Stuart Moving Forward in the 1950s and Beyond
Stuart last had a major hurricane strike in 1933, then in 1947 a hurricane hit Stuart. That would just be a ‘warm-up’ to the very destructive hurricane in 1949 striking Stuart. Many roofs and walls of businesses and homes that had held together during the previous storms were ripped off and destroyed.
New buildings are constructed in the 1940s between Flagler Avenue and Osceola Street such as the one-story Pressell Building, the two-story Arthur Dehon Building and at the corner of Osceola Street and Colorado Avenue was the one-story Theodore Building.
On March 1, 1946, U. S. mail delivery, with just one delivery postman, was initiated for a select number of businesses and residential neighborhoods in Stuart.
Stuart High School was renamed Martin County High School in 1949.
News and communication improved with Stuart’s own local radio station, WSTU (1450 AM) established by Les and Mary Combs beginning on the air on December 9, 1954. For decades the station was located north of the Roosevelt Bridge and in recent years moved south of the river to the corner of Albany Avenue and 3rd Street.
On August 12, 1950, the newest car dealership, with its modern design, opened, King Pontiac faced the two-story Dehon Building on Colorado Avenue.
In the 1950 census, the city’s population was 2,892 citizens. In the beginnings of the 1950s, the newest area of business development was south of the railroad tracks along Colorado Avenue.
A new one-story Stuart Dept. Store opened in October 1954 on the corner of Flagler and St. Lucie Avenues.
The Johns Funeral Home, a long-time established family business since the 1910s was located on First Street. By 1958 a new funeral home is constructed near the corner of U. S. 1 and along Kanner Hwy. by R. Cecil Johns.
MCHS has its largest graduating class in 1957 when 70 seniors received their diplomas at ceremonies held at the 4th Street Bandshell.
A new public county library was constructed on East Ocean Blvd in 1957. The Stuart Woman’s Club built their new clubhouse adjacent to the library in November 1958. The larger facility featured a 40 by 80 ft. auditorium with a seating capacity of 500.
City Hall and its offices moved in 1955 from the corner of Osceola Street and St. Lucie Avenue into the former two-story Kitching-Eckess Dept. Store building facing Flagler Avenue.
Stuart was officially proclaimed in 1957 by the state of Florida, the ‘Sailfish Capital of the World’, which had already been acknowledged by fisherman since the 1930s.
Bridges to the ocean opened in January 1958, one connecting Stuart with Sewall’s Point and then one across the Indian River to Hutchinson Island. What had been known as Fourth Street was renamed East Ocean Blvd. by 1964.
Citizens Bank at the corner of Colorado Avenue and Osceola Street was renamed First National Bank of Stuart in September 1958 and still operated by the Hudson family. In September 1961 the bank moved to the newly built structure at the corner of U. S. 1 and Colorado Avenue. The bank name changed later to Seacoast National Bank with the Hudson family operating the bank.
A major fire engulfs and destroys the vintage Commodore Hotel along Flagler Avenue (formerly the 1926 Peacock Arcade, Victory Hotel, Toric Hotel, and Tropic Hotel). Two residents of the hotel died in the blaze.
Southern Bell operated on the first floor of Woodmen Hall with its crew of female switchboard operators since the early 1920s. In 1959 Southern Bell established a dial-up phone system (no use for switchboard operators) and moved into the recently constructed building across from Woodmen Hall at Akron Avenue and 2nd and 3rd Street.
Stuart’s Post Office had been housed in the 1925 Post Office Arcade on Osceola Street. It had over 300 locked boxes which could be accessed 24 hours a day because they were along the arcade walls, the only Florida town in 1925 which had such a feature. A new post office building was constructed on West 7th Street (later known as Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) with over 7,000 square feet in size and the most modern equipment for handling the mail. The official dedication was on Saturday, April 25, 1959.
In 1964, the 1934 Roosevelt Bridge was widened with the addition of a second traffic span, which also meant the widening of the U. S. 1 roadway. Several businesses along U. S. 1 were destroyed because of the widening.
High School classes moved to their new school building along Kanner Hwy in February 1964 and the former Stuart School building on East Ocean Blvd. became the school board’s administration offices (Instructional Center).
The former 1925 Browning Motor Building at the corner of Flagler Avenue and East Ocean Blvd, later served as the A&P Grocery Store, become the Martin County Courthouse Annex in 1966. By June 1967 to provide needed space for governmental offices, a new two-story county courthouse addition was constructed between the Annex and the main courthouse.
