Waldo Sexton: Vero Beach’s Eccentric Visionary and His “Menagerie of Monstrosities

Waldo Sexton arrived in Vero Beach in the 1920s, not with blueprints and contractors, but with a head full of dreams and a passion for the extraordinary. The result? The Driftwood Inn, is a unique structure unlike any other, and just one piece of the legacy left by this colorful entrepreneur.

Sexton, also the founder of McKee’s Jungle Gardens, didn’t believe in straight lines or conventional methods. He envisioned a sprawling haven built from cypress logs and salvaged treasures, and that’s precisely what he created. Using “voice command only,” he guided crews into shaping the inn – a two-story wonder with balconies galore, uneven floors mimicking waves, and a charming disregard for right angles.

But the magic wasn’t just in the structure. Sexton embarked on a mission to fill his creation with a “Menagerie of Monstrosities” – a delightful mishmash of curios collected from far and wide. Ship’s wheels, cannons, antique chests, and plush sofas – these were just a few pieces in his eclectic orchestra of objects. Europe and local Florida towns alike surrendered their treasures to his vision.

And then there were the bells. A vast collection, some from Mexican missions, others from legendary locomotives like Virginia’s Old 97, and even one belonging to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Ringing a bell at the Driftwood became a tradition, with the number of clangs measuring one’s popularity.

Sexton, a master storyteller, reveled in sharing his collection. Tours became legendary, filled with fantastical tales about each object. One visitor, entranced by his performance, returned for a second tour, only to discover entirely new stories spun for the next group. When confronted, Sexton declared, “Madame, I’d rather be a liar than a bore any day!”

Sexton’s legacy extends far beyond the Driftwood. He was a developer, an agriculturalist, and a dreamer who left an indelible mark on Vero Beach. The “Menagerie of Monstrosities” remains a testament to his eccentric spirit, a reminder that sometimes, the most captivating creations are born from unconventional visions and a touch of delightful storytelling.

This article has been expanded upon the original source, incorporating additional details and providing a more engaging narrative. However, please note that some of the information presented (like the Harriet Beecher Stowe bell) lacks verifiable sources and might be part of local lore surrounding Sexton.

Tiffany Bent