fellsmere School, designed several building in Fellsmere and Vero Beach, and over 150 buildings in South Florida. Trimble also designed the first buildings at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The school was refurbished and now houses the City of Fellsmere offices.
 22 S. Orange St , Fellsmere , FL32948

Historic Jungle Trail

Listed on the Register of Historic Places and located off of CR 510 on orchid island is a dandy road that was built in the 1920's for the citrus growers. Today, the trail passes through palm tree hammocks and coastal wetland areas as well as gated communities.
 off of CR 510 on Orchid Island , Wabasso , FL

Historical Society & Train Station

Built in 1903, the train station houses the Indian River County Historical Society dedicated to the restoration and preservation of historic sites in Indian River County.
 2336 14th Ave , Vero Beach , FL32960

Indian River Citrus Museum

Visit the Indian River Citrus Museum to discover how citrus seeds made their way to Florida and the story of how area pioneers established the most famous citrus fruit in the world! You're sure to enjoy all the artifacts, photographs, memorabilia and crate labels.
 2140 14th Ave , Vero Beach , FL32960

Laura Riding Jackson House

Laura Riding Jackson, widely noted avant-garde poet of the 1920s and 1930s, settled in Indian River County in the latter part of her life in a “cracker” style house built around 1910.  The home is an example of a disappearing architectural style and a symbol of an older, more environmentally sensitive way of life.
 255 Live Oak Dr , Vero Beach , FL32963

Marian Fell Library

The daughter of a founding father of Fellsmere, Marian Fell, pursued a literary career and by 1914 was publishing her translations of the works of Russian authors. The proceeds of the sale of her work funded the establishment of the Fellsmere Library which was dedicated in 1915. Although a small structure, the library flourished under the guidance of the Fellsmere Library Association and the many volunteers which operated the facility. The library remains in operation today, on a limited basis, run by volunteers, much like when the building was first opened.
 63 N. Cypress St , Fellsmere , FL32948

McKee Botanical Garden

Prior to the development of I-95 in the 70's, McKee was the largest natural attraction in Florida. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, McKee Botanical Garden is an 18-acre tropical garden supporting a dense and diverse botanical collection as well as several restored architectural treasures. Over 100 varieties of water lilies grow in the Garden each year!
 350 US Hwy 1 , Vero Beach , FL32962

McLarty Treasure Museum

On display are coins, weapons, and tools salvaged from the fleet of Spanish treasure ships that sank here in the 1715 storm, leaving some 1,500 survivors struggling to shore between Sebastian and Fort Pierce. The museum sits on the site of the survivors' camp.
 13180 N. Hwy A1A , Vero Beach , FL32963

Mel Fisher Museum

Visit the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum and dive into history. The experience is both educational and exciting - you can even lift an authentic Atocha gold bar! Join the millions who have witnessed this spectacular collection of cultural artifacts and treasure recovered from the ocean depths.
 1322 US Hwy 1 , Sebastian , FL32958

Moore’s Point

Marker Inscription reads: This point of land at the junction of the St. Sebastian River and the Indian River was once settles by aboriginal people, the Ais. Pottery shards and ancient shells can still be found along the shore. In 1889, L.C. Moore built the Ercildoune Hotel on the hill. President Grover Cleveland stayed there while hunting and fishing with Frank Forster and Paul Kroegel and his guides. Across US #1 is the public road, Dixie Highway, established on April 4, 1910. This led to the old wooden bridge, built in 1909, replacing the earlier ferry. The Ashley Gang was killed on the south end of this bridge in 1924.
 Marker is in the wayside park at the intersection of US Hwy 1 and north Indian River Drive, as you travel north it is on the east side , Sebastian , FL32958

Navy Seal Museum

The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to preserving the history of the Navy SEALs and their predecessors, including the Underwater Demolition Teams, Naval Combat Demolition Units, Office of Strategic Services Maritime Units and Amphibious Scouts and Raiders.
 3300 N. Hwy A1A , Fort Pierce , FL34949

Old Vero Man Site

Vero man refers to a set of fossilized human bones found in Vero Beach in 1915 and 1916. The human bones were found in association with those of Pleistocene animals. Recent studies show that the Vero human bones are from the Pleistocene, and are the largest collection of human remains from the Pleistocene found in North America. In 2014, excavation began in partnership with Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute. Tours are available at the excavation site.

 P.O. Box 351 , Vero Beach , FL32961

Paul Kroegel Statue

Located in Riverview Park is a bronze statue in honoring Paul Kroegel, the first warden and first refuge manager of Pelican Island, looking out at the Indian River Lagoon and smoking his pipe.
 Riverview Park on Indian River Dr , Sebastian , FL32958

Sebastian Area Historical Museum

Located in the 1927 Historic Sebastian Public School and displays local area history exhibits.
 1235 Main St , Sebastian , FL32958

Sebastian Fishing Museum

Located on the south side of the Sebastian Inlet. The museum tells the interwoven history of the area's first settlers and the fishing industry. Inside you will find a replica of an original fish house and dock. A homemade fishing boat, nets, fishing gear, and photos of fishing in the lagoon also.
 9700 S. Hwy A1A , Melbourne Beach , FL32951

Sebastian Working Waterfront

Dedicated to the Sembler, Smith, and Judah families who pioneered commercial fishing in the Indian River Lagoon in the early 1900's.

Veteran’s Memorial Island Sanctuary

Lest We Forget are the words used in the dedication of this island on May 3, 1964. One man and hundreds of citizens in Indian River County did not forget and 17 years later created Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary. Today the Stars and Stripes wave proudly over this Island Sanctuary.  
 350 Dahlia Ln , Vero Beach , FL32963