History of Vero Beach, Florida

The modern history of Vero Beach, Florida begins with its establishment as a citrus shipping point.  

Henry T. Gifford established the first post office in the area in 1891 and used the name Vero.  Most historians think he named it after his wife, Vero.  The Beach was added to her name in later years.

The city straddles the Indian River Lagoon, home of the famous Indian River citrus.  Early transportation and commerce relied on the Indian River steamboat system.  Citrus was packed in Vero Beach Florida and shipped via the Indian River to Jacksonville and from there to northern ports.

The portion of the Indian River in Vero Beach, between the mainland and the barrier island to the east on the ocean, is known as "The Narrows".

The Narrows Vero BeachThe Narrows At Vero Beach

The history of Vero Beach changed dramatically when Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad made it to Vero in 1893 on its push down the east coast and began the modern era of Vero Beach Florida. Shortly after that developers began to drain the marshy land west of town and created thousands of acres of citrus groves.

Foremost among these developers was Herman Zeuch (prounounced Zigh as in sigh), originally from Iowa. Sometime about 1911 he purchased 48,000 acres for citrus operations. In 1912 he formed the Indian River Farms Company, and hired William Kimball, a civil engineer, and his assistant, Colonel R. D. Carter to design the improvements.

The Zeuch, Kimball and Carter families are still represented today in Vero Beach Florida.

These early pioneers foresaw the growth of their little village, and laid it out with wide streets that are now lined with beautiful coconut, royal and date palms. They changed the name from Vero to Vero Beach Florida.

In 1916 early skeletal remains were found along Van Valkenberg's Creek which were believed to be prehistoric and named "Vero Man".The discovery created an international controversy over whether it provided the first evidence that human beings had inhabited the 'new world' prior to the end of the Wisconsin glaciation around 10,000 BC.

Experts could never reach an agreement and the remains were eventually lost just prior to the invention of Carbon-14 dating in 1947. We may never know who lost the bones and how old they were.

Vintage Postcard: McKee Jungle Gardens

In 1931, Ohio industrialist Arthur McKee, who loved the study of tropical plants, opened McKee Jungle Gardens. This became a very popular tourist attraction until recent years when part of it was sold for a residential development.

No history of Vero Beach would be complete without mentioning Waldo Sexton, a local character and beachcomber, who built his Driftwood Inn out of driftwood and other material he picked up off the beach.

The Driftwood Inn still stands today in Vero Beach Florida. It is now a popular tourist destination known as The Driftwood Resort with a good bar and restaurant and plenty of charming time share rooms.

Vero Beach was also famous as the location of Dodgertown, where the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team held their spring training camp from 1948 until 2008.

It was a sad day for Vero Beach and surrounding towns when the Dodgers moved to a new facility in Glendale, Arizona. The stadium was also the home to the minor league Vero Beach Devil Rays.

More bad news came to Vero Beach in August 2008 when the Rays franchise was sold to the Ripken Baseball Group and it was learned the team would not return to Vero Beach for the 2009 season.

Piper Aircraft Inc. has been building Piper airplanes in Vero Beach since 1957 in a plant at the municipal airport. Piper is the largest private employer in Indian River County and is prominent in the history of Vero Beach.

North of Vero Beach on the barrier island near Wabasso is Disney's Vero Beach Resort.  It is directly on the ocean and offers Disney's guest visiting Florida an authentic beach experience.

A link to local history is the following article:  The Old Wabasso Swing Bridge Finds a New Home at Walt Disney World.


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