Posts tagged “Florida

Ferraris and Swamp Buggies

Posted on August 20, 2012

Mention Naples, Florida, and images of ostentatious wealth quickly come to mind. On any given day, driving its residential streets requires dodging landscape company trailers for the hundreds whose buzzing equipment grooms banyan-lined, palm-studded green carpets of St. Augustine. Surely few places its size have more golf courses, gated “communities,” palatial homes, in-ground swimming pools, posh boutiques, and high-luxury cars (The town’s Ferrari Club is one of several local enthusiasts’ organizations). A trip down Fifth Avenue South conjures a vision that is one part Mediterranean seaside town and one part lifestyle center. It was not always so. For much of the twentieth century, as American Tourism contributor Aaron Cowan of Slippery Rock University argues, Naples mixed downscale “old Florida” with upscale nods to Palm…

Imagining the Future in Central Florida

Posted on June 14, 2012

These two images, drawn from the Department of Commerce Collection at the State Archives of Florida, give a sense of the land as Roy Disney and his entourage of company officials found it during their mid-1960s exploratory trips into the area to the southwest of Orlando. The Walt Disney Company would quietly assemble tens of thousands of acres in what would forever transform the economy of Florida.

A Not-So-Small World

Posted on June 11, 2012

The title of the Sherman Brothers’ tune, made famous by Disney’s use in its iconic boat ride that debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair before being rebuilt at Disneyland, aptly describes the small size of the Anaheim, California, theme park carved out of orange groves less than ten years earlier. As suburban sprawl engulfed Disneyland, its 160 acres began to seem a big too small. The reason Walt Disney wanted a clean slate when he contemplated a second theme park and the reason he chose central Florida are apparent – albeit less so than in the past – in these satellite views. Even with sustained development over the past four decades, the 47-square-mile Walt Disney World Resort retains substantial forestland that creates…

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 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…

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…

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. 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…

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…

5th Ave. to Worth Ave. to 5th Ave. South

Posted on May 13, 2012

This 1946 scene of Palm Beach, Florida, shows the resort town’s main retail street, Worth Avenue. Sometimes called the “Fifth Avenue of the South,” the street became home to many upscale retailers. Worth Avenue in turn offered a fitting model for a later Mediterranean-themed makeover of Naples, Florida’s Fifth Avenue South, where a similarly affluent northern tourist clientele wintered.

A Fisheye View of Silver Springs

Posted on April 28, 2012

Silver Springs, located just east of Ocala in north-central Florida, is internationally known for its crystalline waters teeming with fish. As American Tourism contributor and Silver Springs historian Tom Berson demonstrates, visionary leaders, transportation innovations, and depictions in popular culture spread the attraction’s name far and wide. Apart from the famed theme park where glass-bottom boats glide atop the shimmering natural pool, the springs afforded ideal conditions for underwater filming. Silver Springs has served as a stand-in for the Everglades, the Amazon River, the Bahamas, and even Africa. Several early Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller were filmed at Silver Springs in the 1930s, and the popular late ’50s TV show Sea Hunt featured numerous underwater sequences shot at the Florida attraction. A fish-gilled monster man…

Drawing Water, Drawing Tourists

Posted on April 21, 2012

It’s almost Earth Day again. Each year, on the appointed day, thousands of Americans make a ritual of caring for the planet: planting a tree, picking up litter, or simply stopping to smell the roses. Yet the interest, of course, goes far beyond that for many, even reshaping leisure pursuits. Growing trends in ecotourism and agritourism do not necessarily signal a transformative new mindset about the environment, but the surging popularity of visiting working farms, farmers’ co-ops, and public markets and patronizing farm-to-table-minded restaurants suggest more than a passing fancy for seeking bonds to the natural world around us. Traditional tourist destinations seldom figure prominently in any discussion of environmental tourism, but they should. Take water, for instance. Near- and long-term concerns about water…

Tourist Fantasies Loom Large in AIA Florida Top 100

Posted on April 20, 2012

Innovative developers have long made dramatic use of architectural expression to appeal to travelers’ search for extraordinary pleasure grounds. Walt Disney’s theme parks, for example, trade on their embodiment of childlike whimsy.  Whole towns from Pueblo-inspired Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the 18th-century fantasy of Colonial Williamsburg offer coherent landscapes for tourists.  Likewise, Florida has a long history of creating iconic structures that set the tone in many of its resort areas. The Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, a massive, 1950s modern resort, recently garnered the #1 vote among a list of the top 100 buildings in Florida identified by the Florida division of the American Institute of Architects.  The Fontainebleau launched an entire style called “Miami Modern” that proved highly influential in both…