By the time the first round of golf was played at John’s Island and the first homes were being built at The Moorings, the Riomar Country Club was
already 50 years old. It may be hard to imagine now, but just a few years prior to that anniversary, in the 1950s and early ‘60s, there was very little on the barrier island that was not clustered around the Riomar neighborhood. There was no Highway A1A in that part of Vero Beach; in fact, the easement for a portion of A1A was granted by the Riomar Country Club in 1961.
Many current residents of Vero Beach are familiar with Dorothy Fitch Peniston’s 1985 memoir, “An Island in Time,” in which she describes the experiences of her family and friends in Riomar’s first two decades (1919-39). One of many lasting impressions from that book is how dark it was at night on the island, with just a handful of homes in the tiny colony having been recently provided with electricity in the 1920s. There are members of the Riomar Country Club today who were children back in the 1950s and still recall the pleasantly rustic conditions, when Corey’s Pharmacy was the only store within walking distance where you could get a cool drink or a pack of gum.
Today, both Riomar and the barrier island have changed dramatically; 2019 marks the centennial of both the club and the city of Vero Beach. Over the past 100 years, the club and the city have developed side by side, and a look back over the past century of the club’s history shows how closely the two have been intertwined.
Riomar was started by three men from Cleveland who formed the East View Company with the purpose of “dealing in real estate.” W.H. Humiston and John P. Sawyer were distinguished physicians, and E.E. Strong was an established businessman. After some early visits to the area, they decided on Vero as a place they’d like to build vacation homes, escape the harsh Cleveland winters and play golf, fish, swim and go boating in the company of their friends and families.