How We Got Here
by Mike Smith
The Ocean Reef Historical Society and Museum have asked for a series of articles concerning various points of interest in our Club’s history with the goal of presenting the origins and stories of how our complex Club came to be and evolved. This series will strive to explain our history before and after we became private. We will explore how the Sunrise bridge was built and by whom. How the Hammock Course came to be. How Snapper Point appeared one summer when it wasn’t there the previous. How the Club made do in the early days without a water plant or well. But what better way to start than to explore the origin of our Historical Society and the evolution of our museum.
Back in the ’50’s and ’60’s, the Club had little rental houses located near the gas dock called ‘yachtels’. They were rented to guests coming into Ocean Reef by boat for overnight accommodations. As the hotel gained popularity, these ‘yachtels’ were moved to the staff housing area and in 2000, Monroe County designated one of them (Yachtel C-2) as a historical and cultural landmark. The Club then donated the yachtel to the Historical Society that had been formed under the tutelage of our first chairman, Tom Davidson. This yachtel became the first office of the Cultural Center and the Ocean Reef Historical Society. In 2005, under the direction of the second chairman of the Historical Society, Dick Skelly, the yachtel was moved to the Cultural Center parking lot.
With the mission: To discover, preserve and protect the history and heritage of the Ocean Reef community and its institutions and clubs, the Historical Society began several years after the Club buy-out. As the first chair of the Society, Tom Davidson started the collection of memorabilia and artifacts from Ocean Reef and also all of our private clubs and proceeded with the prodigious task of documenting a historical timeline with the help of Lisa Dykes, the museum’s curator.
In December of 2000, the museum opened along with the first showing of movies at the Cultural Center. The outstanding feature of the museum was being greeted by a robotic fishing guide as you entered. The robot was made in the image of IGFA Hall of Famer, Tommy Gifford, aka Salty. Constructed in Jacksonville by Sally Corporation, Salty set the tone for visitors who toured the museum and the popularity of learning our Club’s roots grew.
In 2014, the museum shut down for renovation under the stewardship of Stacy Schmetterer who redesigned the interior layout, reopening in April 2015. The new layout has proven to be very popular and visitation to the museum has been steady. Plan a visit and take your time. You can see Salty, early photos and maps of our community, details of the histories of The Racquet Club, Card Sound Golf Club, Angler’s Club, and all the Clubs within the Club. Understanding how we got here is a fascinating story everybody will appreciate. The hours are: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.