Ortega River Club holds mortgage burning ceremony

Ortega River Club holds mortgage burning ceremony
Becky Rood, Wayne Turner, Elaine Atchison, Larry Alford, president Lajana Hill, club president, Tom White, vice-president, Rick Gehret, board chair, Chris Atchison, Ken Atlee

The Ortega River Club, the second oldest private club in Jacksonville after the Florida Yacht Club, has nearly as many names as a cat has lives. Under its current identity, members celebrated a mortgage burning April 14 at the club on 4165 Lakeside Drive.

Originally organized as the Germania Club in 1903, the certificate of incorporation was amended on June 18, 1918, changing the club’s name to the Metropolitan Club. After World War I, it became the German-American Club, then the Metropolitan Club again during World War II. In 1961, the name was amended again to the German-American Club and remained so for the next 50 years. 

The club’s first location is now the site of Haskell Company on Riverside Avenue. Dedicated in 1913, it was designed by renowned architect Henry Klutho. The grand opening spanned six days of festivities. After membership dropped drastically during World War I, the property was sold in 1921 to a labor organization which subsequently defaulted in 1923. The building on Riverside Avenue was then owned by Seminole Milk Co. (1924-1928), Foremost Dairy (1928-1932), and Faith Temple until the early 1940s, at which time it was purchased by an insurance company.

Elaine Atchison and Larry Alford with Lajana Hill holding the paid mortgage for the Ortega River Club.
Elaine Atchison and Larry Alford with Lajana Hill holding the paid mortgage for the Ortega River Club.

The property on Lakeside Drive was purchased in 1916 for $6,000. The building cost $20,000 to build and was dedicated in 1928, at which Mayor John T. Alsop, Jr. and City Commissioner T.C. Imeson gave the welcoming addresses. An addition was built in 1934 and the caretaker’s quarters were constructed on the second floor.

The run-down property became the Ortega River Club in 2011. Members mortgaged the building for $260,000 to invest in much-needed renovations. On April 14 over 100 club members celebrated paying off the mortgage eight years early with afternoon festivities including barbecue, dancing and music by Lori Capozzi and Matt Greene of Top Shelf Band and, of course, burning the mortgage.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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