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Anna Andrzejewski: “Building Paradise in a Tropical Swamp: Retirement Housing and Communities in South Florida after World War II”
November 6, 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
This Focus on the Humanities talk explores the intersection of building and development in south Florida and the environmental movement in the second half of the twentieth century. In particular, it focuses on the Miami-based Deltona Corporation’s efforts to transform Marco Island into a $500 million tropical paradise. Previously a seasonal fishing outpost on Florida’s southern Gulf Coast, Deltona planned Marco to be a vacation and retirement community focused on a six mile long sandy beach. However much Deltona trilled the island’s “natural charms” to retirees and vacationers nationwide, Marco had to be radically transformed with canals, drainage, and other infrastructure for Deltona’s dream to become a reality. This led to clashes with local residents and environmentalists, who ultimately thwarted Deltona’s plans to produce a much downscaled community.
Using advertisements and Deltona’s private archive, this lecture showcases a dominant trend in postwar south Florida in which developers simultaneously boasted of the tropical landscape’s natural beauty even as they irrevocably transformed it. In doing so, it shows how developers attempted to circumvent an increasingly regulatory environment while “building paradise” in the American sunbelt.