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Volusia's Not So Ancient Ruins: Rio Vista on the Halifax


Photo by Robin Mimna

From conquests of Spanish conquistadores to the rise and collapse a booming citrus industry in the 1890s, Florida has always been a place of big dreams… and even bigger failures. It’s reputation for being a money-making paradise has made it the beneficiary of some of the most grandiose plans… and we have the ruins to prove it.


If you find yourself on Calle Grande Street in Holly Hill, you might think you’ve driven through a portal into Rome. Just past the railroad tracks before you reach US 1, the street is flanked by what appears to be ancient Roman columns. No, the Romans never built an empire in Florida, but a man named Walter C. Hardesty from Ohio had big plans for one of the most ambitious housing developments the state had ever seen.


Ruins of Calle Grande Street/old entrance to Rio Vista on the Halifax
Photo by Robin Mimna

Hardesty came to Florida during the land boom of the 1920’s with a plan to develop over 3,000 lots, a golf course and hotel called Rio Vista on the Halifax. The columns, which are not actually made of marble but were painted to look that way, were the entrance to this majestic community.


Rio Vista on the Halifax original site plan

Photo from Florida Historic Golf Trail website: https://floridahistoricgolftrail.com/courses/riviera-country-club/

But before Hardesty could realize his dream, the land boom fizzled out and the stock market collapsed, ruining all his plans. (Get it? Ruins? Sorry...) In the end, only the hotel, golf course and about 30 homes were built before the money ran out.


Hardesty died in 1935 still trying to pay the taxes on the property, which was later auctioned off. The old hotel is now The Riviera Assisted Living Facility, the golf course is part of the Riviera Country Club and the ruins of Calle Grande, owned by the county are actually… in ruins.




Post Card of the Riviera Hotel (Circa 1920s)

The Riviera Assisted Living Facility (As it looks today)

Although these decaying columns are the product of unfulfilled dreams, they are also an enchanting snapshot of a more mysterious, untouched Florida woven into Volusia's story. So, if you’re looking to do a little exploring, take a drive past the columns and enjoy a bit of free… but maybe not so ancient Florida history.


Sources:


City of Holly Hill, Florida. (n.d.). Rio Vista on the Halifax and the Riviera Hotel. City of Holly Hill, Florida. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.hollyhillfl.org/community/page/rio-vista-halifax-and-riviera-hotel


Florida Historic Golf trail. (n.d.). Featured golf course. Florida Historic Golf trail. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://floridahistoricgolftrail.com/courses/riviera-country-club/


Lelis, L., & Writer, S. S. (2021, August 5). Preserving the arches. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-2004-08-06-0408060344-story.html






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