A Day in Stuart, Florida (with a quick look at White City)

Exploring Florida…The Treasure Coast

Sunday, May 16, 2021

“Goin’ places that I’ve never been; seein’ things that I may never see again.”

Those lyrics from Willie Nelson’s hit song, “On the Road Again” are totally appropriate for our stop in White City, Florida.  We had never been there; and it’s doubtful we’ll ever return.  BUT, we certainly do not regret the time we spent there. 

Here’s the story:

Louis Pio, a Danish gentleman living in Chicago, ran the Florida Exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  That’s where he met the industrialist-developer-railroad builder, Henry Flagler, who was sponsoring the exhibit.  Flagler convinced Pio to come to Florida and promote a new town along the route of Flagler’s railroad.  And sure enough, eventually a group of settlers rowed up the north fork of the St. Lucie River and founded the community.  The new railroad town was established.  The settlers purchased their land from Flagler. And Pio, the point man, named it White City after the main exposition of the World’s Fair.  He also named the main street Midway Road in honor of the exposition’s main artery.  Interestingly, the World’s fair influenced many small communities and towns all over America.  The resulting beautification efforts, referred to as the “City Beautiful Movement”, became a trend!!!  Unfortunately, White City ran into financial troubles when a local banker absconded with everyone’s savings!!!  And then a terrible freeze in 1894 destroyed the crops!  Many residents left, and the city nearly became a ghost town!!!  But the railroad stepped in with aid and assistance.  New immigrants arrived.  New crops grew.  The trains hauled fruit north.  The city survived.  Here are today’s photos: 

The White City Mercantile dates back to the very beginnings of the town.
This was one of the earliest buildings to go up on Midway Road.
Its’ hard to tell which buildings are original.
Some look vintage…..
…..some look classic….
…..some look official…..
…..and some look relatively new!!!

 Now, let’s take a look at Stuart, Florida!!!

The area was originally called Potsdam.  It was so designated by Otto Stypmann, the postmaster of the settlement and a local landowner originally from Potsdam, Germany.  Otto and his brother Ernest owned the original tract of land that would eventually become downtown Stuart.

In 1893, Henry Flagler purchased the right-of -way across Ernest Stypmann’s pineapple field for his Florida East Coast Railway.  But the railroad station was built on land owned by Homer Hine Stuart, Jr.  And so, the town’s name was changed to Stuart in 1895!!!

As we all look forward to coming out of this awful Covid 19 Pandemic, it is interesting to note the Woodmen Hall in Stuart.  Built in 1913, it was designed for commercial use but with the upper floor reserved as a meeting room for “Woodmen of the World, Pineapple Camp No. 150” (along with other community groups.)  During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, that upper floor was turned into a temporary hospital.  The building, which appears to be recently renovated, remains in use today as an insurance company.

Strolling through the downtown area is pleasant.  The old Lyric Theatre is undergoing major renovation and will be beautiful when completed.  There are several charming outdoor cafes.  Many interesting shops and boutiques.  And then at the end of the road, right there on the St. Lucie River, over-looking the Roosevelt Bridge, and along the Riverside promenade, is the Stuart Boathouse Restaurant!!!  We found a new favorite!!!

After exploring White City, we crossed the St. Lucie River…..
…..and headed toward Stuart.
Stuart is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World!!! The sport fishing must be awesome!!!
Today, the downtown area is vibrant and bustling.
The shops and boutiques are enticing. Walking the downtown is pleasant.
Here you see the Lyric Theatre under renovation. That café in the forefront must be a great place to have a libation following a performance!!!
Built in 1926, the theater continues to entertain.
This will be wonderful when completed!!!
Can you imagine the pineapple field that once occupied this land???
Historic Woodmen Hall played a major role in the local history of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. A hospital was set-up on the upper level.
At the end of the road, along the St. Lucie River, we discovered a new favorite restaurant!!!
The Stuart Boathouse Restaurant
From our table on the patio, we enjoyed a view of the Roosevelt Bridge spanning the St. Lucie River.
The promenade is inviting.
The food is yummy!!!
The atmosphere is soothing!!!
We will look forward to a return visit!!!

So, is Stuart worth the visit???

Absolutely!!! Stuart is often listed in the Top Ten Seaside Towns in Florida.  Coastal Living Magazine called it “America’s Happiest Seaside Town”; Smithsonian Magazine called it “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town”; and the Roosevelt Bridge, spanning the St. Lucie River, was called one of the most “Spectacular Bridges Around the World” by Travel and Leisure Magazine. This is a charming community. 

Next, we’ll visit Ft. Pierce and the Highwaymen Heritage Trail.

Join us for the exploration!!!