Four years ago, Dick and JoAnn Messer purchased racing legend Hurley Haywood’s home in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Dick is the former Executive Director of the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, one of the most prestigious museums of its kind. He and the famous racecar driver had become acquainted through their mutual involvement in the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and Haywood was pleased that a fellow car enthusiast would be the new owner of his custom-made house.
Dick and JoAnn, both natives of southern California, are happy to call the First Coast their new home. Although they still reside in Riverside, California for two-thirds of the year, they relish their time here in Florida. “We just love this area. I tell people in Jacksonville, ‘You’re so spoiled.’ The people are so nice, and the traffic—I’ve never been in a traffic jam in the four years we’ve lived here,” says Dick. After many years in Los Angeles, the couple appreciates the relatively pristine environment of North Florida. Their Ponte Vedra Beach home is an oasis of comfort, convenience and seclusion.
It was a desire for this kind of seclusion that inspired its design in the first place. Before the home’s construction in 1998, Haywood and Steve Hill worked closely with the architect on the layout. A top priority was that the house wouldn’t be noticeable from the beach or the street. “The whole idea according to Hurley was that it would be inconspicuous.” As a high profile racing star, Haywood wanted his home to be a retreat from the limelight. “There’s a lot of privacy,” says JoAnn. “It feels like an island.”
Situated just one lot north of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve, the Messer’s home is integrated into the quiet, natural beauty of the Northeast Florida coast. The couple rarely sees anyone on the beach. “Occasionally we will see horseback riders,” says JoAnn, “but mostly there’s no one around.” From the den/kitchen area there is an ocean vista. “It’s really idyllic. We sit here and look out at the ocean and have breakfast every morning,” says Dick.
Compared to most of its neighbors, the home’s architecture is quite contemporary, and its modern design allows for a graceful integration into the landscape. Even the color choices correspond to the natural palette: the exterior paint is the color of beach sand. Dick recalls that Haywood insisted on having the highly regarded architect, Frank Schumer, design the home. On the side facing the ocean, the house is nestled against two 10-foot berms that protect it from damaging winds and add to the concealed nature of the house. “I’d say they took a semi-modernistic approach,” says Dick. “It’s not traditional.” JoAnn notes that although the design is modern, it’s still very warm and livable. The layout is also convenient: “Every part of the house is accessible. Everything is close together,” she says.
But it is the incredible vistas of the ocean that most distinguish this house. From a bird’s eye view, the back of the home is somewhat V-shaped, maximizing the number of windows facing the sea. Every room has a view of the ocean except for the theater (or “media room”), which has no windows, and the office, which is the only room that faces the street side. Like JoAnn says, it is like being on an island; not even the nearby homes are visible.
The interior is very open, and each room has an airy, feng shui feel to it, especially the master suite. JoAnn’s orchids enhance this Asian-inspired vibe. Other rooms downstairs include the guest suite, service area, den, dining room, living room, a powder room and the kitchen. The downstairs floors are poured concrete, which was still a fairly innovative concept when the home was built in 1998. The master bedroom opens onto the pool and hot tub area; next to the hot tub is an outdoor shower where the abundant foliage provides shade and privacy. The spacious kitchen boasts professional grade appliances, partially hardwood countertops (for chopping), a double oven and heat lamps, and an excellent ventilation system. Upstairs, in the couple’s spacious office, there is a desk for JoAnn and one for Dick. In the same room, overlooking the front of the house is Dick’s racecar simulator, complete with 40 courses and 26 different choices of cars. It’s all programmable, says Dick, and the pedals and steering wheel provide accurate tension and resistance.
In addition to the pool, the ocean, and the hot tub outside, the property has a greenhouse, a dog run and many garden areas. “Hurley kept it in great shape,” says Dick.
They don’t anticipate any architectural changes, but Dick would like to add on to the garage for his large car collection. Currently it holds only three automobiles. They plan to expand the space and create a subterranean garage. “You can’t have too many cars!” says Dick.
The Messers originally got to know the First Coast through the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and now they are excited to call North Florida home. “Here, we have everything,” says Dick. “We are looking forward to spending more time here. The whole Ponte Vedra area is amazing.”