Wild West Gunslingers – in Florida

Posted on June 7, 2012

Tombstone, Arizona, the subject of Kevin Britz’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, was hardly the only place that staged Wild West gunfights for tourist audiences. In addition to other “real” western “ghost towns,” specially contrived ghost-town tourist traps opened all across the United States in the 1960s at the height of the TV-western craze.

At least three of the most notable examples were about as far from the West as you could get in the U.S.: Florida! Osprey (between Sarasota and Venice), Panama City Beach, and Silver Springs enthralled tourists with daily gun battles on sandy streets against a backdrop of mock storefronts and saloons.

The following images, drawn from the State Archives of Florida, depict these long lost attractions. As the infatuation with “westerns” faded, these attractions also declined, leaving the “real” versions like Tombstone, where a sense of authenticity has enabled ongoing success.

Floridaland’s “ghost town” in Osprey, Florida, 1965. C651152. State Archives of Florida

Ghost town in Panama City Beach, Florida, 1967. C670657. State Archives of Florida

Six Gun Territory at Silver Springs, ca. 1980. COM03216. State Archives of Florida

Mackinac’s West Bluff, Then and Now

Posted on June 7, 2012

Hotel Avenue, west end, ca. 1900. Detroit Publishing Co. Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

When it opened 125 years ago, Grand Hotel raised the profile of Mackinac Island. Already noted as a place of refined respite from the sooty industrial cities of the Great Lakes region, this small, scenic island in Lake Huron soon drew industrialists from around the Midwest. They built fine “cottages” (really large mansions) on the high bluffs adjacent to the hotel to be near the social whirl it afforded. The cottages on West Bluff in the old photo above are finely maintained as summer homes to this day (see below).

Recovering Boston’s History in the App Age

Posted on June 6, 2012

The NPS Boston mobile app recently debuted on iPad, iPhone, and Android, placing the experience of the Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site in your hands. As the Boston Herald reported on May 24th, the app creates a virtual park ranger to guide tourists from the new National Park Service visitors center through the Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail in the Hub, as Boston’s downtown is known.

With the opening of the new visitors center, Faneuil Hall (built 1742) and adjacent Quincy Market (built 1824-26) have been marshaled once more into the service of conveying early American history, much as developer James Rouse drew upon colonial and Revolutionary American historical associations when crafting Faneuil Hall Marketplace, an upscale, locally oriented shopping experience, on the eve of the nation’s Bicentennial, a story detailed in Nicholas Dagen Bloom’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, a new book from the Center for American Places.

As another American Tourism contributor, Rutgers University–Camden history professor Charlene Mires, has argued in her work on Independence Hall, the tendency has been to force historic sites to convey a narrow range of history, with the colonial and early national periods usually winning much more favorable attention than the age of immigration, industrialization, and urbanization a century or so later.  Like Independence Hall, Faneuil Hall as depicted in the app focuses heavily on the foundations for the creation of the United States. Yet in its inclusion of sites on the Black Heritage Trail and some additional sites beyond either “trail,” the NPS Boston app begins to recover a broader swath of the city’s history. As the early 20th-century image above suggests, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market had a lively history that spanned a long stretch of years after the nation’s early years. Perhaps future extensions of the content will help travelers access even more of Boston’s heritage.

Quincy Market, ca. 1900. Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, LC-D4-17057 DLC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Venice in America

Posted on June 4, 2012

Visitors to Venice Beach, California, today are more likely to think of early-’80s roller skaters from Xanadu than Venice, Italy. Three quarters of a century before, however, Abbot Kinney’s vision brought a piece of Italy to the Pacific coast in Los Angeles. Replete with gondoliers and Renaissance-style architecture, Kinney’s Venice, as American Tourism contributor J. Philip Gruen demonstrates, was a short-lived cultural experiment that nevertheless set the tone for one of L.A.’s quirkiest neighborhoods. Apart from the Venice Canal Historic District, little of the Venetian influence tempers the sun-drenched stretch of trinket shops and vendor stands. A close inspection turns up the occasional nod to the city on the Adriatic. Bits of the Colonnade have been salvaged, and St. Mark’s Hotel’s neighboring Italian Renaissance building stands today as a hostel, but the hotel in the first postcard image is now (as seen in the Google street view linked below) a strip occupied by a sunglasses stand, bracelet booth, BBQ shish kabob joint, and surfboard rental outlet. Venice Beach today is a place to see people, not to marvel at architecture.

