Sunday, March 9, 2014

McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Florida - Part 5

I can't say enough how much we both enjoyed this garden, and loved walking around viewing all the amazing fauna.  

I got the following information off their website, click on this link if you want to read more.  There is also an exquisite photo that a lady called Karen took while at the garden.  You can see it here.  It is absolutely breathtaking.

"In 1922 the McKee-Sexton Land Company was established in Vero Beach, Florida.  This partnership purchased an 80-acre tropical hammock along the Indian River in 1929, and McKee Jungle Gardens was born."

(No, he's not real.  I thought I had better add that.)

"With the help of landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, now known as the pioneer of tropical landscape architecture, the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds and trails was designed.

"Native vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants and seeds from around the world as Arthur G. McKee and Waldo E. Sexton set about assembling one of the most outstanding collections of water lilies......"

"and orchids."

"By the 1940's more than 100,000 tourists were visiting McKee Jungle Gardens each year, making it one of Florida's most popular attractions."  

"In the early 1970's attendance dwindled due to competition from new, large-scale attractions and the garden was forced to close its doors in 1976."

"The land was sold and all but 18 acres were developed.  The remaining acreage, zoned for additional development, sat vacant for 20 years."

"In 1994 the Indian River Land Trust launched a fund-raising campaign and successfully purchased the property on December 1st, 1995 for $1.7 million."

"Close to $9.1 million was raised to purchase, stabilize and restore the Garden.  The Garden held its formal Dedication in November, 2001."

There is a beautiful building called the Hall of Giants and is the one remaining building from the old McKee Jungle Garden, a favorite tourist attraction from the 1920's to the 1970's.  

It is made out of cypress and heart pine logs and was originally built in 1940 to house the enormous table we found inside.

This is the largest one piece mahogany table in the world.  The single slab of Philippine wood measures 35 feet 10 inches long and is 5 inches thick.  Waldo Sexton first saw it in 1903 at the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition.  He purchased it nearly 20 years later when he found it in a basement of a New York City warehouse and had it shipped by boat to Vero Beach.

After the gardens closed in the 1970's, the table disappeared from the scene.....

but when the McKee Botanical Gardens opened in 2001, the table came out of storage and was again installed in the Hall of Giants.

It was here that was a popular gathering spot for community events, including football banquets, corporate annual meetings and Chamber of Commerce dinners.   

An interesting bit of trivia I learned that seems appropriate for this month, is that on each St. Patrick's Day in the 1950s, Dodgers President Walter O'Malley hosted Vero Beach's biggest spring party at the McKee Jungle Gardens.  The entertainment often came via the playing field: Hall of Fame Umpire Jocko Conlan sang high Irish tenor.  Maury Wills whom I read should have been in the Hall of Fame played banjo, and one year, first baseman and soon-to-be TV's Rifleman Chuck Connors, recited "Casey at the Bat."  My Dad loved to watch the Rifleman and we had no idea that he was previously a professional baseball player, also a basketball player.  Link here if you don't know who Chuck Connors is.  If you are much younger than me you might not.

So, it was with great pleasure that we explored this beautiful garden....

 and I hope if you find yourself in Vero Beach and you want to explore a dream of a tropical paradise.....

as many others do....

you'll turn into the entrance when you see the sign, just like we did.  

If you haven't had a chance to look at my other four posts, click on the links below to see them.  I will be using the title of the individual sculpture exhibits to identify and eventually will be adding to it as I show you more of the exhibit.

The Promenade - Part 1

Sailing the Seine - Part 2

A Thought to Consider - Part 3

The Eye of the Beholder - Part 4