POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Baseball's a hit at Treasure Coast's Elliott Museum

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Elliott Museum in Stuart

A Baseball Gallery with collectible cards and other memorabilia is part of the Elliott Museum in Stuart along Florida's Treasure Coast. (Jim Abbott, Orlando Sentinel / January 7, 2014)

Art, history and technology aren't buzzwords in the typical man cave, but an afternoon at the Elliott Museum in Stuart is enough to realize that they could be.

The Elliott Museum (elliottmuseum.org), just east of downtown Stuart on Hutchinson Island, looks like it was built for guys. You could also describe the highlights as cars, boats and baseball.

Yes, there's an art gallery near the museum entrance, featuring works by 20th century modernist Josef Albers and two of his students, Neil Welliver and Jane Davis Doggett.

That exhibit, showcasing works that imaginatively interpret Bible verses from Ecclesiastes in vibrant colors and geometric designs, runs through Feb. 3. There's also a room devoted to the history of Florida's Treasure Coast that features artifacts ranging from Seminole Indian relics to a 1926 Stuart High School yearbook.

But the museum's calling card is the wealth of baseball and automotive history, collections that rank among the most extensive anywhere. More than 40 Model A Fords are on display, along with more than two dozen restored and original automobiles ranging from a 1902 Stanley Steamer Runabout to a 1955 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

The collection is displayed in a glass-enclosed, three-story garage, equipped with a robotic stacking system that allows visitors to select a vehicle and move it on a conveyor belt to a turntable that rotates to offer a better view. Alas, on my visit, the system wasn't working.

Even so, there's an assortment of classic vehicles in the Stuart Main Street Gallery, which also features a full-scale replica of the Pelican Hydro-Aeroplane that Stuart resident Hugh Willoughby designed in 1910. He envisioned it as a way to travel on water faster than a speedboat.

A close-up view of the plane is available upstairs, where there's also an exhibit of antique Evinrude outboard motors from the 1920s and a salute to historic Florida shipmakers.

As a nod to Florida's spring-training history, the Baseball Gallery showcases items from the museum's collection of more than 600 classic baseball cards, roughly 200 autographed balls and game-used bats by such icons as Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb.

Is this heaven? A guy might think so.

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