Venice, California, ca. 1905. Detroit Publishing Co. DPC12834. Lake County Discovery Museum.

Venice, California, ca. 1905. Detroit Publishing Co. DPC12833. Lake County Discovery Museum.

Venice, California. Photo courtesy of J. Philip Gruen

The Scenic Submarine

Posted on June 2, 2012

Silver Springs once had direct, nearby competitors, one of which distinguished itself with its “Scenic Submarine,” “America’s Most Unusual Boat Ride.”  Until 1974, Rainbow Springs competed for the same tourists as its more famous counterpart thirty miles east in the same county in north-central Florida, as detailed in Tim Hollis’s Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails: Florida’s Tourist Springs. Originally called Blue Spring, Rainbow Springs got its name in the 1930s as part of an effort to attract tourists. The destination grew into the postwar years as the attraction added glass-bottomed boats and even submarine rides and staged underwater tableaux in much the same fashion as Silver Springs, historian Tom Berson’s “stop” on the “itinerary” of American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, due out on June 15.

As reported in yesterday’s Gainesville Sun, Rainbow Springs is Florida’s largest spring by volume, having surpassed famed Silver Springs, but both springs have decreased their flow considerably over the past decade as over-pumping and droughts have overwhelmed their output. Although the auto tourist market could only support the most effectively marketed attractions around these springs after Interstate highways whisked motorists to the tourist mecca of Orlando, Florida’s crystalline springs remain a national natural treasure and continue to provide some of the best places to experience “old Florida.”

Entrance to Rainbow Springs, Florida, ca. 1950s. Photo by Bonnie Jean Allen. N041699. State Archives of Florida.

Man holding model of submarine boat, ca. 1950s. Photo by Bonnie Jean Allen. N041718. State Archives of Florida.

Bahama Belles perform at Rainbow Springs, 1951. Department of Commerce Collection. C014778. State Archives of Florida.

Visitors look out the windows of the submarine boat, 1956. Department of Commerce Collection. C023646. State Archives of Florida.

Underwater Christmas at Rainbow Springs, 1953. Photo by Harvey E. Slade. Slade Collection. SL3187H. State Archives of Florida.

Follow the Signs

Posted on May 31, 2012


Photo by picbot on Flickr

Billboards dot the roadside along most American highways today, making it difficult to imagine a time when highway signs not only drew close attention but even created a sensation. The following aerial views of two American tourist traps show the importance of highways in delivering visitors. While Wall Drug began as a small-town pharmacy with a Main Street storefront, South of the Border sprouted as a stop along U.S. Highway 301. Although both attractions built their reputations through shrewd advertising along hundreds of miles of roads, as detailed by historians Troy Henderson and Meeghan Kane in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, the route of Interstate highways helped assure their continuation even as countless other roadside attractions closed after being marooned when the freeways whisked crowds elsewhere. Clearly the hundreds of signs such as the one in the top photo continue to get the job done. Apart from signs, even a cursory glance at a satellite view of Wall, South Dakota, make Wall Drug’s location unmistakable. Just look at where all the cars are parked!

Wall Drug, SD

South of the Border, SC


Neon Nostalgia

Posted on May 28, 2012

Fremont Street in Las Vegas, 1952. Photo by Edward N. Edstrom

Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Best known these days for its four-block, LED-canopied pedestrian mall (Fremont Street Experience), the Nevada city’s pre-Strip focal point for casino gambling has also become something of a memory machine. For well over a decade, the Neon Museum has been building its collection of significant but unwanted signage. Las Vegans did not invent neon signs. That honor goes to an early 20th-century French inventor, Georges Claude, who pioneered the electrification of neon in glass tubes. But nowhere has neon been more central in forging an image than in Sin City, which wowed midcentury visitors with garish, larger-than-life signs that towered above the low-slung architecture of the casinos and motels they advertised. As Las Vegas entrepreneurs added ever more elaborate resorts with thousands of rooms and mammoth themed architectural monuments, the neon-decked establishments seemed obsolete.

