Following three Seminole Indian Wars, settlers began homesteading land from Sewall’s Point north to the Sebastian River in the 1840s. Crops spoiled, due to irregular transport by coastal schooner to northern markets. Fresh water from the St. Lucie River killed the saltwater fish grasses flourished and oyster beds died. In 1844, the homesteaders dug an inlet at Gilbert’s Bar, a narrow neck of land at the St. Lucie River. The Indian River’s salinity returned, and the fishing industry flourished.
Blockade runners and federal gunboats were active off the coast during the Civil War. A strong support for the Confederacy in St. Lucie Village led to the removal of the lights from the Jupiter and Cape Florida lighthouses, making navigation difficult for the Union gunboats.
In 1879, Capt. Thomas E. Richards established his homestead at Eden, planting pineapple slips on his plantation. The slips flourished, and the pineapple industry was born. John Laurence Jensen, an immigrant from Denmark, arrived in 1881, and set up his pineapple plantation, which became the town of Jensen.
Capt. Richards had the largest pineapple plantation on the Indian River. The fruit was packed in barrels and boxes at the packing house, loaded on riverboats, and transported to Titusville, the southern terminus of the FEC Railroad. By 1894, Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad reached Jensen Beach, and freight shipments were loaded directly on the freight cars.
By 1895, Jensen was called the “Pineapple Capital of the World,” shipping over one million boxes of pineapples each year during the June and July season. A pineapple factory was established.
Pioneer R.R. Ricou and Sons operated fish houses all along the Indian Riverfront, shipping as many as 200 barrels of fish daily, plus carloads of bottom fish and mackerel. There was also an ice manufacturing plant in Jensen.
John Jensen built the large, three story hotel named the Al Fresco. In 1908, a disastrous fire destroyed most of the downtown area. In 1910, a second fire destroyed the Al Fresco.
In 1925, the Florida Legislature to created Martin County, named for the governor of Florida. Jensen Beach incorporated as a city, and a mile-long wooden bridge was built to give access to Hutchinson Island. The Great Depression destroyed the tax base, and town leaders did away with incorporation.
The famed Arch on Dixie Highway (SR 707) at Frances Langford Park welcomed visitors to Jensen Beach.
In the 1950s, the Town on Wheels, Ocean Breeze Park, was founded.
Come to visit, come to stay, and leave your footprints, and part of your heart in the sands of Jensen Beach, Florida.