March marks the start of Women’s History Month! The annual celebration traces its origins to 1981, with the founding of “Women’s History Week,” and it has continued to grow and evolve over the years. Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of proclamations designating March as “Women’s History Month” to honor the contributions women have made to the United States and to recognize the specific achievements women have made in a variety of fields.
There are countless women who have helped shape Martin County into the special place it is today, ranging from doctors and educators to artists, architects, activists, and more. But today, we’re taking a closer look at three popular Martin County spots that are named in honor of women and remembering their respective legacies.
So if you’ve ever caught yourself driving along Hutchinson Island and questioned where “Virginia Forrest Beach” came from, or wondered why the name “Langford” keeps popping up around Martin County, this blog post is for you!
Plenty of famous people have lived in Martin County over the years, including musicians, athletes, actors, and more. While we won’t call out any celebrities who currently live here, we’re always happy to highlight one of our most beloved and philanthropic residents: Francis Langford. Born in 1913, she rose to fame during the Golden Age of Radio and starred in 28 films during her illustrious career. An avid angler, she loved living in Jensen Beach, where she supported many local environmental causes and hosted fabulous fundraising events. Before her passing in 2005, she created the Frances Langford Foundation, which provided more than $26 million in grants to 122 agencies, including: Florida Oceanographic Society, Elliott Museum, Lyric Theatre, the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast, MartinArts, and more.
Today, visitors can explore Langford Park, located in the heart of Rio. The park was established after she donated 20 acres of land near her Jensen Beach estate in 1948. At Indian RiverSide Park, you’ll find the Francis Langford Dockside Pavilion (perfect for hosting events), and Stuart is home to the Francis Langford Heart Center. Don’t forget to stop by the Dolphin Bar, which was originally owned by Langford as the Outrigger Resort.
Virginia Forrest Beach
Martin County is known for its beautiful, uncrowded beaches, but one that locals particularly love is Virginia Forrest Beach. Tucked away on Hutchinson Island, this secluded stretch boasts soft sand, dense vegetation, and a nicely shaded parking lot. You won’t find any of the bells and whistles enjoyed at Jensen Sea Turtle Beach or Stuart Beach, but the quiet, laid-back vibe is why it’s such a hidden gem. But you might be wondering…who was Virginia Forrest?
Virginia Forrest was an award-winning conservationist who was involved with many noble causes throughout her lifetime. Friends and family say she was known for her feisty personality, her intellect, and her regal bearing, and she split her time between Martin County and Pennsylvania (where she was born). Some of her greatest passions included environmental protection, historic preservation, wildlife conservation, and public land improvements. She started the national “Save the Bald Eagle” program, spearheaded local beach protection initiatives, and even helped secure Martin County’s four-story building height restriction (which is still in effect to this day)! A true beach-lover, she eventually donated her oceanfront plot of land on Hutchinson Island to create a public access beach – which still bears her name to this day!
Maggy’s Hammock Park, located in Port Salerno, is a unique 22-acre conservation area consisting of threatened scrub and maritime hammock plant communities. The vast number of plant species in the hammock produces a feast of berries, making a popular destination for a variety of songbirds. Look for these birds flittering through the trees as you walk along the nature trail, and keep your eyes peeled for the state protected gopher tortoise. These animals love to dig their burrows in dry, sandy, open areas like the scrub portions of this site. You can also pack a lunch and hang out at the picnic tables or bring the little ones to enjoy the playground on-site.
The park in named after environmentalist and former Martin County Commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla. She is considered a pioneer in responsible growth and championed environmental causes throughout her life. The park itself a Martin County treasure, offering visitors a walk back in time with its ancient live oaks, paradise trees, strangler figs, and many other hardwoods.