River Nights display, l to r, Dianne Aguiar, Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec, Mary Dodge, Paula Lewis, Christine Williams.
A small group of women who wanted to preserve the history of Port St. Lucie started meeting informally during their lunch hours in September 1995. They wanted to collect and record information about the city and its roots and to eventually start a museum similar to the St. Lucie County Historical Museum in Fort Pierce.
Edward Swanson, director of the St. Lucie Historical Museum advised the group: “Collect, research and have fun with it. The history of Port St. Lucie is kind of a real challenge.” He also advised them to “look at all the pieces of the puzzle before telling the history of a place. Telling just part of the story isn’t true history.”
The Port St. Lucie Historical Society, Inc. (the “Society”) is a non-profit organization whose members actively work to preserve the history of Port St. Lucie. The Mission Statement of the Society is to:
The purpose and objectives of the Society shall be education, historical research, and study of items and objects of interest and value concerning St. Lucie County and the surrounding areas, and encouragement of interest in historical preservation
Board of Directors 2018, from top, left to right: Dennis Grabhorn, Chair; Patricia Christensen, Vice chair'; Mary Dodge, Secretary; Christine Williams, Treasurer; Dianne Aguiar, Maria Bordonaro, Jolien Caraballo, Jack Kelly, Paula Lewis.
Through the efforts of McAfoos, the Society received a deed/gift in January of 35 +/- nature and ranching photographs by rancher Bud Adams and his son.
In January, we said good-bye to longtime member Beth Gessner (shown left, l to r, Rosemary Grabhorn, Christine Williams, Beth, Dennis Grabhorn) who moved to The Villages to be closer to her daughter. Beth, a school teacher, and her husband Dave, recreation director for GDC, were responsible for much of the activity that centered around the Northport Marina in the early days.
PSL Historical Society members again served as judges for the St. Lucie School District’s History Fair and Project Citizen Day in February. Three history books were given to the Annery Abreau, Jesurajh Kavinaash and Freedom Scholes of Port St. Lucie High School, who chosen for the society’s special History Fair award.
Grabhorn and Dodge were invited to tell the PSL Historical Society story to the PSL Rotary Club in April. In May, Williams and Dodge videotaped a segment of the city’s PSL Living YouTube series with Mayor Gregory Oravec.
April was also the kick-off of what has become a regular event for the society: River Nights. A beautiful night on the edge of an historic section of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River was the setting for the city Park & Recreation Department's celebration on the site of the Westmoreland Project. We were delighted to have a spot to share the stories about the people and places that make this one of the most historic locations in Port St. Lucie -- a perfect location for a museum. This is now a monthly event during most of the year, featuring local bands and the city has provided us a booth to tell the story of the site and our organization.
The participation in River Nights was the catalyst for the redesign of the Society’s informational brochure, which includes a membership application.
The first gathering of 2017 was in March at the home of City Councilman John Carvelli and his wife Karol. At the May gathering at Rick’s Diner, Caraballo updated the group on progress towards the museum planned for the Westmoreland property. The annual holiday gathering was in December at Ricks’s. The board has agreed since to set gathering dates as the third Wednesdays of February, April, June, October and December.
Growth was the goal for 2017 as the Society looked forward to movement of two historical ranch buildings to the Westmoreland property for use as a museum.
Two organizational meetings were held in February, following the resignation of long-time board member and chair Richard McAfoos. His seat on the board was filled by Society co-founder Paula Lewis, former City Councilwoman and St. Lucie County Commissioner.
Among the decisions at the organization meetings was to hold additional board meetings in June and August, to lower the price of the Society’s history book to $29.95 and to move the meeting location to the Community Center across from City Hall. It was also decided to appoint a bylaws committee to update the organization’s documents. By the end of the year, amendments to the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws were approved and a Policy and Procedures document was under discussion.
The proposed movement of two historic Peacock Ranch buildings from the city’s McCarthy Ranch property to the Westmoreland site occupied the attention of board members throughout the year and updates were received regularly.
The lease for the society’s office in the County Building on Walton Road was renewed by the St. Lucie County Commission for three years, until October 2020.