Early 1920’sThe site where the Riviera on Vaal Hotel and Country Club is situated today has been apopular relaxation spot for many visitors since as early as the 1920’s. With a majestic singlestory house featuring as kiosk, this was a venue for brisk trade with fun seekers of the timewho enjoyed boating, water polo, swimming and many other activities.
Riviera HotelAn American, Mr. Schlesinger, who had made 43 movies within seven years at that time,visited the site and fell in love with its beauty. In fact, he claimed it to be one of the mostbeautiful sites he had ever seen. Due to his success in the movie business, he was able todevelop the ultra modern Riviera Hotel. The hotel featured a bathroom in each room, whichwas a luxury unheard of in those years. Mr. Schlesinger opened the doors to the hotel onAugust 29th, 1936. It was on this same day, also, that the Vereeniging to Durban air racewas held, together with the opening of the Vereeniging Aerodrome.
Floods 1975Unfortunately, from the 1960’s, the hotels popularity declined. Early in the year of 1975,disastrous floods submerged most of the low-lying areas of Vereeniging – the hotel and theadjacent golf course included. During this time, it was the Behr family who owned the hotel.They had taken over a completely dilapidated hotel in 1970 and a complete renovation waserected. The hotel started to gain popularity with much of its success coming from Mrs.Cynthia Behr, who was known for her strictness and spectacular buffets. The highlight of theweek was usually the popular Sunday dinner and movie evenings, which was always full inthe pre-television days.
Casino FeverIn the late 70’s and early 80’s, Sun City opened its doors as Casino fever hit South Africa. InAugust 1981, it was reported that the Riviera Hotel and part of the adjacent land had beensold. Word was that a giant hotel complex, called Aqua City, would be developed and it wasto be a fun park for the whole family.Problems rose immediately, with Rand Water as the catalyst. The hotels 2- star grading waslost and its doors were closed in 1983. Rand Water’s ruling was that the hotel would havehad to be built at least 100 meters from the river.
1984 RevampIn March 1984 the entire hotel was stripped to a bare shell, with two storeys being added.Sun International ran the hotel, until they failed to secure a gambling license and then sold itto Sir John Sherry. He was the founder of the listed Jasco Holdings in 1998. Unfortunately,things did not look up for the hotel and standards decreased dramatically until the hotel wasput up for auction in 2003.
Riviera on Vaal Hotel TodayBusinessman Mac van der Merwe saw potential and bought the hotel in November 2003,where after the entire hotel and grounds were completely renovated and rebuilt within threemonths’ time. The hotels first 30 rooms were officially reopened on March the 12th, 2004.