Our History, Is Steeped within the Community.
The MacWilliam family history in Vero Beach is a deep-rooted one, beginning in the 1920s when Alex MacWilliam, Sr. moved here, after serving in World War I. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 25, 1891, his parents and grandparents were landscape architects. When the family immigrated to Cleveland in 1909, he was 18 years old.
At the age of 26 he fought in WWI in France as first sergeant in the 318th Machine Gun Battalion of the U.S. Army. He received the battlefield commission of second lieutenant. During the Battle of Verdun, he was shot by a machine gun in both legs but concealed his injuries until he was able to help a wounded comrade to safety. By the time he was honorably discharged from the Army, Alex MacWilliam Sr. had received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. General John Pershing also presented him the French Croix de Guerre medal.
When he returned to Cleveland after the war, his doctor, Dr. John P. Sawyer, told him about a project that he and two other Clevelanders had formed called the Eastview Development Co. who, in 1919, purchased 160 acres on a Florida barrier island from a retired sea captain for $5,000 in gold and were considering building a golf course, along with fishing facilities and winter homes. At that time, Vero was a small town across the Indian River in St. Lucie County with only 529 inhabitants, a blacksmith shop, and a few stores. To reach the island, one had to cross the river in a rowboat. Upon the advice of Sawyer, the senior MacWilliam moved to Vero, in 1920, to recover from his wounds and following in his parents and grandparents career path became a landscape architect.
Dr. Sawyer had become impressed with Alex MacWilliam, Sr. and suggested to his partners, one of which was Dr. William Humiston, that they hire him to oversee development of the barrier island project. Not yet 28 years old and eager for something exciting to do after his war experience, he quickly accepted. Workers were assigned two mules each to clear a 100-foot area each day for the job. By early 1920, a nine-hole golf course was ready with President Warren Harding playing there one year later. Around that same time, the Eastview Development Company changed its name to "Riomar," the Spanish word for "From River to Sea."
It was during the construction of Riomar that Alex MacWilliam Sr. fell in love and on June 6, 1920, married Jeanette O'Flaherty, an immigrant from Galway, Ireland who came to Vero to work at the Riomar Club. They lived in a two-story Spanish-style stucco home in Riomar and had eight children: Edgar, Bill, Alex Jr., Helen, Joan, Peter, Barbara, and Robert. Alex, Sr. went on to achieve a very long list of accomplishments in and throughout Indian River County. To name a few, he....
- Lobbied St. Lucie County to build the first bridge across the Indian River to Vero Beach.
- Lobbied, in 1925, to create Indian River County as a separate entity from St. Lucie County resulting in the creation of Martin and Indian River Counties.
- Created the first of many public parks including Pocahontas, Young, and Humiston Parks.
- Helped create the first Florida State Veteran’s Commission and recruited 88 local citizens raise money and spearhead the development of Veteran’s Memorial Island.
- Was Mayor of Vero Beach for over 20 years.
Fast forward to World War II, when Alex MacWilliam Jr. came home from fighting in the Pacific, married Jean Rymer, and helped run, with his brother Edgar, “Club Mac”, a commissioned officer’s club that their mother and father leased from Waldo Sexton in what is now the Ocean Grill. During that time, after reading several books about real estate, Alex, Jr. made a life changing decision and in 1949 started his own real estate business opening an office across from the downtown post office before moving it to Ocean Drive (still a dirt road at the time) on the island in the early 1950s, where it still operates from today.
When Alex, Jr. opened Alex MacWilliam Real Estate, it was one of only four real estate firms in entire Indian River County. He helped broker many large land deals including 3,000 acres on the island for Fred Tuerk that was to become John’s Island and 30,000 acres that Tuerk owned west of town that would be parceled to some of the area’s biggest names in citrus.
Jean and Alex, Jr. went on to have two daughters, Sandy and Cindy, and a son, Alex, III. His namesake, Alex “Buzz” MacWilliam, III graduated from Vero Beach High School and earned a B. A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. Having originally planned to go on to study law, he changed his mind and upon an invitation from his father welcoming him to the company he decided to join the firm in 1980. Six years later, Buzz married Stephanie Olsen and they had two children, Alex “AMAC” MacWilliam, IV and daughter Chandler, who in 2019 married Mike Sexton, Waldo’s great grandson and they have a daughter, Emmy.
Alex “AMAC” MacWilliam, IV, graduated from Saint Edward’s School and went on to earn his B.A. degree in Marketing from the University of Mississippi having originally dreamed of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Having interned for an insurance firm while at U.M., he thought he might enjoy the lure of the big cities the insurance industry offered, but he missed his friendly hometown and being by the water. After numerous heart-to-heart talks with his dad, AMAC chose to join the firm in 2014 and continue the family real estate legacy.
Alex MacWilliam Real Estate has grown to over 70 real estate professionals that specialize primarily in the sale of single-family homes and condominiums with some offering their commercial and agricultural expertise and that sell in all facets of the marketplace. Whether it is lifestyle communities, oceanfront, riverfront or golf course properties, affordable homes, foreclosures, or investment property, our family of AMAC agents are neighborhood experts.
As the longest tenured real estate firm in Vero Beach and Indian River County, Alex MacWilliam Real Estate’s decades long history gives us an unparalleled perspective and expertise of the local market because we laid the foundation for its diverse real estate landscape and continue to nurture that landscape into the place that we all call home.