THIE NORTHERN FRINGE OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS
WITHIN PENINSULAR FLORIDA
DICK R. LAIRD
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THiE GRADUAE COUrNCIL OF
THIE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THIE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF: FLORIDA
Dick R. Laird
Of the many people who assisted me in the preparation of this
dissertation, I am especially indebted to Dr. James R. Anderson, Chair-
man of my Supervisory Committee, for his guidance and patience throughout
all phases of this research project. I am also grateful for the support
and counsel given by the other members of my Committee, Dr. David L.
Niddrie, Dr. Raymond E. Crist, and Dr. Hugh L. Poponone, and by Dr.
Shannon McCune, Chairman of the Department of Geography.
I also wish to thank the many Floridians who assisted me during my
field research. Although it is not possible to acknowledge each of them,
special thanks must nevertheless be extended to Mr. Dogan Cobb, Tax
Assessor of Levy County; Mr. John Hastings, Zaning Director of Marian
County; Mr. Clinton Snyder, Jr., Tax Assessor of Putnam County; and
Mr. A. H. Nichols, Clerk of Circuit Court, Putnam County. In addition,
the hundreds of property owners who unselfishly gave of their time to
complete and return my questionnaires deserve special recognition.
Special thanks are also due to Miss Patricia McDaniel, who typed my
rough drafts and the final manuscript; to Mr. Jerry Turner and Mr.
Michael Holland, who prepared the maps; to Mark Green, George Fisher, and
IKarlan H~awkins, who gave me moral support; and to my lovely wife Becky,
who sacrificed so much in order that this research project could be
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . .. . . * ** ** iv
LIST OF MAPS .. .. .. .. . . * * * * * * viii
LIST OF TABLES .. . ... .. . . . . . . . . ix
LIST OF FIGURES ... . .. ... .. .. . . . . . xi
ABSTRACT . .. .. .. .. . . . . xiii
I INTRODUCTION . . . .. . .. . 1
The 1880 1900 Period . ... .. .. .. .. - 4
Accessibility: A Key Factor .. .. .. ... 5
The Importance of Tourism ... . .. .. .. .. 6
Rural Retirement Communities Characterized .. .. 10
The "Big Freeze" .. .. . ... . . . . 14
Extension of the Coastal Ratilway .. .. .. .. 14
Summary of the 1880 1900 Period .. .. ... 16
The Boom Twenties .. ... .. .. ... .. 16
The Modern Period .. .. ... .. ... .. 18
Objectives and General Methodology .. .. .. .. 20
Notes .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. . . 22
II DELINEATION OF THE NORTHERN FRINGE . .. .. . .. 26
Definitions .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. . 26
Rural Retirement Subdivision .. ... .. .. 26
Peninsular Florida .. .. ... ... .. . 26
Northern Fringe .. .. .. .. .. ... . 27
Methodology .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . 27
Delineation .. ... ... .. . .. ... . 31
Exclusion of the Suwannee River Valley . .. ... 31
Northern Boundary of the Fringe . ... .. .. 34
Southern Boundary of the Fringe .. .. .. .. 35
Configuration of the Northern Fringe . .. .. .. 37
Notes ... .. .. .. .. . .. .... .. 38
III CLASSIFICATION OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS .. 41
Review of Literature .. ... .. ... . . 42
Selection of a Criterion .. . .. ... ... 44
Classification Based upon Building Restrictions . 52
Class I "Planned Community" ,. .. .. 52
Class II "Conventional Homes Only" .. . 52
Class III "Conventional Homes: Mobile and
Modular Housing Zoned" .. . .. .. .. 55
Class IV "Conventional Homes or Mobile and
Modular Housing" ......... ..... 55
Class V "Mobile or Modular Housing Only" 55
Class VI "No Restrictions" . . .. .. 55
Notes . .. .... . .. . .. .. 6
IV SUBDIVISION CHARACTERISTICS . . .. .. .... 61
Number of Rural Retirement Subdivisions Per Class . 61
Number of Acres Occupied by Rural Retirement
Subdivisions .. . . . .. .. 62
Situation Orientation . . .. . .. 70
Institutional Framework . .. . .. .. .. 73
Range and Average Size of Subdivisions ,. .. .. 76
Range and Average Size of Lots . . .. ... 80
Selling Price of Lots ....... . .. 82
Year of Establishment . .. .. .. .. .. 88
Method and Extent of Advertising . .. .. .. 91
Recreational Facilities ,. .. .. .. .. 94
Type of Road . .. .. .. .. .. . 96
Road Pattern . .. .. .. . 99
Natural Landscape Features . .. .. .. .... 101
Settlement Pattern and Degree of Occupancy . .. 105
Utilities . .. .. .. ..,, .... 110
Entranceways, Maintenance, and Street Signs,
Names, and Lights . . .. ... .. .. 113
Quality Index Rating .. . . .. .. 120
Conclusions . .. .. .. ... .. . 122
Notes .. . .. .. . . .. .. .. 123
V CHARACTERISTICS OF PROPERTY OWNERS . . .. .. 128
