Archbold Biological Station Turns 80!

The Station buildings 1940’s and 2000’s.

Author: Zach Forsburg

In the 1920s, people came to Florida for many of the same reasons they do today, seeking mild winters and the beauty of a Southern getaway. The Lake Placid Club of New York established its Florida resort on Lake Childs (renamed Lake Placid), and among its visitors were Margaret and John Roebling. Margaret’s tuberculosis led to the Roeblings’ decision to settle just south of Lake Placid and build their estate on a property called Red Hill. Construction of their estate began in 1929, during the Great Depression. The construction of the estate continued despite Margaret’s untimely death in October 1930, and the estate buildings were completed in 1935, after which John decided to sell or donate the Red Hill Estate.

There was little interest from buyers, but a chance meeting between John’s son Donald and Richard Archbold (an old school friend) in 1940 was a catalyst for a great transition. The onset of World War II meant that Archbold would no longer be able to conduct his overseas expeditions to the Pacific. He was seeking a US base to continue his biological research. In July 1941, John Roebling deeded his Red Hill Estate to Richard Archbold for $1.00, trusting that he would be “sensitive to the unspoiled beauty of the land.”

As World War II raged in the Pacific, Richard Archbold began to implement his ideas for a biological field station, and by the end of the war, he was fully committed to Archbold Biological Station. Richard remained on site as its full-time resident, and very active leader, for the next 35 years. Throughout the years, Richard built a tradition of scientific excellence, inviting scientists from around the world to visit. The list of scientists who stayed at the Station reads like a who’s who of mid-century ecologists. Richard also invested in conservation and stewardship. Beginning in 1967, the Station started mapping fires systematically and the scientific data began to reveal that fire is vital for scrub species and crucial to the stewardship of the land. In 1973, Archbold purchased 2,773 acres of adjacent land, adding important scrub habitat.

In the spring of 1976, facing terminal cancer, Richard Archbold was hospitalized in Palm Beach County. With the future of Archbold Expeditions and the Station unclear, Archbold personally typed a new will that ensured the land, buildings, and his personal fortune would be dedicated to the Station. His sister, Frances Archbold Hufty, agreed to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Archbold Expeditions. So began the next era of Archbold Biological Station. Cheers to the past 80 years and cheers to the next 80 years!

Richard Archbold on the Caloosahatchee River in 1945. Photo by Leonard J. Brass.

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