Fearing the loss of what many came to see as a dying Las Vegas art form, arts-minded leaders teamed with the city to create a museum to salvage signs that might otherwise become junkyard scrap. The Neon Museum was born. Now a non-profit organization, the museum has existed in large part as a series of installations of neon signage in the vicinity of the Fremont Street Experience. Soon it will have a visitors center to unify its collection – fittingly, it will occupy the lobby of a former Strip motel, but not on the Strip. La Concha, opened in 1961 and closed four decades later, is now the site for a new condominium development.

One of the most iconic early motels on the Las Vegas Strip, La Concha was an anachronism years before its closure in 2003. Its space-age parabolic lobby made an otherwise bland suburban-style motel a symbol of midcentury Las Vegas. The “museumification” of old Las Vegas is an understandable response in a place that despite relentlessly planning to woo future tourists cannot help but create nostalgia along the way.


Chief Hotel Court sign. This 1940 sign once stood over a hotel on Fremont Street. It made an eight-block trek up the street to its new home next to Fremont Street Experience, where it is part of the Neon Museum’s self-guided outdoor museum tour. Photo by dbking on Flickr

Tourists Trampling Gotham?

Posted on May 25, 2012

The latest post on the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, “Attention High Line Tourists,” demonstrates well one kind of reaction to the impact of tourism in cities: signs warning tourists to tread lightly in surrounding neighborhoods. The High Line, of course, refers to one of the most decidedly “in” places to “do” in Manhattan: a former elevated railroad right of way recast as a linear green space three years ago. The High Line works as a tourist attraction not just because it affords a new perspective on the city but also because it passes through neighborhoods that promise steady use and points of interest.

Yet the High Line isn’t an unalloyed success in everyone’s eyes. If artists are often the spark that ignites gentrification, tourists are the accelerant. Of course, tourism is hardly the main factor. New York is one of the United States’ great urban success stories. Battling back after the net loss of nearly a million people between 1950 and 1980, the city has expanded ever since through both opportunity and the hope thereof. It is a beacon – so much so that Manhattan been practically turned itself inside out in terms of the massive social change that has spread to virtually every nook and cranny of the long, slender island. In other words, New York was already gentrifying too quickly in some people’s minds even without the inducement of compelling amenities like the High Line.

Though it is harder each year to avoid the carefully branded corporate retail presence on the city’s streets, New York remains a place to which longtime and recently arrived residents are often fiercely loyal and of which New Yorkers are equally protective. For a long time, in stark contrast to tourism-heavy locales like Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, New York absorbed tourists into the crowd quite efficiently. But that began to change in the closing decades of the 20th century, as American Tourism contributor Art M. Blake shows.

High Line park NYC - Manhattan - New York City

Photo by David Berkowitz on Flickr

The 1980s-90s turn toward tourism has if anything accelerated since the recasting of Times Square. With New York and many other cities pushing hard to entice record numbers of rubberneckers from afar (see “The Tourism Mayors“), the feeling of being trapped in a tourist bubble is probably going to become as inescapable as backlit national-chain logos. In one sense it is simply one among many major social changes that reshape cities again and again, just as one immigrant group displaces another, the artist displaces the immigrant, and the gentrifying homebuyer displaces the renter. Put simply, with or without tourism, cities don’t stand still.

Tourists have always been both boon and bane to the places they visit, as historians of tourism have pointed out. As city promoters, developers, and politicos have become ever savvier in their branding and selling of urban place-as-experience, we can expect some measure of disappointment when those who buy (literally and figuratively) into places like New York see those who may well replace them in 5 or 15 years.

Imbibing History at the Old Absinthe House

Posted on May 24, 2012

One hundred twenty-eight years after General Andrew Jackson plotted against the British with the pirate Jean Lafitte, setting up the Battle of New Orleans, in 1943 Owen Brennan (patriarch of the famed family of New Orleans restaurateurs) bought the Old Absinthe House, where these meetings are said to have occurred. The Old Absinthe House, located at 240 Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, began as the corner grocery for a Spanish importer in 1806 before being converted to a saloon. Only much later in the 19th century did it take its present name, which derives from a potent liquor it began serving.

Its connections to a pirate and an illicit beverage made it irresistible to Brennan, who would later buy the Vieux Carré Restaurant up the street and convert it into Brennan’s. Bourbon Street was at that time flush with servicemen and war workers, many of them new to town, and it was emerging as the bawdy strip of beer and burlesque that would define it in tourists’ minds. Brennan set up a tableau of the clandestine meeting between Jackson and Lafitte with mannequins and concocted a special drink – The Pirate’s Dream – to commemorate the purported meeting, cementing it as a favorite spot.

