The Stuart Welcome Arch was built by the Stuart Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the creation of Martin County, with Stuart as the county seat. The gateway was designed to welcome the many motorists coming to winter in Florida as they entered the City of Stuart.
It was completed in 1926 at the site donated by a development called Stuart Shores, where Stuart’s “greater” city boundary on A1A met Jensen’s newly incorporated southern city limit. Individuals, businesses and the Stuart and Jensen governments donated funds for construction.
“Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico” was placed on the crossbeam because it was anticipated that Stuart would become a prosperous shipping port upon completion of the intra-state canal. Many of Martin County’s founding fathers were members of the Stuart Chamber of Commerce and they decided that “Jensen” would appear on the south side of the arch’s crossbeam. The chamber had originally planned to build gateways at both the northern and southern boundaries of Stuart.
After its construction, the arch suffered a series of setbacks. The bronze trim and letters were reportedly stolen during the early part of World War II. In 1949, the originally installed crossbeam was blown down by hurricane winds and a new, rectangular crossbeam was installed in 1954. A vehicular accident destroyed the east tower in 1976 and the hanging crossbeam was removed.
Reconstruction of the east tower and crossbeam began in 1977 and the east tower was built to match the original tower. In 1998, the replacement crossbeam was struck by the arm of a garbage truck and replaced by a new beam featuring “Welcome to Rio” on the south side and “Welcome to Jensen Beach” on the north side.
The Stuart Welcome Arch was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is thought to be the only gateway of its kind spanning over a highway in Florida.