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Stuart : Historic Downtown

Historic Downtown Stuart truly has something for everyone. This historic town is filled to the gills with antiques, clothing boutiques, and gift shops as well as terrific restaurants. Visitors can stroll the Riverwalk along the St.

Lucie river and a take self guided historic walking tour. Treasure hunters will find more than they bargain for in Caramba!, a store with museum quality North African art and Moroccan clothing . Or in Beadnecks, where African trade beads and glass beads from Italy will tempt even the staunchest shopper.

Flagler Avenue gifts & Treasures is a true trove of silver, glass, china, antiques, and jewelry. If decadent chocolate hits your fancy, Treats and More specializes in homemade fudge, truffles and every type of candy to satisfy your sweet tooth. Just down the street located in the historic Dehon Art Deco building you'll find Coffee and Sweets, a coffee lovers haven and a place in heaven for dessert lovers. After indulging yourself at Coffee and Sweets stop in at Happy Talk Art Garden which features a variety of interior plants and unique indoor/outdoor sculpture pieces.

You won't want to miss stopping in at the Post Office Arcade. This 1925 Spanish Mediterranean building located right in the heart of downtown, was once abandoned and vacant. After undergoing extensive restoration it is now home to over 12 distinct and unique shops which offer such items as hand-dipped candles, Haitian art, hand-rolled cigars, men's and ladies wear, fine silver and gold jewelry, American country crafts, silk flowers, antiques and collectibles.

As you are strolling through downtown, you may want to stop in at the Arcade Book Nook, where you can browse through their extensive selection of best sellers and then relax in the Secret Garden Cafe, an open air coffee house in a tropical garden setting.

If rare and out of print books is what you are looking for, The Collection has one of the largest inventories available on the Treasure Coast.

Downtown is certainly an eclectic collection of galleries, shops and eateries where you can view a Renoir while wearing blue jeans and sipping champagne, attend the opening of an exhibition of aquatic life forms done entirely in hand-blown glass, or participate in a local performance of an artists' visual display on the street. Afterward, downtown has a vibrant and exciting night life to offer with over 11 restaurants to choose from. Each restaurant offers nightly entertainment ranging from jazz to rock along with menu selections from authentic British fish and chips to exquisite gourmet.

Stuart History

The City of Stuart, originally named Potsdam , located on the St. Lucie and Indian Rivers has been known for its waterways and excellent sport fishing since it was first settled in the mid 1800's.

The Stuart of today has a lot to offer both the visitor and those wishing to relocate their residence to the area. With an excellent school system, both river and ocean access, quiet neighborhoods, low crime rate, thriving downtown entertainment and shopping district, and easy access to recreational facilities, Stuart truly is what our founding fathers envisioned so many years ago. A true paradise.

In spite of snakes, wild turkeys, Indians, bears, deer, masses of mosquitoes, millions of sand flies, no roads, no bridges, no schools, there was marvelous soil along beautiful waterways, stupendous fishing and the prospect of becoming an overnight millionaire citrus grower. Despite the hardships, founding families such as the Kitchings, Parks, Bessey, McPherson and Krueger among others persevered and succeeded in creating in what is now known as Stuart.

Early settlers were drawn to the area by the prospect of becoming rich with growing and shipping pineapples. The warm, moderate climate combined with the proper soil turned out to be perfect for the growing of this spiny fruit. Early growers where forced to ship the fruits of their labor by schooner and trade boats until Henry Flagler brought his Florida East Coast Railroad through Stuart sometime in 1894. Soon after the arrival of the railroad, Henry Flagler was besieged with complaints over the habit of the fun-loving conductors who called out loudly as the train approached the station "Pots-dam, Pots dam-pots," so the name was officially changed to Stuart.

When the first train of the Florida East Coast Railway rumbled across the wooden trestle that spanned the St. Lucie River May 1, 1894, the residents and business people, alike, realized that this was the dawn of a new era - that before them lay a new way of life.

By 1913, Stuart had grown from a little fishing and trading post into a thriving community of over seven hundred people with a twenty-five room hotel. Today, Stuart can boast of several first class hotels, a performing arts theatre with an abundance of performing and visual artists, an Arts Council, large Library system, School system and excellent recreational facilities.

Pineapples and fishing may not be the major areas of commerce today, as in the past, but Stuart has become an attractive area for those in the professional community to ply their trade. With Stuart being the County seat, and the home of one of Florida's finest Hospitals, it has become home to many doctors, lawyers, landscape architects and others, providing a vast variety of professional services.

