History of Wellington

History of Wellington

The land surrounding what would become the town of Wellington was originally a massive strawberry patch, until it was purchased by New York accounting magnate Charles Oliver Wellington in the 1950’s. He named it Flying Cow Ranch, after his love for aviation and his initials (COW).

Charles passed it down to his son Roger after his death in 1959, who began working together with Jim Nall of the ICOF (Investment Corporation of Florida) to develop 18,200 acres of land, at the time the largest real estate project in Palm Beach County. Later that year, Gould Florida Inc was brought onto the project, along with its polo-playing chairman Bill Ylvisaker, laying the groundwork for Wellington to become an equestrian mecca.

Bill began work on a 1,200 acre area, establishing the International Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, the residential neighborhood, and the home of what would become the Winter Equestrian Festival. It was only in 1980 that the area was listed in the US Census as Wellington, with a total of 4,622 residents, officially becoming a village in 1995.

1999 was when the concept of the Equestrian Preserve was first introduced by Ken Adams, a longtime community leader and equestrian, who shared his vision for a set of protections for Wellington’s equestrian communities. Though the implementation took some time, the result was an 11 square mile area south of the village designated for equestrian use, expanding to include Little Ranches to the northeast and Rustic Ranches to the west in 2004.

In 2002, the International Polo Club Palm Beach began hosting the prestigious C.V. Whitney Cup Tournament, turning Wellington into the worldwide home of high-goal polo. The United States Polo Association’s U.S. Open Championship followed shortly after in 2004, and their Gold Cup Tournament in 2007. The IPC was the first club to host all three top polo tournaments in the nation.

It was only in 2011 that the proposed Equestrian Preserve District was formalized by the village council and added to the Village Charter, protecting the area from further developments. In March of 2016, Wellington’s voters amended the Village Charter to permanently prevent construction of hotels, motels, condos and apartments within the Equestrian Preserve District, with an overwhelming two-thirds majority voting to protect the Preserve. Today there are over 12,000 horses in Wellington during the peak season, as well as nearly 70 polo fields.

The plan and scope for the equestrian preserve is still evolving today, but there are ongoing threats to its integrity as a haven for horses and horse lovers worldwide.

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