History of Jensen Beach

Your footprints are the latest of many layers of history's residents in the sandy soil of Jensen Beach. The first prints arrived about 10,000 years ago, when the Ais Indians moved here to live by the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.

Historic Jensen Beach, gateway to Hutchinson Island South with 22 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches. History just over the Bridge...
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Jensen Beach shuts down main street for a art and craft show.

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They dug canoes out of tree trunks, and caught migrating whales in the ocean by jumping on their backs and pounding wooden plugs into their blowholes. They gathered berries and plants, hunted bear, deer and other game that abounded. By 1775, European settlers diseases led to the death of the tribe.

About 1565, Spaniards sailed down the Indian River, seeking shipwreck survivors and trying to convert the Indians. They built a fort, naming it St. Lucie. In 1811, the Spanish governor of Florida issued a land grant to James Hutchinson. The island was named Hutchinson Island. The growing tribe of Seminole Indians were ruining his crops and stealing his livestock on the mainland, so he moved to the island. It was no safer, as pirates raided Hutchinson's plantation, damaged his crops and stole his slaves. Hutchinson drowned later in a storm at sea.

Following three Seminole Indian Wars, settlers began homesteading land from Sewall's Point north to the Sebastian River in the 1840s. Crops spoiled, due to irregular transport by coastal schooner to northern markets. Fresh water from the St. Lucie River killed the saltwater fish grasses flourished and oyster beds died. In 1844, the homesteaders dug an inlet at Gilbert's Bar, a narrow neck of land at the St. Lucie River. The Indian River's salinity returned, and the fishing industry flourished.

Blockade runners and federal gunboats were active off the coast during the Civil War. A strong support for the Confederacy in St. Lucie Village led to the removal of the lights from the Jupiter and Cape Florida lighthouses, making navigation difficult for the Union gunboats.

In 1879, Capt. Thomas E. Richards established his homestead at Eden, planting pineapple slips on his plantation. The slips flourished, and the pineapple industry was born. John Laurence Jensen, an immigrant from Denmark, arrived in 1881, and set up his pineapple plantation, which became the town of Jensen.

Capt. Richards had the largest pineapple plantation on the Indian River. The fruit was packed in barrels and boxes at the packing house, loaded on riverboats, and transported to Titusville, the southern terminus of the FEC Railroad. By 1894, Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad reached Jensen Beach, and freight shipments were loaded directly on the freight cars.

By 1895, Jensen was called the "Pineapple Capital of the World," shipping over one million boxes of pineapples each year during the June and July season. A pineapple factory was established.

Pioneer R.R. Ricou and Sons operated fish houses all along the Indian Riverfront, shipping as many as 200 barrels of fish daily, plus carloads of bottom fish and mackerel. There was also an ice manufacturing plant in Jensen.

John Jensen built the large, three story hotel named the Al Fresco. In 1908, a disastrous fire destroyed most of the downtown area. In 1910, a second fire destroyed the Al Fresco.

In 1925, the Florida Legislature to created Martin County, named for the governor of Florida. Jensen Beach incorporated as a city, and a mile-long wooden bridge was built to give access to Hutchinson Island. The Great Depression destroyed the tax base, and town leaders did away with incorporation.

The famed Arch on Dixie Highway (SR 707) at Frances Langford Park welcomed visitors to Jensen Beach.

In the 1950s, the Town on Wheels, Ocean Breeze Park, was founded.

Come to visit, come to stay, and leave your footprints, and part of your heart in the sands of Jensen Beach, Florida.

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