Today the Old Absinthe House (later bought and still owned by Tony Moran, son of another famed Quarter restaurateur, “Diamond Jim” Moran) remains a fixture in the New Orleans tourist itinerary.


History on Hilton Head’s Heel

Posted on May 23, 2012

In John Sayles’s film Sunshine State (2002), one of the key story lines explores the conflict between the longstanding but threatened African American community of Lincoln Beach and a development company intent on building a new resort community called Exley Plantation. The film is patterned loosely on Amelia Island in northern Florida, where American Beach, a historically black beach town, has clung to its property despite some three decades of encroaching resort development, notably by Amelia Island Plantation.

The story could have been set on any number of the so-called Sea Islands that stretch some 200 miles northward from Amelia into Georgia and South Carolina. On some islands, small communities of Gullah-speaking residents are descendants of enslaved people who worked rice, cotton, and indigo plantations for centuries. Hog Hammock on Georgia’s Sapelo Island, which enjoys state protection from resort development, harbored a remnant community that has struggled more with attrition than tourism encroachment as its youth have tended to leave to pursue opportunities on the mainland. But Sapelo cuts against the grain.

A closer model for Amelia Island was Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where more intensive resort development over the past half century has, as American Tourism contributor James Tuten demonstrates, all but displaced its preexisting black population. In both places Charles Fraser envisioned naturalistic development concepts, which proved so popular that ultimately no part of either island could escape the impact.

While Amelia’s American Beach has held on as a legacy of the early to mid 20th century when Jim Crow laws and customs dictated separate racial spaces at the beach (in this case for black middle-class vacationers), the much older Gullah communities on the Sea Islands have not generally fared well. Hilton Head tourism engulfed native residents and either forced or enticed most of them out of their homes. However, a small, loosely organized remnant remains. It derives from an experiment in self-reliance made possible during the 1860s when Union forces seized the Sea Islands from Confederate planters. On the “heel” of foot-shaped Hilton Head Island, black freedmen founded the town of Mitchelville in 1863 and tended it for five years until President Andrew Johnson returned planters’ lands to them, thus dispersing the townspeople.

As detailed in a recent Associated Press report, the South Carolina government is now debating sponsoring a Williamsburg-like restoration of Mitchelville that a determined group of island residents and backers have pursued in conjunction with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. More than a Civil War commemoration, it is part of a larger movement (one that has unfolded slowly since the Civil Rights Act’s passage in 1964) to return African Americans to an American story long crafted in ways that marginalized blacks. At Colonial Williamsburg, which is tightly controlled by a foundation originally set up by the Rockefellers, incorporating black history has been a forty-year enterprise with bumps along the way. More recently, activists have managed to reinsert black history in projects ranging from historic house museums to black heritage trails to dedicated tour companies.

Most directly, if successful, the Mitchelville Preservation Project will join the longstanding efforts (with some successes) to save Gullah communities along the Atlantic through heritage tourism. Fifty-five years after developer-designer Charles Fraser planted the influential Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head’s “toe,” the island’s heel may soon have its day in the sun.

Race at the Cape

Posted on May 22, 2012

Last Saturday, hybrid and electric cars “raced” vintage cars down the main drag in Cape May, New Jersey. The so-called “Race at the Cape” was a reenactment (with a contemporary twist) of a historic beach race between Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet in Cape May in 1905. For Ford and Chevrolet, speed was the object. For Saturday’s “racers,” raising awareness about energy efficiency was a greater goal.

The “Line Up,” Ormond-Daytona Beach, Fla. Dpc9141, Detroit Publishing Co., Curt Teich Postcard Archives, Lake County Discovery Museum.

Race at the Cape kicks off the 2012 program of the Cape May Forum, “Running on Empty? The Future of Energy” (June 2-3). Founded in 2010 in the spirit of the longstanding Chautauqua Institution in western New York, the Cape May Forum creates a similar venue for intellectual tourism (albeit much less extensive than Chautauqua’s full season of offerings) in a colorful, Chautauqua-like setting of Victorian architecture.

