The Indian River County Historical Society historic marker program, in cooperation with Indian River County Parks & Recreation Department, has installed three new historic markers. The markers recognize significant historic sites in the county.
On State Route 510, Two Dollar Bluff, prominently featured on the U.S. Geodetic Map of 1887, was considered a navigational aide for boats on the Indian River. This bluff, an Ais Indian midden, was adjacent to property owned by settler and citrus grower A.B. Michael and became the site of the Michael Dock. By 1927, the midden composed of shell, pottery shards, and bones were almost gone, used as road material. The dock was replaced with a narrow, wooden bridge with a metal swing span that crossed to the community of Orchid. This bridge allowed the Indian River citrus to travel from Orchid Island groves to the railroad, and it opened the northern part of Indian River County to tourist and land development. During World War II, the bridge was limited to only those who lived on the island, and the bridge tender was tasked with opening the span over the channel and checking those that crossed. In 1970, the old bridge was replaced with a causeway, a high-arch bridge over the main channel, and named the Wabasso Bridge. In 2020, it was renamed the A.B. Michael Bridge. This bridge led directly to the beaches of the Treasure Coast where the remnants of the treasures of the 1715 Spanish Silver Fleet are still found.
In 1970 Disney’s Magic Kingdom was under construction, including a small gauge railroad whose tracks encircled the theme park. The railroad design included a draw bridge.
Disney’s engineers heard about an old swing bridge near Vero Beach which was going to be scrapped. After careful inspection, the Disney engineers decided they could buy the bridge from FDOT and salvage the old bridge. The completely restored bridge looked very much like the old original, except for its general shape.
A second marker notes the area from Quay (later renamed Winter Beach) eastward to Hole-in-the-Wall Island, across the southern tip of Pine Island, and over the main channel to join Jungle Trail on Orchid Island. In 1923, a road with bridges was opened, crossing the river and developers and tourists came looking to build winter homes with access to the Atlantic beaches. In addition, settlers on Orchid Island sent their winter vegetables and world-famous citrus back to the mainland to be loaded on to the Florida East Coast Railway. At the Winter Beach Bridge’s eastern terminus is Bridge Tender Park, the former site of the bridge tender’s home. After World War II, the Winter Beach Bridge burned, and the metal span was removed, leaving only the pilings. Winter Beach Road and its bridge alignments are listed as one of Indian River County’s Scenic and Historic Roads.
A third historic marker will be placed on Ranch Road (82nd Avenue) to recognize Indian River County early cattle industry.
The county’s historical marker program is managed by the Historical Society of Indian River County and funded through the Tourist Development Council of Indian River County, and The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. There are thirty-seven historic markers located in Indian River County. The website of the Indian River County Historical Society has a mapped informational tour of historical marker sites in the county. Go to irchistorical.org and click on the tab reading “Historic Marker Tour”.