Introduction .. ... .. ... ... .. . 128
Data Collection Procedures . .. ... .. .. .. 129
Experimental Questionnaire ..... . . 129
Final Resident Questionnaire ,. ... .. . .. 134
Final Nonresident Questionnaire . .. .. 136
Data Analysis . .. .. .. .. .., 139
Retirement Status and Sources of Income of
Residents ... .. .. .. ... .. .. 139
Anticipated Year of Retirement of Nonresidents .. 141
Decision of Nonresidents to Live on Their Lots
After Retirement . .. ... . .. .. 144
Marital Status of Residents and Nonresidents . 147
Location of Previous Residences of Resident
Property Owners ,. .. . . .. .. 50
Location of Current Residences of Nonresident
Property Owners .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 152
Prior Mobility of Residents .. .. .. .. .. 154
Alternate Retirement Sites Considered by
Residents .. ... .. ... .. .. .. 155
Location of Second Homes of Residents .. .. .. 157
How Property Owners First Learn About Their
Property .. .. .. ... . .. .. ... . 160
Year of Lot Purchase . .. .. ... .. .. .. 162
North Florida Versus South Florida .. ... .. 165
Average Distances of Rural Retirement Subdivisions
from Shopping Areas .. ... .. . .. .. .. 169
Leisure Activities Enjoyed by the Residents . .. 171
Suggestions of Residents for Subdivision
Improvement .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 175
Notes .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. 179
VI MAJOR LOCATIONAL DETERMINANTS .. .. .. .. .. .. 183
Introduction . ..... .. .. .. .. .. . 183
Data Collection .. .. .... .. . .. ... 184
Analysis of Locational Factors .. .. ... .. 185
Landholdings .. .. ... .. .. .. ... 185
Land Values .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. 191
Availability of Numerous Streams, Rivers, and
Lakes ... .. .. .. . .. .. ... .. 194
Taxes .. .. .. .... . .. .. .. .. 196
Climate . . .. ... ... .. .. ... 202
Soils .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. . .. 208
Other Locational Factors . .. ... .. .. .. 216
Notes . ... .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. 219
VII FUTURE PROSPECTS .. .. ... .. .. . .... 223
Notes .. .. .. .. ... ... .. . ... 232
A RESIDENT QUESTIONNAIRE ... .. .. .. .. ... 234
B NONRESIDENT QUESTIONNAIRE .. ... .. .. .. .. 240
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. . .. 245
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ... ... .. ... .. .. .. .. 249
LIST OF MAPS
1. Rural Retirement Communities, 1880 1900 .. .. .. .. 7
2. Railroad Lines Serving Northern Florida 1890 . .. .. 9
3. Delineation of the Northern Fringe of Rural Retirement
Subdivisions 1972 .. ... .. .. .. ... .. 33
4. Generalized Distribution of Rural Retirement Sub-
divisions According to Situation Orientation .. .. 48
5. Percentage by State of Location of Previous Residence
of Resident Property Owners 1972 . .. . .. 151
6. Percentage by State of Location of Current Residence
of Nonresident Property Owners 1972 . ... ... 153
7. Alternate Retirement Sites Considered by Residents -1972 158
8. Location of Second Homes of Residents 1972 . .. .. 159
9. Major Landholders Within Delineated Northern
Retirement Fringe . ... .. . .. .. . 188
LIST OF TABLES
1. Number of Rural Developments Investigated and Deter-
mined as Rural Retirement Subdivisions by County . .. 30
2. Number of Rural Retirement Subdivisions Comprising
the Delineated Northern Fringe by County .. .. .. 36
3. Situation Orientation of Rural Retirement Subdivisions . 46
4. Institutional Framework of Rural Retirement Subdivisions 49
5. Summary of Subdivision Characteristics by Class .. .. 63
6. Acreage Occupied by Rural Retirement Subdivisions . .. 69
7. Percentages of Type of Situation Orientation Per
Subdivision Class .. .. .. .. ... .. ... 71
8. Percentages of Form of Institutional Framework Per
Subdivision Class ... .. .. .. .. .. . 77
9. Number of Subdivisions by Size Interval and Class . .. 79
10. Predominant Lot Size of Subdivisions . .. .. .. ... 81
11. Number of Subdivisions by Class and Intervals of Lot
Selling Prices ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 87
12. Number of Subdivisions by Class and Intervals of Years
of Establishment .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. 89
13. Number of Recreational Facilities by Class . ... .. 95
14. Number of Subdivisions by Class and Type of Road . ... 98
15. Number of Subdivisions by Class and Degree of Occupancy 108
16. Number of Subdivisions by Class and Type of Utilities . 112
17. Final Questionnaire Data .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 138
18. Retirement Status and Sources of Income of Residents -
1972 . . . . ; . . . . . . . .