Cape May, the Jersey Shore’s oldest beach resort community, is one of the oldest seaside resorts in North America. Although it attracted beachcombers several decades before the Victorian era, Cape May is known today for its uniformly Victorian cityscape – the product of extensive rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1878 and, eventually, avid historic preservation.

The appearance of the Cape May Forum may seem rather novel, but it is rooted in a long history, as American Tourism contributor Andrew C. Rieser argues. Indeed, the original Chautauqua produced a flurry of imitators all over the United States in the early 20th century, many of them nothing more than a large tent for public lectures or concerts. And yet now is a fitting time for starting such as program. As the event’s organizers point out, baby boomers are entering retirement, and many of them have time, money, and interest to pursue the mental enrichment and civic engagement that such programs foster.

Using the beach to make an environmental statement would have been unthinkable a century ago when the auto barons staged their Cape May race. In the early 20th century, plenty of races were held on the smooth, packed sand of American beaches, nowhere more than Daytona Beach, Florida. As soon as cars came within reach of the finances of everyday Americans, plenty of the horseless carriages found their way onto beaches. Few beaches today still welcome cars, and most are places whose promoters embrace or at least tolerate beach conservation as, at bottom, making good business sense.

The town on the southern tip of New Jersey also seems a fitting place to introduce a modern, Chautauqua-like program on sustainability. After all, in its careful preservation of hundreds of Victorian houses and buildings, Cape May has been gentle on the environment when seen alongside plenty of other beach towns.

2007-11-04 Cape May 014

Some of the more than 600 Victorian houses in Cape May. Photo by Allie_Caulfield on Flickr

Bryant Simon on Atlantic City’s Revel

Posted on May 21, 2012

Bryant Simon, Professor of History at Temple University, author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America, and contributor to American Tourism, weighs in on the possible impact of the new Revel hotel and casino in Kelly Bennett’s article Can Revel Save Atlantic City? in the Atlantic: CITIES.


Photo by Anjan Chatterjee on Flickr

Making Colonial Williamsburg

Posted on May 21, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg is among the United States’ most illustrious historic tourist sites. But Williamsburg, Virginia, was like any other American town in the early 20th century with the exception of retaining a few dozen structures that dated to the colonial era. Until the world’s richest family agreed in the late 1920s to underwrite a restoration of the original colonial Virginia, Williamsburg lacked the coherent landscape necessary to envelope the tourist in a believable setting in which the story of the nation’s youth could be narrated. No few tourists today are surprised to learn that most of the town’s “historic” buildings were, in fact, painstakingly re-created, sparing no attention to detail, as explained in Anders Greenspan’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition. Although most of the town had to be rebuilt, the two photos below show how the project also had to erase the accretions of time that had, to purists, defaced buildings such as the  ca. 1740 Prentis Store, which served in the early auto age as a service station. By the end of the 1930s Williamsburgers may well have felt lost in their own town, a place that would have been more familiar to Lord Dunmore or Patrick Henry if they could have returned from the grave. Although the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation certainly does not hide the fact of its artifice, today the carefully tended tourist site succeeds in creating the illusion that its townscape’s pedigree is unbroken since the days of tricornes and perukes.

Prentis Store before restoration, ca. 1928 (erroneously labeled Barber and Peruke Maker’s Shop). Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USW33-026185-C DLC

Prentis Store after restoration, ca. 1931 (erroneously labeled Barber and Peruke Maker’s Shop). Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USW33-026181-C DLC

For a modern view of the Prentis Store, click here.

Marketing Marketing

Posted on May 19, 2012

Public markets are all the rage these days. After largely disappearing in most communities in the second half of the 20th century amid the rush to supermarkets and processed foods, only a small number of markets remained. Some of the oldest markets that were housed in large, historic buildings in tourist-favored cities phased out their original functions and began to cater to out-of-towners with colorful shops and restaurants. The most notable successful conversion story was in Boston where, as American Tourism co-editor Nicholas Dagen Bloom writes, visionary mall developer James Rouse managed to use the trappings of an old market to reinvent the worn-down Quincy Market into Faneuil Hall Marketplace. For the next two decades other cities rushed to copy Rouse’s brash confidence in downtown America.

Cleveland Market Square / West Side Market

Although Cleveland’s West Side Market never undertook a concerted tourism marketing campaign, it is drawing more tourists during its centennial year after several years in which Cleveland has become a noted culinary capital. Photo by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

Municipal Market

88-year-old Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta is enjoying a resurgence. Photo by ciambellina on Flickr

Meanwhile, as American Tourism contributor Judy Mattivi Morley argues, Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, offered an alternative vision of enticing tourists to a real, working market that clung to its old ways. Cleverly packaged as an opportunity to “Meet the Producer,” Pike Place Market not only remade downtown Seattle, it also latched onto the rising popularity of the organic, farm-to-table, and locally sourced food movements sweeping the United States. Other venerable public markets that managed to hang on through the difficult 1970s and 1980s, such as Cleveland, Ohio’s West Side Market (which turns 100 this year), are in a great position to attract tourists without sacrificing their core mission of providing fresh food to restaurants and household consumers.

The “meet-the-producer” ethic guided those who did not grow their own food until industrial society all but destroyed it. Now, As tourists and locals circle back to this mindset, established and emerging tourist destinations are tapping their rediscovery of fresh food. In Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the growing Sweet Auburn Curb Market‘s twenty-five vendors hope to cash in on a recent restoration and a new electric streetcar line that will connect the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to CNN Center as early as next year. And, as the Virginia Gazette reports, Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square has in the past decade turned Duke of Gloucester Street into a seasonal farmers market that now draws some fifty vendors.


Fresh produce entices locals and tourists alike in Colonial Williamsburg. Photo by Maggie McCain on Flickr

It seems unlikely that the proliferation of farmers markets in cities and towns will exhaust the pent-up demand for such experiences anytime soon. Although the novelty will surely pass as markets become common sights, we may see a return to the days when public markets in either buildings or open spaces were simply another expected but valued stop on the itinerary – just part of “doing the town.”

Building the Best Seaside Towns

Posted on May 17, 2012

Coastal Living recently revealed its list of the top 15 “Happiest Seaside Towns” in America. It is perhaps no surprise that the two communities atop the list – #1 Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and #2 Naples, Florida – reflect many years of careful planning as tourist destinations. In both places, a series of development companies with stringent regulations created and sustained compelling visions for these seaside communities.

On Kiawah, following years in the hands of lumber interests in the middle years of the twentieth century, the still well-forested barrier island entered the hands of a Saudi Arabian oil company in the 1970s as an almost blank slate. The company drew on the talents of Charles Fraser, who as American Tourism contributor James Tuten details, carefully and sensitively nestled villas and other amenities in the natural environment in much the way he had done at Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island to the south of Kiawah. Branching out from vacation villas and inns, Kiawah used its image of symbiotic development and nature to drive home sales as vacationers found it irresistible to own a little piece of paradise.

Kiawah River seen from Inlet Cove Club on Kiawah Island, 2010. Photo by J. Mark Souther. All Rights Reserved.

Likewise, in Naples, a succession of companies, as American Tourism contributor Aaron Cowan observes, created the “Naples image” of refined leisure through both resort hotels and residential allotments. From the Naples Hotel, which catalyzed the first carefully planned residential development, to later residential communities like Port Royal (launched in the 1940s) and Pelican Bay (envisioned in the 1970s), master-planned luxury lifestyles continued to build the Naples brand.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples, Florida, 1995. Photo by J. Mark Souther. All Rights Reserved.

Although subsequent development has made inroads on the beautiful scenic settings at both Kiawah and Naples, much remains of the original vision at each. Kiawah Island has developed many of the fingerlike, forested hammocks at marsh’s edge that were in the 1970s-80s open only for Jeep safaris. Yet in most cases the new homes, if drawing more on high-style period revivals than rustic, understated styles, crouch beneath only partially disturbed canopies of maritime forest in a fashion similar to their predecessors from the 1970s. In Naples, it’s true that sprawl has made many of its outlying areas indistinguishable from any other suburban community, but the portions of the town along or near the Gulf of Mexico shores retain a master-planned feel. Even the town’s main street, Fifth Avenue South, has moved decidedly toward a strong Mediterranean architectural motif in the past couple of decades, reinforcing the emphasis on high-quality design for which Naples is famous.

The bottom line is that satisfying beach towns draw no small measure of their positive image from the ability to control design principles and maintain a balance of the natural and built environments, with the latter never overwhelming the former.

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