In 1967 the Stuart News, with its offices across from the courthouse on East Ocean Blvd, goes from a once a week newspaper to twice a week paper, on Thursday and Sunday. By October 1976 the Stuart News was producing a newspaper six days a week and in April 1984 it was seven days a week.
The Stuart passenger train depot at the corner of St. Lucie and Flagler Avenues, built in 1913, was torn down in December 1969, because there had been no passenger rail service to Stuart since the mid-1960s.
The newest Stuart Post Office facility was built at the northwest corner of Johnson and Kindred Avenues with 12,000 square feet of working space along with parking spaces for 30 cars. It had 1757 key operated mailboxes of various sizes. It opened to the public on May 30, 1972 and the former one on West 7th Street closed.
In 1974 a new two-story Stuart City Hall and offices were constructed with a great view of the St. Lucie River. Its former location of the vintage Kitching-Eckess store was demolished and the space used as city hall parking. The Stuart police and fire departments moved into the former Rand Research building on East 7th Street.
Capt. Frances Adams, Stuart’s most patriotic citizen, was honored on his 100th birthday in 1974, with a small park and plaque, located by Confusion Corner, which was named for him.
Stuart’s coldest below freezing record day was January 19, 1977, when a light snowfall covered the city.
In 1984 the Stuart Dept. Store closed permanently. The structure would eventually become the city hall annex building.
A major fire on March 30, 1986 destroyed the original 1912 Stuart Bank Building at the corner St. Lucie Avenue and Osceola Street. With the original blueprints in hand, the building was reconstructed.
Stuart Main Street was organized in mid-1987, one of the first in the state of Florida. Downtown Stuart begins its major facelift and revitalization in the 1980s as Peter and Joan Jefferson, along with Anne and William MacMillan acquire and move into the Post Office Arcade building on Osceola Street.
Stuart’s ‘Dancing in the Streets’ event along Osceola Street had its debut in 1987.
In 1988, the City of Stuart purchased the former 1901 George W. Parks Store / Feed Store on Flagler Avenue. Over the next few years, volunteers for the Stuart Heritage Inc. formed to begin collecting and preserving Stuart artifacts. Enough were gather for the Stuart Heritage Museum to open up in 2002 in the vintage building.
The 1957 Stuart News Offices on East Ocean Blvd was destroyed by a fire in December 1992, after the newspaper had already moved in 1990 to new offices on U. S. 1. What remained of the former news offices were torn down in April 1993.
A portion of the former county courthouse was saved between 1989 and 1990, restored and re-purposed as the Court House Cultural Center to support the arts.
The landmark Confusion Corner was reconfigured in May 1992.
During September 1993 the vintage Babcock / Flatiron Building along A1A (between 2nd and 3rd Street) was demolished due to the new Roosevelt Bridge construction.
A new high-rise Roosevelt Bridge across the St. Lucie River, costing $83 million, was dedicated in 1997 after 3 years of construction. There would be no need for bridge openings and closings, auto traffic could travel across the bridge at any time. The 1934 span of the older Roosevelt Bridge was taken down, leaving the 1964 newer span in place.
Work began in 1998 to replace bridges from Stuart to Sewall’s Point and then Hutchinson Island, making the new ones four lanes with a 65-ft clearance for boats. The first completed in 2001 was the Evans Crary Bridge and by 2004 the Ernie Lyons Bridge was finished.
A newer and larger $7 million public library, named the Blake Library, opened in 1999 along Monterey Road and near East Ocean Blvd.
Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne came crossed right over Stuart in September 2004, two weeks apart causing severe damage to businesses and homes. The Stuart Police and Fire departments were so damaged from the hurricanes, a special bond issue was approved to construct all new buildings on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. for both departments.
In October 2005 another hurricane, named Wilma, strikes Stuart causing additional damaged to places. Massive toxic blooms started appearing in the St. Lucie River. Additional toxic algae blooms appeared in the rivers the summers of 2013 and 2016, causing hardship to businesses dependent on the rivers.
The book ‘Stuart’ is sold at the Stuart Heritage Museum.
Its web site is: http://stuartheritagemuseum.com/
Then books can be ordered from Arcadia Publishing at:
and Barnes and Noble (online and at the Jensen Beach store):
Alice L. Luckhardt can do family tree (genealogical) research. To learn more about your ancestors she can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org