The museum building is wooden, made of Dade County pine, which is some of the longest-lasting variety of wood to be found. It is a 1901 tin-roof structure of vernacular architecture with a classical pioneer false-front and a gabled tin roof which was constructed and named the George W. Parks General Merchandise Store of Stuart, Florida. This historical icon situated along the St. Lucie River in downtown Stuart is some 25 miles north of West Palm Beach and one of the earliest commercial buildings in the area.
The People Who Lived and Worked There
George W. Parks constructed the two-story building, with the public store on the first floor and living quarters for the Parks family upstairs. He had married on November 20, 1901 to Julia Taylor, and the young couple made their home in the second-floor apartment above the Parks store. For the customers from near and from far away, the store provided just about everything they needed, from household items such as wash boards, furniture and butter churners, to baby chicks, rabbits and feed for the farm animals. In addition to the railroad, the stern-wheeler, the 'Gulf Mist,' made regular deliveries of kerosene and gasoline at a dock at the rear of the store.
Over the decades, as Stuart changed so did the Parks store. It was George W. Parks who also ran the Gulf Oil distributorship right behind the store along the Gulf Oil docks of the St. Lucie River. The hurricanes of 1926, 1928, 1933 and 1949 caused damage to other town buildings, but the Parks store withstood it all.
When Parks partnered with C. E. 'Riley' Christensen in 1913, the store's name was changed to Stuart Mercantile Co., which handled hardware and 'kindred lines.' The Stuart Mercantile was known as "The Winchester Store" in Stuart, and kept builders' supplies, paints, hardware, traps, fishing tackle and sportsmen needs always in stock.
Becoming Stuart Feed Store
By 1924, George Parks had sold the store and operated the local Gulf Oil business full time. It was sold in 1946 to the Truman Fertilizer Company and was renamed Stuart Feed Store. The store now carried seed, fertilizers, insecticides, pet and garden supplies.
Becoming Stuart Heritage Museum
The building operated as Stuart Feed Store until the late 1980s when the City of Stuart purchased the building and land which extends from Flagler Avenue east to the St. Lucie River. Since August 1992, Stuart Heritage, Inc. has operated the Stuart Heritage Museum in the building. During 2011, the building marked its 110th birthday, the oldest commercial building in Stuart. In 2012 the Stuart Heritage Museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary.