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RIVIERA, TEXAS. Riviera was founded by Theodore F. Koch, a young man who had come to New York from his native land of Holland to bring Holstein and Friesan Cattle. While waiting for the cattle to be released from quarantine, he traveled to Chicago with a friend, Martin Prins. Mr. Prins interested him in the land railway companies were putting up for sale. Koch became a land promoter. By 1886 Koch had become established in the work of settling immigrants in Minnesoto, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Eventually, land for settlement became scarce in these northern states, so Koch turned to the new land being opened up in South Texas. After traveling from west Texas to Brownsville and searching for the best possible site for settlements at the best price, he recommended to the stockholders 40,000 acres of land offered by Henrietta King. He arrived in Kingsville in January of 1907 where he was shown this land which was rolling prairie partly covered with mesquite timber. The soil was very light near the railroad, but got heavier farther north and east.
On the east Baffin Bay was an invitation to locate a summer resort and bathing beach. This is exactly what eventually happened. The town which Koch laid out he named Riviera for the French resort of that name. Koch asked the development company to send him some help in selling the land. The Chicago office sent Henry C. Horstmann, who, with his wife moved to town and built the first house in Riviera. Mrs. Horstmann was not satisfied with the area so after six months they moved back to Chicago. Koch moved into their house, added some rooms, and used it as a hotel. It was conveniently situated one block from the Boulevard.
A railroad depot was built to accommodate the train from Chicago to the area. It arrived once or twice a month bringing potential customers. Koch asked the development company to send him some help in selling the land. The Chicago office sent Henry C. Horstmann who, with his wife moved to town and built the first house in Riviera. Mrs. Horstmann was not satisfied with the area so after six months they moved back to Chicago. Koch moved into their house, added some rooms, and used it as a hotel. There was a wide boulevard through Riviera, in which Koch had planted tropical trees, plants, and flowers. The Horstmann House was conveniently situated one block from the Boulevard
There were many who came who bought land and established homes in the community. Businesses were not long in being established. In 1907 a post office was established, then in 1908 a school was built.
Only seven years after the town was well established a severe drought hit the area. The next year, 1916, a devastating hurricane hit. Some of the settlers left the area, discouraged but others remained and then new people also arrived.
Fran Schroeder writes in her article “Riviera Today--1976” “Along Texas Highway 77 that passes through Riviera are crowded truck stops. It is the last stop for fifty-seven miles going south to Raymondville, and it offers a traveler a last chance to eat and fuel up. The truck stops look like many such stations across South Texas, but , if a traveler turns east on the intersecting Farm Road 771, he will find that Riviera is a unique town.
There is a park in the center of the business area that is all that remains of the grand boulevard that Koch had planted. On one corner is the little brick bank building that Charles Flato had built. The town ladies are working to restore the interior of the bank, so it may be used for a local museum.”
SOURCES: Schroeder, Fran. "Riviera" Kleberg County, Texas; Kleberg County
Historic Commission, 1979; p.293 Sterling Bass, History of Kleberg County (M.A.
thesis, University of Texas, 1931). Kleberg County Historical Commission,
Kleberg County, Texas (Austin: Hart Graphics, 1979). Tom Lea, The
King Ranch (2 vols., Boston: Little, Brown, 1957).
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