Fittingly festive fete marks ‘Hallstrom’ centennial

With the full fanfare due to the genteel grand dame, the Indian River County Historical Society recently hosted a 100th Birthday Celebration of the historic Hallstrom House, completed by Swedish-born horticulturalist Axel Hallstrom in 1918.

His daughter, Ruth Hallstrom, willed the stately home to the Historical Society upon her death in 1999 at age 95.

Ruth was known for her gracious hospitality and visitors enjoyed that same good cheer at the party, complete with cake and ice cream, party hats and games.

Attendees sat on the front porch, many trading stories of Ruth Hallstrom’s generosity and zest for life. Cars loaned by the Indian River Corvette Club sat on the front lawn, adding their own bit of nostalgia in a nod to Ruth’s Corvette, which she was often seen zipping around town in with the top down.

Inside, the house was alive with chatter over some items never before displayed. Among the treasure trove were linens, china, vintage clothing, shoes and items the Hallstrom family collected during their travels around the world. A pamphlet filled with details about the artifacts aided visitors as they walked through the home.

“Ruth was a snappy dresser,” shared Ruth Stanbridge, IRCHS vice president and county historian. “We have so many clothes that we’ll be having another event in the fall so we can bring more out for people to see.”

On the back lawn, people enjoyed party games from a bygone era that included a bean bag toss, pin the candle on the cupcake, drop the clothespin in the jar, face painting and, to acknowledge the family’s cultural heritage, Kubb. The Swedish lawn game, a hybrid of bowling and horseshoes, is played with wooden blocks (kubbs) and batons (kastpinnar) with the objective to knock over the blocks.

As the afternoon waned, folks gathered on the back lawn to listen to the sounds of David Letts & the Letts Dance Band and later the music of Gary Lenard Moore. They could also test their trivia knowledge of 1918 history – when the Red Sox had just won the World Series, Lincoln Logs were the new hot toy, and it was considered scandalous for a woman’s hemline to show her calf.

“I’m overwhelmed with the people who have come through today and said that they have passed by this place for years and never stopped,” noted Carolyn Bayless, IRCHS president. “It took them 100 years, but today they finally stopped.”

The Hallstrom Farmstead was once part of a 40-acre pineapple plantation and citrus grove planted by Axel Hallstrom. Hallstrom House is located on a 5-acre parcel under the care and preservation of the Historical Society and is open to the public. The IRCHS is working with the county to develop a walking trail on 100 acres surrounding the property and to preserve buildings remaining from the original farmstead.

The Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve local history for future generations, has created a series of videos chronicling Vero Beach history, which can be viewed at irchistorical.org.

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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