The Indian River County, FL Historical Society Needs Your Help to Repair a Ceiling, a Window, a Chandalier and Furniture.

HS Ceiling

Here’s the problem at the Hallstrom Farmstead, 1723 Old Dixie Highway, S. W., Vero Beach


HS House

Hallstrom Farmstead main house. Carolyn Bayless, left, IRCHS president.  Ruth Standbridge, right, Indian River County Historian.

One day not long ago the ceiling in the parlor dropped to the floor damaging furniture, Persian rugs, a chandelier and breaking a window.  But you cannot just slap up some paster to fix it because the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and repairs need to be made according to their  guidelines.

Additionally, the ceiling has to be repaired without disturbing the ornate crown molding pictured below.

HS Molding

NRHP guidelines also require recreating the vintage wavy glass window, pictured below.

HS window

Since vintage wavy glass is not available on the market today, the glass will be recreated by Conrad Pickel Studio, Inc. in Vero Beach. Paul Pickel heads the studio founded by his father Conrad Pickel (1906-1994), a world-renowned stained glass artist.

The cost to repair the ceiling, have the rugs professionally cleaned, repair the chandalier and replicate the window and repair furniture is $ 15,000.  The funds will be used to keep the historical integrity of the house.

Using brick from Georgia, the main house of the Hallstrom Farmstead was built by Axel Hallstrom in 1918.  Previously, before building the house beginning in 1909, the property was Mr. Hallstrom’s 40 acre pineapple plantation.

Axel Hallstrom was born on his father’s farm in Sweden in 1870, the youngest of ten children, where he developed an affinity for plants.  In 1898 he traveled to the US to reunite with his sister, Johanna and brothers Nel and John.  When he left for the US his father snuck this flow blue pitcher into his satchel.

HS Blue Willow

In 1899 Mr. Hallstrom was hired by the famous railroad magnate and millionaire, James Jerome Hill to become his head gardner in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Hill House

James Jerome Hill House

It was during this time that he met and married his wife Emily Bjorkeland. They had one child, Ruth Christina, who was born on January 5, 1904.

Unfortunately Mr. Hallstrom’s wife Emily developed tuberculosis and Mr. Hallstrom was advised to move her to a warmer climate.

In 1904, with the construction of the Flagler railroad, Florida had become a hot spot for newcomers and news of prosperity was spreading all over the nation.  Mr. Hallstrom took advantage of the news and left Minnesota to do some prospecting of his own along Florida’s east coast, eventually purchasing some property in Viking, near Indrio Road in Ft. Pierce.  He moved his family to Florida in the late summer of 1904.

Here, he developed a very prosperous pineapple plantation and farm, but 1n 1908 his wife died and with his sadness, as well as a 1909 hard freeze that hit Florida resulting in frost on the plants, Mr. Hallstrom sold his farm and purchased 40 acres to the north along Old Dixie Highway in an area known as Olso.

As a tribute to Mr. Hallstrom’s pineapple endeavors, the IRCHS has begun to grow pineapples on the property.

HS Pineapple 2

Following his wife’s death, Mr. Hallstrom’s sister Johanna moved from Chicago to help take care of his daughter Ruth and assist her brother to develop one of the area’s first citrus groves on the property.

The temporary home they lived in for ten years was on the West side of Old Dixie Highway.

HS House where they lived

Temporary house and chicken coop.

Construction of the main house, with brick from Georgia, began in 1915 and was completed in 1918.

We asked IRCHS president Carolyn Bayless where Mr. Hallstrom made his money to build such a grand homestead.  “Was it from his citrus business?”  “Oh no,” she said, “it was from banking.”  He was a director and Chairman of the Board of the St. Lucie County Bank in Ft. Pierce, until his death in 1966.  The St. Lucie Bank was the only local bank to survive the Depression.

Justavvus VI, King of Sweden honored Mr. Hallstrom by presenting him with the Royal Order of Vasa for his contributions to the furtherance of good relationships between Hailstorm’s native Sweden and his adopted country, the United States.

HS Axel

Mr. Hallstrom’s daughter, Ruth, spent many of her young days on the farm tending to the garden and caring for the chickens and cows.  Education was a priority for her and she attended St. Lucie County High School, the only accredited high school in the area at the time.  She graduated in 1921 and then attended finishing school in Sweden for two years.  Upon returning home, she traveled an hour everyday to teach school at Orchid for a year.

She spoke five languages.

After her Aunt Johanna died in 1949, Ruth became her father’s caretaker.  She and her father travelled extensively to several exotic places around the world.

She also loved art.  She had great empathy for The Highwaymen and bought several paintings, though Ms. Bayless indicated she didn’t particularly like them but just wanted to support The Highwaymen.

HS Highwaymen 3

HS Highwaymen 4

Two Highwaymen paintings by Alfred Hair, he founding member of the legendary group of artists known as The Highwaymen.

In fact, Ruth was taught to paint by A. E. “Beanie” Backus, who was credited with teaching art to The Highwaymen and providing them with inspiration and encouragement.  Here is one of her works on display.

HS Backus

With the exception of a handicapped bathroom, the Hallstrom Farmstead has been totally preserved as it was when Ruth, her Aunt and her father lived there.  Here are two  photographs of the kitchen.

HS Kitchen 2

HS Kitchen

In addition to raising funds for damages caused by the collapsed parlor ceiling, IRCHS is hoping to raise another $ 25,000 for two additional projects.

The first additional project for $ 15,000 is to renovate the existing carriage house to a meeting room/coffee shop with an additional bathroom.

Carriage house

The second project for $ 10,000 is for an outdoor kitchen for future events.

Summer kitchen.jpg

The IRCHS feels that when they complete these two additional projects, they will be able to  expand their community events and possibly rent out the property for weddings and such to fund the expenses of a 100 year old house.

One last note.  In October 2002, Indian River County purchased 95 acres surrounding the five on which the Hallstrom main house sits.  Their purchase included four early twentieth century farm buildings constructed by the Hallstroms.  Fortunately this land can never be developed because it contains three endangered species.

Lakela Mint Plant

Lakela Mint Plant


Gopher Tortoise


Florida Scrub Jay

The Indian River County Historical Society has established a donation fund at the Oculina Bank to fund their projects, the most important at this time being repairs from the roof colapse. Please call the IRCHS at (772) 778-3435 if you’re interested in donating to help make these worthwhile projects a reality! Like and share IRCHD’s Facebook page too:


One thought on “The Indian River County, FL Historical Society Needs Your Help to Repair a Ceiling, a Window, a Chandalier and Furniture.

Leave a Reply