By Walt Jurgensen and Hal Sands
- 4200 BC: Indian settlements in Southwest Florida
- 1517, Spanish explorers visit area and decide it is worthless
- July 21, 182l: United States organizes Florida territory purchased from Spain. Collier County area is part of St. Johns County (St. Augustine)
- March 24, 1837: U. S. Army establishes fort in Collier County during Seminole Wars
- June 1, 1881: Philadelphia tool maker Hamilton Disston buys 4 million acres, which includes all of Collier County area, from the state of Florida ( $.25 an acre)
- July 3, 1883: Collier and Lee Counties are part of newly created Monroe County
- November 6, 1886: Naples Town Improvement Company organized in Tallahassee
- May 13, 1887: Lee County created. It included all the Collier area. Lots in Naples were being sold for $10
- From 1881 to 1923 the area of Riviera Golf Estates was held by various companies. They were mostly railroad and timber companies who often used the property as collateral for loans to pursue other projects.
- January 2, 1923: Most of Collier area is bought by Barron Collier. Not included was the Naples town area and Marco Island.
- May 8, 1923: Collier County is created from Lee County with its seat in Everglades City.
- September 30, 1962: County government moved to East Naples
- 1968: The property passed into control of the Lely developers, who, in 1969, sold it to Mobile Homes Dynamics Inc.
RIVIERA GOLF ESTATES
In 1972 the property passed to MoAmCo Corp. of Minnesota, the original developer of this community. They filed the original “Declaration of Protective Covenants” at the Collier County Court House in March of 1973. This established Riviera Golf Estates as an adult mobile home subdivision of 885 lots around the existing 18 hole public Riviera Golf Club, which the Gifford family had built in 1971 on leased land. The golf course opened for play in June of 1972. Two months later MoAmCo transferred the subdivision to Riviera Estates Corp., which built the Clubhouse and a construction building now known as the Annex which were completed in 1974. They then began the installation of manufactured homes near the clubhouse on Charlemagne Boulevard, along LeMans Drive, West Riviera Boulevard and Chateau Way. Later Calais Court was built and Belle Isle section was completed in the late 1980’s completing the manufactured home part of the community
In June of 1976 the Riviera Estates Corporation filed Chapter XI bankruptcy. In 1977 the property was acquired by a new developer, AD&D. In 1981, AD&D began building concrete block and stucco homes in a separate section of the property which was named Lake Champagne. These were built first along Fleur de Lis Lane and then Charlemagne Boulevard and then the northern section of Marseilles Drive.
In 1985 AD&D sold its holdings to Champaign Realty. The southern section of Marseille Drive was now developed. Champagne Realty began completion of Charlemagne Boulevard and Estelle Drive and started aggressively marketing homes and lots there.
While completing the last section of Charlemagne the developers changed the street layout. The lots had been configured for mobile homes, but the developer wanted to build concrete block homes which required larger lots. So Charlemagne was narrowed to two lanes without a median.
Champagne Realty experienced financial difficulty and their remaining lots eventually became the property of the Winfield Company which built much of that area. The last home in the whole development was occupied in 2005.
The first Declaration of Protective, Covenants and Use Restrictions were filed with Collier County in March of 1973 by the orginal developer MoAmCo. It established many of the rules still in force. All power was vested in the developer.
On April 27, 1978, a non-profit corporation was created named Riviera Golf Estates Home Owners Association. It consisted of all homeowners and had five board members. It was still controlled by the developer. In 1982 the number of Association Board members was increased to nine with 3-year staggered terms so that only three chairs would be up for re-election each year.
In 1985 the Association purchased the recreation facilities from Champagne Realty for $557,750. This consisted of the Clubhouse and Annex, swimming pool, two tennis and six shuffleboard courts. The purchase was approved at a special meeting of the homeowners, and the Homeowners Association with six board members assumed control of the community. The following year a mortgage was signed with the Barnett Bank of Naples for $650,000. The Annex building was leased to the developers for their continued use as a construction office.
The passing of “The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988” prohibited community associations from discriminating against a person based on the their age. The ability of the Association to remain an adult community came into question. A committee that was formed to review the regulations in the new law found an exemption that would permit a community to qualify as “Housing For Older Persons” by having at least 80% of all homes occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older and by having facilities in the common areas to serve the needs of older persons. A survey showed the community was well over the minimum 80% requirement. Steps were taken to install handicap access ramps and toilets, parking spaces for the handicapped, handrails, etc. in the recreation facilities. In March 1989, an inspection by HUD to resolve a complaint determined that Riviera Golf Estates met the criteria for a Community for the Housing of Older Persons.
After the lease with Champagne Realty on the Annex was terminated at the end of 1990, renovations were undertaken and completed in early 1992, which provided a billiard room, two card rooms, and a storage area. Two years later a fitness center was added with various pieces of exercise equipment.
In 1996, the homeowners approved a $100 annual assessment to pay down the mortgage on the recreational facilities in six years. In March of 2001 the final mortgage payment was made and a mortgage burning party held to celebrate the event.
In 2005 the last available lot was built upon. There are now 690 homes in the commnunity. However, 2005 was not a good year. In November, Hurricane Wilma struck. Many homeowners experienced some loss, but the older manufactured homes were especially hard hit. A few had to be totally replaced. Also, there were rumors of a move to replace the golf course with a “work force” condominium project. The rumors proved to be true and the community was galvanized to action. The Association hired a lawyer. A flurry of letters to the editor brought support from many outside of the community. It was discovered that there was a statement in the documents that said that the golf course should remain a golf course or similar activity.* By the spring of 2006 it appears that the developer had lost interest in the project.
PAST BOARD PRESIDENTS:
- Louise Savely — 1975
- Charles Parker — 1976
- Elwood Lecrone — 1977-78
- Arthur London — 1979
- Louis Heemstra — 1980
- Henry Phelps — 1981
- Robert Zellers — 1981
- Stanley Marmaduke — 1982
- Louise Schlaff — 1983
- Eve Kern — 1984
- Louise Schlaff — 1985
- Clarissa Hadd — 1986
- Lee Garrison — 1987
- Mary Sumy — 1988
- Louise Gibson — 1989
- Don Bremner — 1990-91
- Hal Sands — 1992
- Kay Randazzo — 1993-2007
- Len Bulat — 2008-2010
- Bill Joyce — 2011-2016
- George Danz — 2016-2018
- Michael Flaherty — 2018-
For potential new and current homeowners who would like more details, including names of past and present board members and photos of past and present board presidents and the recreation area, there is a “History” book available in the Association office for you to look over.
*In 1973, Giffords bought the land it had leased. The sellers insisted on a provision in the title that the golf course would always be a golf course in order to prevent the golf course land from becoming a competitive developer.