A Day in Fort Pierce, Florida

Exploring Florida…The Treasure Coast

Sunday, May 23, 2021

On the Road again

Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway

We’re the best of friends

Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And our way

Is on the road again

Oh yeah, that Willie Nelson song just keeps running through our heads!!!  On this trip, we met up with friends and totally enjoyed their company while exploring, doing a little geocaching, sampling new restaurants, and downing a brew or two along the way!!!  And Fort Pierce provided us with a lot to see and do on our last exploration of this Road Trip!!!

So, what are the highlights???

Well, let’s start with the downtown area and let the photos tell the story: 

Fort Pierce is a good-looking city. The architecture is attractive and interesting.
It looks stately and substantial.
It can be seriously “all-business”…..
…..or totally whimsical!!! Isn’t this totally cool for a steakhouse!!!
It seems every Florida City has a downtown theater. Fort Pierce is no exception. The Sunrise Theater opened in 1923 as a movie palace. For 60 years, it showed films. Then closed when its popularity waned. In 2006, it re-opened as a performing arts center.
The Boston House (aka Cresthaven) was built by William T. Jones, a friend of Henry Flagler, in 1909. It’s known for the unique mixture of Neo-classical and Georgian architecture. And there’s a ghost in residence, also!!!
Of course, the view from Boston House is quite nice, too!!!
And then there’s the Sailfish Brewing Company—conveniently located in the downtown area, right next to 2nd Street Bistro…..
…..where Roger sampled the Sunrise City IPA!!!
For over 140 years this building has stood on the bank of the Indian River, a trading post at first but then an oyster cannery. When the cannery left the area, Peter Cobb bought the building and re-instated the mercantile.
This is a depiction of Cobb’s Dock painted in 1960 by A. E. Backus. That building on the left is the P.P. Cobb Trading Company, the very first store in Fort Pierce. It opened in 1882!!!
A.E. Backus was born in Fort Pierce on 1906. Mostly a self-taught artist, he did atend the Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1924-1925. His paintings are mostly of the Florida landscape, flora, sunsets, and everglades.

So, why is A.E. Backus important???  And who are the Highwaymen???

Ah, this is the fun stuff!!! 

A.E. Backus was born in Fort Pierce in 1906.  He spent his life here, leaving to attend the Parsons School of Design and to serve in WWII aboard the USS Hermitage.  He taught himself to paint and then taught others.  Backus’ protegees are referred to as “The Indian River School” of artists.  They are like the “Hudson River School” of the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains of the mid-19th century, although less itinerant.   Alfred Hair, one of the driving forces behind the loosely allied group of 26 African-American artists known as the Florida Highwaymen, was a student.  The Florida Highwaymen would sell their paintings from their cars up and down the Treasure Coast along highway US 1.  The 25 men and 1 woman of the Highwaymen lived and worked in Fort Pierce.  Many are buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery. 

The Highwaymen are acknowledged and honored along “The Highwaymen Heritage Trail.”  Consisting of 10 stops, the trail tells the story of the Indian River School art movement and the fascinating people who created it.  The Highwaymen have been called “The Last Great American Art Movement of the 20th Century.”

Painting by A.E. Backus ( public domain)
The Highwaymen Trail Obelisk features mosaic duplicates of Highwaymen paintings and was created by noted Florida artist Stephanie Jaffe Werner.
West wall of the Intermodal Transit Station features 26 engraved plaques with the name of each artist mounted on a huge mosaic of the colorful Royal Poinciana Tree painted by many of the Highwaymen in their landscape scenes.
Pine Grove Cemetery where many of the Highwaymen are buried.
Several of their gravesites are artistically decorated.

This post is getting long; and yet, there is so much more to explore in Fort Pierce:

Night Train, the downtown tribute to Henry Flagler and the Florida East Coast Railway created by Blue Sky in 1995 to commemorate the Fort Pierce stopover that began in 1911.
The stately Royal Poinciana at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.
The Tuckahoe Mansion, built in 1938 by Willaford Ransom Leach and his Coca-Cola heiress wife Anne Winship (Bates) Leach. They sold it and moved to Palm Beach in 1950. Today, it is an events venue and sits in the grounds of Indian Riverside Park.
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Discovery Center is part of a non-profit research and education institute that focuses on biological oceanography and features interactive exhibits and live marine creatures (manatees!!!) (Ebyabe,creative commons 3.0)
National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum (aka Navy SEAL Museum) is dedicated to the mission of Navy SEALS. Fort Pierce was the first training location. Today, this facility is both a museum and a memorial. (Ebyabe, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

We really enjoyed our time in Fort Pierce and will plan to return.  Maybe for the Highwaymen Heritage Trail Art show and Festival next year.  Hey, you never know!!!

I just can’t wait to get on the road again

The life I love is makin’ music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again

4 thoughts on “A Day in Fort Pierce, Florida”

  1. I love all those palm trees and the architecture in Florida!
    Are you thinking of Alaska this summer? There won’t be sailings from Vancouver or we would be thinking about it very seriously.

    Happy Memorial Day down there. We have Victoria Day and it has been a really nice long weekend so far.


    1. So glad you’ve enjoyed the Florida Road Trips!!! Our next blog will reflect Daytona Beach on the Fun Coast and the auto racing history in Florida!!! Have a wonderful Victoria Day holiday!!!


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