Music had first come to Stuart as far back as 1882, when Dr. William Baker placed a massive piano in the family residence in Waveland. From then on, there were singing groups, music and glee clubs, the popular Mozart Club, church musical programs and of course musical events at the Lyric Theater. Today, the Lyric Theater continues this tradition with over 70 years of providing the local community with entertainment of every kind.

When early settler Walter Kitching first started his trading company in Stuart, it was from the deck of his schooner "Merchant." Soon after the arrival of Henry Flaglers railroad, Mr. Kitching opened his general store, which would be the first of many commercial businesses to line the streets of what is now known as Historic Downtown Stuart. Many of these original buildings continue to grace the streets of Stuart.

In the past, the word "Downtown" brought to mind an image of a bustling center of commerce and activity. The Montgomery Ward's catalogue appeared here in the early summer of 1894. Fresh meats, northern vegetables, and fruits that were not seen here before became staples. Ice was shipped in and with it came the first cold drinks ...birch beer, root beer and sarsaparillas. Medical and dental offices could be reached within three and one-half hours. Banking business could be completed in eleven hours. As time marched on, downtown Stuart became a center of commerce and social activities. But, like so many other downtowns across the county, Stuart's downtown realized a decline in activity and business in the early 1960's. By the early 1980's, downtown Stuart was no longer the hub of the community. With the rapid building of strip malls and regional malls in the area, business owners and customers deserted the downtown for these shiny new stores along US1 leaving behind a shadow of a once proud and vibrant downtown. The Post Office moved, along with the Fire Department, pharmacy and grocery store out of the downtown and the buildings were left vacant of activity.

In 1986, the local businessmen's association began looking into what could be done to bring life back to downtown. Working with the City government, they applied for designation as a Florida Main Street City. The Florida Main Street program, based in the Bureau of Historic Preservation in Tallahassee, is a self-help program in which the responsibility is placed on the many community leaders who offer their time, expertise and enthusiasm to revitalizing downtown. Stuart became a designated Florida Main Street in 1987 and has been very successful in turning the tide of deterioration in the downtown. Once again the downtown district is alive and thriving with small specialty shops, restaurants, theatre, professional offices and residential units. As part of an overall re-vitalization plan, volunteer planners along with City staff, developed an Urban Code district which has re-zoned the area allowing a variety of mixed uses, added architectural code regulations, relaxed parking requirements and encouraged small business owners to relocate into the downtown. A master plan was designed and implemented which put into place new infrastructure, sidewalks, street lights, landscaping and signage, thus creating a charming pedestrian friendly atmosphere. This same concept is now being applied throughout the city and Stuart has since become a model for other small cities to follow.

Local attractions & amusements:

