Honoring These Indian River County Tree-mendous Triumphs

Cindy Schwarz

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Victory OaksCindy Schwarz

They stand in formation - the Laurel Oaks and the Live Oaks – along Victory Boulevard in the McAnsh Park neighborhood, as tribute to our heroes of World War II and the people who championed a living monument of this ‘Greatest Generation'.

Indian River Garden Club’s May 1943 meeting produced the roots of what would become 75 Laurel Oaks planted on the formerly named Riverra Boulevard. The planting extended from the 20th Avenue bridge (near St. Helen’s Catholic Church) out to the Naval Air Base honoring our county’s men and women serving in WWII.

All of the trees were donated. Many came from McKee Jungle Gardens.

Mrs. William Ott, Civic Chairman of the Garden Club, spearheaded the project under guidance of Garden Club President Mrs. E. G. Thatcher. Other wood and stone dedicatory ideas were discussed, but “an avenue of trees as a living memorial” won out. City Council approved the mission along with the recommendation to rename Riverra Boulevard at a future time. Club member Mrs. S. B. Taylor invited everyone in Indian River County to submit street name choices.

At the January 23, 1946, City Council meeting Mrs. George Cox, Garden Club President, submitted the Spanish name “Triumfo” along with “Victory” and “Honor” as choices to rename Riverra Boulevard. Mayor Alex MacWilliam recommended this matter to Special Committee.

Hearing the Committee’s report at its January 31, 1946, City Council meeting, Councilman J. R. Graves moved, and Councilman O. P. Ward seconded, to rename McAnsh Park’s Riverra Boulevard to “Victory” Boulevard thus honoring all of the county’s WWII heroes.

Today these majestic oaks stand as glorious reminders of the dedication of our county’s men and women.

Another Vero Beach project that garners flowering acknowledgment is the purple-budded Bauhinia Variegata – known as Orchid trees. Lining 23rd Street from 14th Avenue to 20th Avenue and north and south on 18th Avenue from Osceola Boulevard (SR 60), to 26th Street (site of the former hospital), the Orchid trees waft their aroma while displaying foliage reminiscent of Washington D.C.’s cherry tree splendor.

Gaining rapid attention the City of Vero Beach is becoming known as the “City of Orchid Trees”, according to a March 22, 1952, Press-Journal story. Ogglers came from as far away as West Palm Beach to gaze upon the Orchid grandeur.

Jens Hansen, horticulturist at McKee Botanical Gardens, envisioned the entire city of Vero Beach being abloom in Orchid trees. Instead, according to E. M. Becton former manager of McKee Jungle Gardens, the seedlings were largely an unknown variety and homeowners shied away from buying them. Instead, the seedlings were given to the city. Roland Martens, of McKee Gardens, also donated 200 seedlings from a parent tree he had growing on his property. Members of the Indian River Garden Club financed the Orchid tree plantings.

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Orchid tree in bloomCindy Schwarz

Both projects, spearheaded in the 1940s, contributed to the Indian River Garden Club of Vero Beach being awarded national recognition. This ‘White Ribbon’ designation was presented for Civic Achievement at the convention of the National Federation of Garden Clubs which was held in New Orleans in May 1946.

Trees are living reminders, and for generations to come.

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Cindy Schwarz moved to Vero Beach when it was deemed "Zero" Beach. Even then, stories abounded in the day-to-day-ness lived here. In 2007, she took over compiling the local Press-Journal newspaper's history column. That weekly column inspired a degree in writing and journalism, and researching stories that showcase positive impacts on the community.

Vero Beach, FL
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