Historic Markers Across Florida

McKee Jungle Gardens

Marker ID: FLHM F-403
Location: on the grounds of the McKee Botanical Garden, 350 US-1, Vero Beach FL
County: Indian River
Coordinates: N 27° 36.47    W 080° 22.942
  27.60783333    -80.38236666
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: None


This is the original site of McKee Jungle Gardens, one of Florida’s earliest tourist attractions. McKee Gardens was founded in 1932 by Vero Beach pioneer Waldo Sexton and Cleveland industrialist Arthur G. McKee. They engaged William Lyman Phillips, a landscape architect who designed Fairchild Tropical Gardens and Bok Tower Gardens, to enhance and develop the 80 acres of dense tropical vegetation. The gardens contained a collection of native and imported tropical plants, an aviary, resident monkeys, and an alligator named “Ole Mac." One of the most impressive components of Phillips’ design was the magnificent Cathedral of Palms, a colossal stand of more than 300 royal palms planted in precise rows. At its height of popularity the garden attracted 100,000 visitors annually, but closed in 1976, unable to compete with the allure of new theme parks nearby. Most of the acreage became a golf course and condominiums. The remaining 18 acres, now known as McKee Botanical Garden, were saved from destruction by the Indian River Land Trust and the citizens of Indian River County, and serves as an example of environmental stewardship and horticulture inspiration.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places - January 1998
Florida Heritage Landmark

1999 by The Indian River Land Trust, Indian River County Historical Society,
Indian River County Tourist Development Council and
The Florida Department of State