June 20, 2023
Unique Places in Clay County
There’s no shortage of unique people and places when it comes to life in Clay County. From an abandoned space shuttle fuel tank (yes, really!), a fresh spring that’s actually a community pool and more – there’s plenty to explore in Northeast Florida.
Let’s take a look at some of the more unique places you can discover during your visit. What’s your favorite, unique place to explore in Clay County?
Club Continental – A Luxurious Playground
Located in Orange Park, the Club Continental was once known as the Palmolive Estate (yes, like the soap). In the 1880’s, B.J. Johnson, owner of the Palmolive Soap Company, was looking to escape the harsh winters of Wisconsin and brought his family to Orange Park for the winter months.
Their first home, known today as The Winterbourne, now hosts weddings and private events. The family built then built a home next door and named it Mira Rio, now known as today’s Club Continental. The home was host to many, riverfront parties throughout the 1920’s ranging from social events, equestrian meets, yacht parties and more. In 1966, Mira Rio became a private, member club and renamed to Club Continental. The property is expanded to include seven tennis courts, three swimming pools, and twenty-two guest rooms.
Home to a Space Shuttle Fuel Tank
A replica of a space shuttle fuel tank is probably the last thing you’d expect to see along the St. Johns River in Clay County, but it’s true! Located at the Reynolds Industrial Park, the fuel tank is actually a replica fuel tank that was used for structure and stress testing between 1977 and 1980 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Upon the closure of the space shuttle program, NASA moved the replica fuel tank to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and began selling items in 2013 with the now-closed Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum in nearby Starke purchasing this relic. When the business realized the added costs of transporting the fuel tank from Reynolds Park to its museum, approximately 50 miles away, they parked the item at its current location in 2013. The nearby Military Museum of North Florida now owns the relic and is in early talks to move the item to museum property soon.
An interesting and surprising piece of NASA and space shuttle history located in Clay County, the fuel tank is accessible to visitors interested in seeing it up close. It certainly makes for an interesting story – and pictures too.
Enjoy Swimming in Spring Water in Green Cove Springs
While it may appear that the community pool located at Spring Park in Downtown Green Cove Springs, is just ‘another pool’, however that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The 135,000-gallon pool is actually spring-fed with the spring water flowing into the west side of the municipal swimming pool and exiting to continue the trek to the nearby St. John’s River. The water surges up from below at a rate of 1,346 gallons per minute and at a constant temperature of 77 degrees.
Surrounding the poll and spring area is a new, two-story building a new two-story pavilion with new bathrooms and a concession area on the first floor. A splash pad, new walkways and wheelchair accessible ramps, and new railing along with signage can be found around the spring. Since its completion in 2017, the pool has become the City’s top attraction for visitors—serving as a centerpiece for City and City-sponsored events.
Penney Farms – Unique Settlers and History
In 1922, as owner of the Golden Rule Stores around the country, now known as JC Penney, James Cash Penney purchased 120,000 acres of unincorporated land with the hopes of creating experimental farming community and a utopian village. He brought homesteaders from all walks of life and provided them with 40 acres of land per family and offered training and equipment to farm on their own. After being successful for two years, they would own the land.
In addition to purchasing the land, J.C. Penney also founded the Memorial Home for ministers and missionaries with low incomes to retire there and prosper. Memorial Home was a tribute to his minister father, wherein a community formed around itself with the incoming settlers. In 1927, the unincorporated Long Branch City was renamed Penney Farms and chartered in honor of James Cash Penney.
Today, the town of Penney Farms is home to a population of nearly 900, of which over 500 are residents of Penney Retirement Community. The town’s retirement community is unique in that it is one of the oldest in the country to feature continuing care from independent homes and apartments to nursing care for differing needs. The community prides itself on being the ‘most giving zip code’ in America with their charitable contributions to the community. To learn more about this unique community, don’t miss the Explore Clay blog telling the story of Penney Farms.
Ready to plan your visit to explore the unique places found in Clay County? Learn more about accommodations, activities, restaurants and more at www.ExploreClay.com.