19. Anticipated Year of Retirement of Nonresidents 1972 ..
20. Decision of Nonresidents to Live on Their Lots After
Retirement 1972. ...................
21. Marital Status of Residents and Nonresidents 1972 ...
22. Prior Mobility of Residents 1972 ............
23. How Property Dwners First-Learn About Their Property -
1972 . . . . . . . . . . . . .
24. Year of Lot Acquisition by Property Owners 1972 ....
25. Percentages by Year of Lot Acquisition by Property
Owners of Rainbow Lakes Estates ............
26. Factors Which Motivate 'Individuals to Purchase Lots in
Rural Retirement Subdivisions Located Within the
NJorthecrn Fringe Rather Than in the Traditional Retire-
ment Areas of South Florida 1972 ...........
27. Average Distances of Ru~ra'l Retirement Subdivisions from
Shopping Areas 1972 .................
28. Selected Leisure Activities Enjoyed by Residents 1972 .
29. Suggestions of Residents for Subdivision Improvement -
1972 . . . . .
30. Average Dollar-Per-Acre Purchase Price Paid by Devel-
opers for Land Acquired Each Year 1957 Through 1971 .
31. Valuation of Nonexempt Current Lands for Selected
Counties, 1957 1971 .................
32. Selected Climatic Data for Ocala, Tampa-St. Petersburg,
and Miami .4 .... ........
33. Major Soil Associations Occupied by Rural Retirement
Subdivisions Comprising the Delineated Northern
Fringe . . . . . . . . .
LIST OF FIGURES
Federal Point Hotel ...................
"Qui-Si-Sana" .. ... .. ... ... .. ... ..
"Belmore City" .. .. .. ... .. .. .. ... ..
Class I Development ...................
Class II Development ...................
Class III Development ..................
Class IV Development ...................
Class V Development ...................
Class VI Development ...................
Lake Tropicana ........... ...... .....
Rainbow River .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. ..
Roadside Advertising ...................
Recreation . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . .. .
14. Grid Road Pattern ..
15. Grid Road Pattern and Simulated Settlement Pattern . .
16. Combination Grid and Nongeometric Road Pattern and
Simulated Settlement Pattern.. ...........
17. Nongeometric Road Pattern and Simulated Settlement
Pattern . . . . . . .
18. Natural Landscape Features.. .............
19. Unoccupied Lots... .................
20. Street Signs .. .... .. .. .... ..
21. Lavish Entranceway . .. .. .. .. ... .. . 117
22. Defunct Development .. ... .. . . .. .... . 11
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE NORTHERN FRINGE OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS
WITHIN PENINSULAR FLORIDA
Dick R. Laird
Chairman: James R. Anderson
Major Department: Geography
It is the purpose of this investigation to examine and analyze the
present northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions within penin-
sular Florida. Because the northern fringe is comprised only of the
northernmost developments, its location is not static. Generally, the
location of the northern fringe tends to advance northward during eco-
nomic prosperity and retreat in a southerly direction when the economy
To provide a better understanding of the meaning of the present
northern fringe, the northern fringe areas of the 1880 1900 period and
the 1920s are examined. The characteristics of the retirement develop-
ments which comprised these historical fringe areas differ greatly from
those of the modern rural retirement subdivisions, but many of the major
locational determinants are unchanged.
The location of the present northern fringe was determined through
field research. Extending roughly in an east-west axis from Cedar Key to
St. Augustine, the present northern fringe, which is assigned an arbi-
trary width of twenty miles, encompasses over one hundred and fifty rural
In order that the differences and similarities of these developments
could effectively be compared and contrasted, a functional classification
based on building restrictions was devised by which each rural retirement
subdivision could be assigned to a specific class. Characteristics which
are compared and contrasted by subdivision class include total acreages
occupied, situation orientation, institutional framework, subdivision
size, lot size, selling price of lots, advertising techniques, recrea-
tional facilities, settlement patterns, morphology, and others.
