Orange Park, Florida history lives at Winterbourne Inn, an elegant weddings & event venue on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 1880’s great Pleasure Boats cruised the scenic St. Johns near the little town of Orange Park, and B.J. Johnson, looking for a place to escape the harsh Wisconsin climate, brought his family here to winter. His daughter Karrie’s health had been declining and he had already lost two children to consumption (tuberculosis) and did not want to lose another child. The winters in Milwaukee had been hard on the sick children, and he was eager to try something different and so came south. While Palm Beach and Miami had not yet become popular resort towns, the areas of Orange Park and Green Cove Springs drew northerners to their bath houses and hot springs believed to aid one’s health.
B.J. Johnson and his family stayed at the Park View House (later named the Marion Hotel), a large hotel built at the corner of Kingsley Avenue and River Road, the area where the Moosehaven now occupies. Near the hotel and extending well into the river was a 1,200 foot wooden pier, which could accommodate steamboats, thus, attracting the northern tourists to the area.
Mr. Johnson found that he could rent the house just across Kingsley Avenue from Mr. Washington Benedict, founder of Orange Park. The house, built in 1874, and believed to be part of the Kingsley Plantation, became the winter home of the Johnson family for many years.
His daughter, Karrie, who had spent much of her teenage years in Orange Park, came to love the house and the area, and in 1906 persuaded her husband, John Albert Ferguson to buy the waterfront estate. They named their property “Winterbourne”, or “Winter Waterway” in Albert’s native Scottish tongue.
In 1917, Karrie persuaded her brother Caleb to purchase 20 acres of her property. He was retiring from the soap company, and wanted to move his family to the warmer Florida climate. Caleb and his wife Elinor went on to build Mira Rio which now serves as the Club Continental. Karrie Johnson Ferguson lived in Winterbourne until her death, well in her 80’s. After her death, the home was sold in 1952.
A generation later, Karrie’s great nephew, Jon Massee, had converted the family home of Mira Rio into a private social club. His wife Frica was very active in the community and was a teacher for many years. In an effort to preserve historic buildings in Clay County, Frica Massee purchased the Winterbourne property on 1982, bringing it back into the family. She spent countless hours restoring the home and its gardens. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.