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


  1. You've seen part of Florida where we've never been...I'ved added Vero Beach and the gardens to my 'must visit list'. Really enjoyed all the posts about it.

  2. my sis loves chuck c. :)

    can't go wrong with lily ponds and ferns. huge table! sure hope no one ruins it!

  3. Denise, I enjoyed strolling thru the garden with you! So many lovely plants, flowers and trees to see. I even love the cute lizard. The table is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your visit. Have a happy week ahead!

  4. It looks utterly fascinating. I particularly like the little lizard... and that table!

    Is that a real gator, or an ornament?

  5. Great! I love the photos from your visit there! So fascinating creatures and flowers and plants ....

  6. Fauna and flora - though I prefer the flora in these gardens. Beautiful, serene place...

  7. What a beautiful place to explore.

  8. it is a bit of a shame the table is only for decoration

  9. Denise, this is really terrific! I don't know what I liked most about it. The pictures are just awesome! It is hard for me to think of the place as a seems more like a jungle park. It is wonderful though and I hope it is never lost again.

    The old building is remarkable - I've never seen anything like it and the table - well, I have no words...

  10. I grew up a few miles north of Vero and visited McKee Jungle Gardens (as it was known then) quite often. I have visited it as an adult as well. It is magical and enchanting as so much of this area is.
    Thanks for the lovely report.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures and the history of this amazing botanical park.
    Loved the photo of the gecko...a little beauty.
    That black and white photo was so unusual. Black and white shows up so many different things that you often miss in coloured pics.
    I saw many wonderful botanical gardens when we were in New Zealand. Every town there seems to have one and they do them very well.
    We have one here in Perth but it is a tad different to many others I've seen.

  12. That was a great pictorial history lesson. Lovely place to visit; lucky you!

  13. Some superb pictures once again of a place I'm unlikely to ever get to in person. Thank you.

  14. your photos are simply STUNNING... what a wonderful place to visit. I love the fake gator.

  15. What a pleasure to tour this garden with you!

  16. The water lily photo looks like an impressionist painting and the alligator a touch Disney. What a fantastic area that seems like heaven on earth mixed with a little Neverland where Peter Pan hung out. Thank goodness it was restored. :)

  17. These have been lovely, and my desktop wallpaper this week will be your first shot with the palms reflected in the lily pool. Thanks for telling the history...I missed seeing this place when I lived in FL. Will have it on my list now!

  18. Wow! The garden is beautiful! If I ever make it to Vero Beach to visit my aunt, I will make certain that I go to this garden.

  19. I love when abandoned parcels of land can be restored and brought back to life. What a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing!

  20. I love your photos of critters, flowers, gardens, sculptures and especially that fantastic table.

  21. A knock-out visit to the Gardens with you Denise. Such an incredible place. I love your photos, and some of those views are nothing short of breathtaking.
    I loved knowing the background story of the renewals, returns and everything that has gone into making the Gardens what they are today. Well done and thank you :D)

  22. Wonderful post. I visited the garden in 1970 when I drove to Florida to visit my friend. Loved it then and from your photos it looks grand today!.

  23. My favorite is the orchid. I remember the rifleman well. We used to watch reruns after school.

  24. Thanks for the great tour of this lovely place.

  25. It would have been terrible for this beautiful garden to have been turned into a housing estate. Thank you for a lovely tour.

  26. A wonderful post, Denise. The information is very interesting and each one of the photos beautiful. I particularly liked the one of the palms reflected in the water, the waterlily one (like a Monet painting) and the little lizard in context and close-up. The native building and the table are both amazing. So glad the land was saved and restored for visitors to wander around and enjoy.

  27. what a GREAT post denise!! you guys look that a tri-pod shot??