Sporting toy hard-hats to celebrate the project, Tonja Olive,
president of the McCormick Mile Beach Club, signs the agreement
with contractor Mark Becker and board member Jerry Goray (left).
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Ron Hayes
Raise the roof.
And while you’re at it, refurbish the bathroom, build a new deck, add air conditioning and bring the whole place up to hurricane code.
Residents of the McCormick Mile developments on Harbour and Sabal islands are doing all that and more to turn a former sales office teetering on the brink of eyesore into a 21st-century beach club the whole community can admire.
“It’s the soul of the neighborhood,” says Tonja Olive, president of McCormick Mile Beach Club Inc. “But it was falling apart, and we were going to lose it if we didn’t repair it.”
Resting on dunes just south of the Boynton Inlet, the simple, one-story concrete-block building is east of the coastal construction line. Legally, it can be repaired, but not replaced. Now donations from residents will see the rebirth begin, probably this month.
In 1955, developers promised “unique Florida living right in the Heart of the Gold Coast” when the Harbour Island homesites, on property once owned by Col. Robert R. McCormick, owner of The Chicago Tribune, went on sale.
Two years later, a second phase opened on Sabal Island and the club was built as a temporary sales office, with a promise that it would be deeded to the residents for use as a private beach club. In 1965, it was.
“We were the sixth house built,” remembers Millie Stormont, who moved to Harbour Island in September 1961. “My children could literally play in the road. The clubhouse was just a simple little place where we all went and had meals, and then you just closed the door and left. You didn’t need a parking sticker on your car, didn’t have to remember a code on the lock.”
When Stormont arrived, the club’s annual dues were $30. Today, the dues are $300, but the 55-year-old beach club hasn’t kept pace. The walls are cracked, the deck splintered. An oceanfront window is patched with a black garbage bag and duct tape.
“A surfboard went through the window,” says Kristine de Haseth, the club’s secretary, with a grim smile. “Everybody takes turns mopping the floor.”
Two years ago, a newly elected board formed a building committee. Plans were sketched, pleas made. So far, about 63 of the development’s 98 homes have donated $1,000 each toward the repairs, and an anonymous donor has offered to help make up the difference, according to de Haseth.
The entire project is expected to cost about $185,000, said building committee member Mark Becker, including about $25,000 for vegetation, expanded parking and a new roadside wall and gate.
An original sales poster for McCormick Mile Beach Club.
“The challenge has been raising the funds,” said Becker, who expects work to begin soon, with Jeff Barker Workbench Construction realizing architect James Gilgenbach’s plans.
First, they’ll replace and raise the roof two feet.
“It should be under a 90-day job. We’re all working toward a grand opening on Labor Day, and I haven’t seen anything in the plans that says we couldn’t get there,” Becker said.
De Haseth can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it being actively used by young and old alike,” she said. “It’s a happy place. People come to celebrate, whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or just the end of the week.
“It’s the gateway to Ocean Ridge.”