History of Orchid Island
It was an era when trading schooners served as floating general stores, peddling their wares to the pioneers inhabiting the shores along the Indian River Lagoon. A place where pristine beaches framed shimmering seas and wild orchids festooned towering oak trees. A place that beckoned people to make this unspoiled paradise their home. In the 1800's, one of the first of a handful of visionary settlers to arrive was twenty-nine-year-old Captain Frank Forster. A qualified navigator and ship's captain, Forster staked a homestead, built a home, and, realizing the potential of the land, began to acquire more with the intent to sell to other settlers. It was he who christened the area "Orchid" after the abundance of Epidendrum Tampense orchids that were indigenous to the area.
The next to come was Stephen Michael. He had left his family in West Virginia as he, along with his friend W. H. Wigfield, toured the state in search of a promising home site. Upon meeting Captain Forster, Michael and Wigfield immediately bought five acres of land from him; they then returned to West Virginia to gather up their families and bring them to Orchid. By 1887, Stephen Michael had already begun planting citrus trees on his land. When a severe frost devastated all of the area’s citrus and mangroves in the 1890s, Michael sold the land to his son, A.B. Michael. In 1903, A.B. decided to carry on with his father’s original pursuit and replanted the first ten acres of citrus trees. It was his citrus plantings that would become the most sought after source of Indian River grapefruit.
On May 12, 1965, with the intention of preserving the natural beauty, the historical character, and the agricultural aspects of the area, all 600 acres of the Orchid Island property, as well as the undeveloped parcel on CR 510 and the 2½ acres adjacent to A1A, were incorporated as the Town of Orchid.
Early Days of Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club
In 1986, the Michael Family, descendants of the area's original settlers, sold the land comprising of the Town of Orchid to Deerfield Groves, which subsequently sold the property to Robert Haines III of Avon, Connecticut, and a small group of limited partners. When Haines bought the property in 1987, the Town of Orchid had a population of seven and made national news as the second-smallest town in Florida. It was Haine's vision to build a community that consisted of a few hundred British West Indies-styled luxury homes overlooking the golf course, the ocean and the Indian River. He broke ground on the development of Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club in 1988 with the construction of the Beach Club and the Arnold Palmer designed golf course.
On November 17, 1990, Orchid Island celebrated the grand opening of the club's crown jewel: the Beach Club, and on March 19, 1991, Arnold Palmer himself performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the golf course. Orchid Island's spectacular eighteen-hole championship golf course is one of Florida's few barrier island courses.