Named to commemorate French explorer Jean Ribault, who first claimed Fort George Island in 1562, The Ribault Club is situated in Fort George Island Cultural State Park, a site boasting 5,000 years of civilization in North Florida.
From the native Timucuan Indians to Spanish conquerors, early American colonists, vacationers of the jazz age, and today’s sportsmen and hikers, Fort George Island borders the mouth of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida and remains one of the most beautiful and historic settings in Florida.
The Ribault Club history begins in 1928. Built atop the shell middens left by native Indians hundreds of years ago, it offered a winter get-a-way for affluent families. The roaring 20’s spirit on this tree-covered estate welcomed members from Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Pittsburg to vacation, dine and dance, earning the knick-name “Millionaire’s Club.” It was so popular that by 1930, an additional lodge was added to accommodate its 350 regular guests.
The property included a Donald Ross-designed golf course, lawn bowling, clay tennis courts, hunting, fishing, yachting (and socializing, of course), often welcoming foreign dignitaries, captains of industry and members of society.
The Depression of 1929 and World War II dramatically impacted the club’s success. In the 1940’s it became a public-private club. In the 1980’s The Ribault Club was purchased with the hope of turning it into a resort community, similar to Amelia Island Plantation. When that didn’t come to fruition, the state of Florida purchased The Ribault Club as part of the Talbot Island Park System, with the city of Jacksonville taking over management of the golf course. When profitability proved difficult, the golf course and the club were both closed and remained abandoned for a time.
A group of residents stepped in to preserve the property and its history, working with the Florida State Park Service, the National Park Service and the City of Jacksonville. Together, with community support, funding was secured for a $4 million restoration. The Ribault Club reopened to its former grandeur in 2003.
Now considered a significant historic building on Fort George Island, The Ribault Club is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (2000), considered a Jacksonville Landmark Property, and home to the Fort George Island Visitor Center.
An interpretive audio-visual museum is on site showcasing the life and history of the people, places and land of Northeast Florida. Displays trace 12,000 years of the island’s history. There is a large stretch of land set aside in this area to preserve the natural beauty and native setting of north Florida, and The Ribault Club is situated right in the middle of it.