The Archie Smith Fish House, located at 1740 Indian River Drive in Sebastian, will soon be demolished. The building, owned by the county, will be replaced with a new pavilion that will contain historical materials about the fish house and the surrounding area.
During a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting, County Commissioner Joe Flescher said he was surprised to see how quickly the structure has decayed.
“We didn’t realize how much it was going to deteriorate so rapidly, but I don’t know if anybody’s been riding up and down in Sebastian along the waterfront; it is becoming more of a tourist destination than ever before,” said Flescher. “I think that we have an obligation to utilize the taxpayer dollar to reaffirm the investment that we made so many years ago, and I’m very enthused about some of the attracting elements that will be added to the deck. It’s not just a deck as there are also other applications that could be there. It could possibly be a venue at some point.”
In 1994, the fish house was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. This acquisition eliminates future high-density residential or commercial development on this parcel.
In 2007, the Board of County Commissioners purchased the historic Archie Smith Fish House for $1.7 million as part of the county’s environmental lands program process.
Archie Smith Fish House sits on approximately 1.15 acres. The county planned to open the site to the public by rehabilitating the Main House as a small museum and visitor center. They also had plans to restore the Ice House that sat over the water, repair the dock, and provide public boating access.
The county restored most of the dock as years went by and hired a company to provide architectural and engineering services. Following storms in 2016 and 2017, the county stabilized the structures and repaired holes in the roofing.
In 2019, the county applied for a grant to include the restoration of the Ice House. However, costs and constructability issues associated with the design prevented progress toward the renovation. Since 2020, the county staff has attempted to stabilize the structures and protect them from further deterioration.
But then, the unthinkable happened in 2021 when the Ice House floor collapsed into the Indian River Lagoon, creating floating debris hazards. Upon further inspection, the building posed safety hazards to the existing reconstructed dock and to curious boaters who might try to access the collapsing building.
On March 14, 2022, the Ice House was demolished under an emergency order. A month later, the county said the Main House structure was worsening. The Board of County Commissioners then directed staff to move forward with a plan to construct a covered pavilion within the footprint of the previous Ice House. They also wanted to identify the costs associated with demolishing the Archie Smith House.
The costs to tear down the Main House came to approximately $48,000. In addition, the cost to design and construct the new over-water pavilion came to roughly $461,000, making the total for both projects about $508,000.
On November 8, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to complete both projects.
Archie Smith purchased the property in 1927 and established a fishing business. The site included an expanded house, a shed for net storage, a crab house, a fish house, and extensive docks.