Recently, my Stuart knitting group had the good fortune of visiting the Tuckahoe Mansion. Located close to where we live, the mansion sits right on the Indian River. It has a beautiful, parklike setting, and is now used as an events venue for everything from weddings to musical concerts. It was featured a few years back in Southern Living Magazine as a lovely southern location for a wedding - see the spread here! Such a beautiful setting! I'm sorry that I did not get a photo of the mansion proper, but if you view the brief video toward the end, I believe that you will see it there. (Also, if you search for Tuckahoe Mansion on YouTube, you find numerous wedding videos posted there)
A Brief History
Mt. Elizabeth, Ais Indians and Racey Family Plantation
According to archaeologists, Mt. Elizabeth is a 4,000 year-old Indian mound created by the Ais Indians. The mound, which was originally 60-feet high, contains broken pottery, tools, fish bone and shell ornaments and other discarded items used their daily lives. Mt. Elizabeth and the surrounding property were purchased by explorer William Henry Racey in the late 1850’s. In 1891, his son, Charles Racey, built a three-story wood-frame house on the mound for his family and started a pineapple and citrus plantation on the property. The Racey family sold the property to a New York Judge after the home burned to the ground in 1921.
The Leach Family and Tuckahoe
In 1936, Atlanta businessman Willaford Leach and his wife Anne Bates Leach, a Coca Cola heiress, purchased Mt. Elizabeth and the surrounding property and built the Mediterranean Revival home
that exists today. Named “Tuckahoe” (thought to be a Native American term for “Welcome”), the estate was completed in 1939 with the latest in architectural design for that time. Sitting on approximately 54 acres of riverfront woodland and rolling lawns, Tuckahoe was the hub of social life in Martin County and the setting for countless parties attended by the local social set and WWII soldiers from Camp Murphy. Mrs. Leach, who helped to start The Garden Club, also donated the funds necessary to build the original building for the well-known Bascomb Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.
Catholic Church –
Florida Institute of Technology - The Leach family moved to Palm Beach in 1950 and sold The Mansion and surrounding property to the Catholic Church for use as a Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Sisters later operated Florida’s only 2-year liberal arts college until 1972 when the entire property was purchased by Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), a 4-year college offering degrees in marine science. The Mansion became the college’s administrative offices and Rathskeller.
Indian RiverSide Park
After closing FIT in 1986, The Mansion and surrounding property stood vacant for more than a decade until local community leaders led a referendum drive to encourage Martin County to purchase the property. Purchased by the County in 1997, the property became the site of Indian RiverSide Park with the first phase opening to the public in 2001. Phase 2 included the restoration of The Mansion at Tuckahoe for public use and now hosts many events every year.
(taken from the Tuckahoe Mansion FaceBook page)
|Prior to this window seat's completion, family members carved names, dates and locations into the concrete!|
Because the mansion is no longer a home, the rooms are essentially empty. As we toured, we heard tales of its history, and were left to our imaginations as to its earlier prominence. Unlike many "mansions" of its day, the few photos that we saw indicate that Tuckahoe, while in an elegant setting, was decorated in a more modest fashion. It was often used as a primary residence, not just a winter home, and as such, featured the trappings of every day living.
|Anne Bates Leach and Willaford Ransom Leach, 1964|
|The original Racey home (circa 1900) prior to its burning to the ground in 1921|
|Anne and Willaford with children Ann and William|
The mansion also contains some photos of Frances Langford, a local Hollywood star and philanthropist. She will have a future post devoted to her at some point - probably next year!
|The Caterers' Kitchen|
|Anne Winship Bates Leach|
|The Bride's waiting room as it is currently used as an events venue.|
Below you will find a brief (very brief) video of the mansion and its grounds and one last bit of historic information, taken from the Martin County site. Lastly, many thanks to our knitting friend Mary for coordinating our outing and arranging for our wonderful lunch out afterward!
Thank you Mary!
The Historic Timeline
•4,000 years ago, the Nomadic Tribes inhabited Jensen Beach & built the midden we see today.
•1850 -Explorer William Racey bought property and named it Mount Elizabeth. One of the earliest private property sales in Martin County.
•1891 –Charles Racey (son of William) built a two story, wood home . Racey family operated citrus & pineapple farms.
•1900’s –Racey family moved to Miami to be with their daughter. Harold (son of Charles) stayed at Mount Elizabeth to tend to home and businesses.
•1921 –The Racey home burned to the ground due to a pot left on the stove.
•1930’s –Judge Swan, from Manhattan, purchased Mount Elizabeth.
•1936 –Willaford and Ann Bates Leach (a Coca Cola heiress), long time winter visitors, purchased the land and built the Mediterranean style mansion, which they called “Tuckahoe,” a Native American expression meaning “welcome.”
•1948-1952 –Due to the struggle between the County and the Leach family regarding taxes the hurricane of 1949, the Leach family decided to sell Mount Elizabeth and move to Palm Beach.
•1950’s-Leach family sold property to the Catholic Church, which established a novitiate for the Sisters of St. Joseph, who later established a liberal arts college.
•1972 –Due to economic difficulties, St. Joseph’s closed. The Florida Institute of Technology purchased the property and for Oceanographic Studies . The Mansion became the admissions building and student center.
•1986 –Due to declining revenues, FIT closed.
•1986-1990 –Business man James Mets attempts to purchase property before becoming bankrupt. In 1990 FIT forecloses.
•1997 –Martin County closes on the property.
•2001 –Indian RiverSide Park opens to the public.
•2006 –the . cent sales tax passes and raises funds to restore Mansion and for sensitive lands.
•2008 –Restoration and construction on the Mansion begins.
(taken from: http://ap3server.martin.fl.us:7778/web_docs/prd/web/docs/xx_mansion_salesbook.pdf)