Vero Beach was primarily the home of citrus groves for years. One of our first residents of note was a gentleman by the name of Henry T. Gifford. The Historic Vero Beach Site says”In 1887, he built a house which is now located near present-day City Hall. He operated a citrus grove business and established Vero’s first mercantile store which also operated as a post office, express office and railroad ticket office. The story of how “Vero” got its name is often attributed to his wife Sarah who suggested the settlement be named for its Latin meaning, “to speak the truth”.
After Henry Flagler built the railroad tracks through Florida and made access to Vero easier and more convenient the city began to flourish. Because of the new trains running through the city, g local growers with a faster way to get their goods to market and more people were attracted to Vero Beach. There are several special things about the history of Vero Beach, besides the Treasures to be found, and Dodger Town. For me, the part of our history I find the most fascinating is when a mid west farm equipment salesman came to town. His name was Waldo Sexton.
Waldo Sexton was a visionary, and builder and he followed his own muse. If you head over to Ocean Drive you can see some examples of his vision and design skills. Waldo loved to collect things and as you walk through the Driftwood Inn parking lot, don’t rush. Take a moment and really look at the Inn and the Waldo’s Restaurant.
There are bells everywhere, because he loved them. Some of the balustrades on the hotel are quite whimsical and history says that Waldo would hire carpenters and tradesmen to build his vision and they would work day and night. Often his buildings were designed on the fly, without plans and building department approvals. It’s amazing to all of us here that with all the hits that other buildings take from hurricanes, his are still standing.
It’s a must see and experience to have dinner at his Ocean Grill. The restaurant literally hangs out over the ocean, and much of the interior is filled with things he had installed years ago. It’s a little slice of the early years here in Florida.
He and His partner Arthur G.Mckee also built what was then known as the McKee Jungle Gardens on 80 acres in Vero Beach. At the time they ran it there were monkeys and other exotic animals. It went into decline in the mid 1970’s, but it has been brought back, although the McKee gardens of today is much smaller than it once was, but no less magical.
One entire building is filled with a train exhibit. If you have children, it’s a great excuse to go see the model trains, but if you don’t have children or Grandchildren to bring, that’s okay, go look for yourself, you will love it.
Take a quick look here:
Vero Beach, Indian River County