As we travel to different areas, we try to find out a bit about the region. On our most recent trip to Vero Beach we discovered the Indian River Citrus Museum – a great little place that was fun and jam-packed with information.
The official name is the “Heritage Center and Indian River Citrus Museum.” The title almost won’t fit inside the tiny building set back just off 14th Avenue in the Vero Beach Main Street District.
Because we like pop art, such as the very decorative citrus crate labels, we’d wanted to stop in and take a look during our initial getaway to Vero Beach. Sadly, it was closed at that time. We vowed to return. Happily it was open when we came back, so we thought we’d stop by and check it out.
We were fortunate enough to snag a tour with Special Events Coordinator Robyn Berry. Being that we were the only ones there, Robyn was able to give us her undivided attention and showed us around the facility.
Robyn told us that the building itself was built in the 1920’s as Vero’s original community center. But when a new center was constructed in the 1960s. this structure fell into disrepair. She said it was ready for the wrecking ball when members of the Indian River County Historical Society stepped in. They both saved and oversaw the building’s reconstruction.
I must tell you, from the polished wood floors to the paneled walls, they have done a marvelous job.
The thing that impressed us most was the sheer volume of exhibits and artifacts that they were able to get into this rather small space. Moreover, the displays were well laid out and did not give us a cramped or crammed in feeling.
Among the exhibits we saw were a diorama of a local packing house, citrus machinery and plenty of artsy citrus labels from Florida packing houses. Our tour began with a brief history of the area and a look at founder Herman Zeuch. He was a former president of the Indian River Farms Company and quite instrumental in the development of the town of Vero.
As we walked through the building, we saw citrus farming artifacts, exhibits and dozens of historical photographs. They chronicled the settlement of the area and the development of the citrus industry which has become a trademark of the region.
Of course, we had come to see the display of packinghouse art. We were not disappointed. Not only was there an entire collection of the brightly colored labels, Robyn explained that the museum was preparing for a new promotion involving the art.
We were some of the first to see the prototype. It was an example of crate art, mounted on a steel frame. “Flo” was destined to one of a number of historic label re-creations that were to be posted around town celebrating the area’s citrus heritage.
We spent no small amount of time at the citrus label display. Robyn took time to explain to us about the different packing houses and how the museum had acquired their extensive collection of labels. We just loved the inventive names. Among some of our favorites were the “Taste It,” “Quality Tells” and “Chest of Gold” brands.
We noted that “Flo” had several different label styles as she evolved through the years. Additionally, we saw a few different versions of the “Tuxedo River” brand label.
For us, it was hard not to be impressed by the design and layout of the display. We love the vintage, the fun and the funky – so for us, this was the jackpot.
We were thrilled to learn that we could also take some of the labels home with us.
Yes, they saw us coming. Our tour ended up in front of the center’s souvenir stand. Staring us in the face was a collection of crate label art reproductions ready for framing. We were tempted by postcards and books on the subject as well.
It was a delight to see some citrus candy from Davidson’s of Dundee on display, as well as a selection of teas (my wife’s weakness) and even some locally-made seasonings.
I mean, what is a tourist attraction without a souvenir stand?
We can recommend the Heritage Center and Indian River Citrus Museum. As we tour different areas, we have visited a number of these same kinds of museums. I can tell you this one is as good as any and better than most.
Robyn gave us a great tour, but we took some time to peruse the place a bit at our own pace. She was quick to answer our questions and even point out some things we might not have seen. The best part is, it was free.
It isn’t a daylong excursion. We finished up in about an hour. We had plenty of fun and learned a lot in the process.
Had we brought our granddaughter, the Heritage Center is right next to Pocahontas Park. This would have been great both for us and for her.
For us, there were comfortable benches to sit and watch. For her, there were lots of different kinds of play structures. We thought the best part was the artificial turf. This prevented us from having to treat ant bites and the like.
We decided the next time we visit, we might bring her along. It would be a wonderful opportunity for us to help her learn a bit of history, then allow her to blow off some steam while we relax under the trees.