  • 76 Golf World golf courses, 6801 SE Kanner Highway, Stuart, FL. Contact: 772-220-7676
  • Audubon Society nature center, 621 SE Palm Beach Rd., Stuart, FL provides treatment for orphaned or injured birds. Contact: 772-288-2637
  • B & A largest and oldest indoor/outdoor flea market; 2885 SE Federal Highway, Stuart, FL. Contact: 772-288-4915
  • Barn Theatre, 2400 SE Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL. Contact: 772-287-4884
  • City of Stuart Riverboat is at the city dock, right behind City Hall, Downtown Stuart, FL. Offers lunch & dinner buffet, Cruises on their 180-passenger cruise boat. Contact: 772-463-4000
  • Courthouse Cultural Center is at 80 SE Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL. It is a historic 1937 art-deco building is home to a fine gallery and the Arts Council, Inc.; including Sailfish Arts "Stuart's ArtsFest" and the Art is Everywhere Tour of artists studios and homes. Contact: 772-287-6676. Details: http://www.martinarts.org.
  • Martin County’s Artificial Reef Program near shore reef sites are located in the Atlantic Ocean between the Stuart and Jensen Public Beach Parks. With numerous thriving natural and artificial reefs along Martin County’s shores, the area truly lives up to its reputation as the “Treasure Coast.” The offshore reef sites include the Donaldson, Ernst and Sirotkin Reef Sites contain several artificial reefs and offers over a dozen outstanding sites for fishing and dive exploration – and the number continues to grow. More details: http://www.martinreefs.com/
  • Stuart Downtown Business Association (DBA) to market over 61 businesses,and promote unique history of Stuart by supporting Stuart Heritage Museum. Also provide the businesses in the Historic Downtown District and the surrounding areas. The DBA, as a body of business people has a collective voice with City government, which is regarded as influential. We provide a platform through which to air grievances and concerns. Details: http://historicdowntownstuart.com/
  • Earth Angel Yachts, 955 NW Flagler Ave, Stuart, FL specializes in exciting, creative cruising along the picturesque north and south legs of the St. Lucie River. Contact: 508-737-6972. http://www.earthangelyachts.com/
  • Elliott Museum, 825 NE Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL is a collections of American antiques, textiles, decorative arts, baseball memorabilia and vintage automobiles. Contact: 772-225-1961. http://www.elliottmuseumfl.org/
  • Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, 890 NE Ocean Blvd. Hutchinson Island, Stuart, FL is 56 acre parcel houses a library, nature trails, Children's Activity Pavilion, Rays on the Reel Ray Pavilion, Eco-boat tours, aquarium, and Frances Langford Visitor's Center. Contact: 772-225-0505. Web: http://www.floridaoceanographic.org/
  • Green Market Sundays, Memorial Park (next to the courthouse), Stuart, FL is to spend a Sunday outdoors.
  • House of Refuge at Gilbert's Bar, 301 SE MacArthur Blvd, Stuart, FL is a national historical landmark and the last U.S. Coast Guard station on Florida's east coast with featuring 16th-century marine artifacts and maritime exhibits. Contact: 722-225-1875. Details: http://www.elliottmuseumfl.org/houseofrefuge
  • Island Charters, Stuart, FL is a Big Game Fishing; Dolphin, Tuna, Wahoo, Kings, Sailfish, Sharks.  Dolphin Tours, and Sunset Cocktail Cruises, Aal tackle and live bait included. Phone: 772-209-TRIP
  • Island Princess Cruises, 555 NE Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL is Sight-seeing and charter cruises on the St. Contact: 772-225-2100
  • Lyric Theatre, 59 SW Flagler Ave, Stuart, FL. Featuring concerts, plays, and other year-round live entertainment events. Contact: 772-220-1942. Web: http://www.lyrictheatre.com/
  • Maritime & Yachting Museum, 3250 SW Kanner Hwy, Stuart, FL is dedicated to preserving significant and irreplaceable boats and artifacts that provide a tangible link to the past. Contact: 772-220-4600 Web: http://www.mymflorida.com/
  • Martin County Fairgrounds, Stuart, FL is a local venue for special events, entertainment, education and family fun throughout the year. Contact: 772-220-3247
  • Possum Long Nature Center, Hibiscus Street, Stuart, FL is living memorials with flowering trees, shrubs, ferns and various specimens of plant life. Contact: 772-485-9092; 772-288-2637. Web: http://www.gardenclubofstuart.org/
  • St. Lucie Lock and Dam, Stuart, FL connects the St. Lucie Canal to Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in America and a world-famous bass fishing mecca. Contact: (772) 287-2665. Web: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/..
  • Stuart Bowling Lanes, 1638 Federal Highway, Stuart , FL is a family-oriented bowling and entertainment center complete with an arcade and restaurant. Contact: 772-286-9700. Web: http://www.stuartlanes.com/
  • Stuart Heritage Museum, 161 SW Flagler Ave, Stuart, FL. Contact: 772-220-4600
  • Stuart Historical Walking Tour, Stuart, FL is three-dozen commercial and residential buildings comprise the self-guided historical walking tour.
  • Sunshine Wildlife Boat Tours, Finz Waterfront Grill - 4290 Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997, FL is a tour of the Indian River Lagoon. Enjoy up close views of Bottlenose Dolphin, manatee, sea turtles, the nursery of life and a vast array of birds. Contact: 772-219-0148. Web: http://www.sunshinewildlifetours.com/
  • The Arts Council, 80 E Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL contains information for local cultural, government, school, and community information resources. Contact: 772-287-6676. Web: http://www.martinarts.org/
  • Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida has preserved region’s history, celebrated innovation and provided inspiration for future generations. Explore a bygone lifestyle and show how ingenuity has affected live, shop, work and travel with vast collection of life-size dioramas, vintage clothing and memorabilia, early inventions and an outstanding array of antique automobiles and baseball memorabilia. Web: http://www.elliottmuseumfl.org/
  • YMCA SportsWorld, 2700 SE Willoughby Blvd, Stuart, FL featuring a rock-climbing wall, gymnastics, roller-skating, and a soft play area. Contact: 772-223-1606