In the 1880’s B.J. Johnson, founder of the Palmolive Soap Company, looking for a place to escape the harsh Wisconsin climate, brought his family to the little town of Orange Park to winter.
His daughter, Karrie, came to love her new home, and in 1906 she and her husband bought a circa 1870 waterfront estate in Orange Park. They named their property Winterbourne, or “Winter Waterway” in her husband’s native Scottish tongue. The house still stands and serves as a beautiful venue for weddings, receptions, business meetings and other gatherings.
A few years later, Karrie persuaded her brother Caleb Johnson to buy a portion of her property. He and his wife Elinor commissioned an architectural firm in Milwaukee to design a Mediterranean structure they named Mira Rio. Building began in early 1922 and the family took up residence in May, 1923.
Elinor Johnson and her daughter Margaret loved to have their friends from the north visit during the “season”, and often all nine bedrooms were full of guests. In the early 1920’s there were parties and activities of all sorts from bridge, horseback riding, boating and swimming to formal balls. In the Club Continental there are pictures taken during this festive period.
Jon Massee, Margaret Johnson Massee’s son, conceived the idea of turning Mira Rio into a private member club. Thus, in 1966, the Club Continental was born. Over the years the Club has expanded its facilities to include seven tennis courts, three swimming pools, and twenty-two guest rooms. The existing lawns, along with 300 year old Live Oaks, Magnolias, and formal gardens are carefully and lovingly maintained. The Club Continental, managed by Karrie Massee, Jon’s daughter, has grown to over 700 members who enjoy and appreciate the atmosphere of “Old Florida” the Club has grown to represent.
Read more about the history of the Club Continental…