Several thousand questionnaires were also delivered to residents and
nonresidents who own lots in the rural retirement subdivisions. The
questionnaires which were returned provided not only biographical data
such as homestates, marital status, approximate age, size of family, and
retirement status, but also pertinent information about factors which
motivate persons to buy property in these developments rather than in
developments in other sections of the state or outside Florida, the per-
centage of individuals who purchase their lots without on-siteinspection,
and the advantages and disadvantages of residing in developments situated
in the open, rural countryside.
Further, several locational factors are examined to determine to
what extent they influence the location and configuration of the present
northern fringe. These locational factors include size and availability
of landholdings, land values, proximity of rivers, lakes, and other water
bodies, county tax structures, soil types, climate, county regulatory
controls, and proximity to recreational facilities and Florida tourist
Finally, the future of the present northern fringe of rural retire-
ment subdivisions is discussed. Emphasis is placed on the impact that
these developments have had or, more importantly, may have on land
values, land use, environmental quality, the local economy, and local
governmental policy in this section of Florida.
Subdivisions, now prolific 'throughout the United States, represent
a relatively new era in urban living. Rather than tolerate the conges-
tion, deteriorating schools, racial tension, choking pollution, per-
sistent noise, and the increasing crime rate that plague the central or
inner parts of many cities, Americans have flocked to the suburbs by the
thousands. Here ample room for a~ spacious home with a two-car garage and
green grass has offered a compromise between the problems of the inner
city and those of living in the dpen, rural countryside. In addition,
subdivisions located on the periphery of cities afford quasi-country
living that is within convenient driving distance of the downtown area.
The popularity of this mode of life is at the point where nearly all
major cities across the nation are beseiged by an unbroken chain of sub-
divisions on their perimeters.
Such is the common perception of the "subdivision" within a
national perspective. However,.a new form of subdivision has been
rapidly making an indelible marlt upon the American landscape. Referred
to as "rural subdivisions" in this study, these developments represent a
transformation of previously isolated and agriculturally little-used or
idle tracts of wilderness and desert land into subdivided "paradises on
the installment plan." Even though located well beyond convenient com-
muting distance to job markets in.urban areas, rural subdivisions have
become a real estate bonanza. At an ever-increasing rate during the last
decade, land developers have been acquiring and subdividing large tracts
of isolated, inexpensive rural land. Then, in order to sell their lots,
massive, hard-sell, national and sometimes international advertising
campaigns are launched. Typically, the selling effort includes "idyllic
newspaper and magazine ads, mass telephoning, softening-up cocktail
parties and dinners for prospective customers, paid transportation to
the site, and even free green stamps just for showing up."l Promoting
a "back-to-nature" theme, developers entice their prospective lot buyers
to invest a small, monthly sum in return for a quiet, country vacation
retreat or for the perfect site for immediate or eventual retirement.
Zealous realtors, armed with posters of Will Rogers quoting, "Invest in
land, they ain't making' no more of it," encourage countless others to
purchase lots merely for speculative investment.2 Fortunately, most
developers are honest and live up to their commitments but a substantial
number of unscrupulous, "fly-by-night" operators exist, practicing fraud
and misrepresentation, and preying upon the thousands of people who buy
property "sight unseen" through the mail each year.f As a result, "large
swatches of unspoiled wilderness are being turned into tacky subdivi-
To determine the total number and exact location of all rural sub-
divisions in the United States would indeed be an arduous and seemingly
impossible task. New developments appear overnight while others silently
become defunct. Some are frauds, existing only on paper, and others are
*Notes begin on page 22.
never officially recorded in the county records. A map would be inac-
curate and obsolete even before it could be completed. But available
information does reveal certain geographic patterns in regard to the
distribution of rural subdivisions. States which enjoy reputations as
resort, recreation, or retirement centers have the highest concentrations.
For example, California, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Maine have
been some of the more popular choices for development. To a much lesser
extent, the rural landscape of several other states also is being altered
by the chain saws and bulldozers of land developers.
While rural subdivisions represent a relatively recent phenomenon in
most states, they have been common in Florida for nearly a hundred years.
By taking advantage of the climatic amenities and other natural induce-
ments offered by the "Sunshine State," and catering to a retirement
market, land developers have recorded a long history of successful rural
subdivisions. The earliest developments, more correctly termed "rural
retirement conrmunities,"5 sprang up in the central part of the state
during the 1880s. Later, as transportation facilities improved, this
form of rural settlement began to spread to other areas of the Florida
peninsula. Today, rural retirement subdivisions constitute an easily
identifiable feature of the Florida landscape.
The location and distribution of rural retirement developments in
peninsular Florida have not been static throughout the nearly one hun-
dred years of their existence, owing to natural disasters such as
hurricanes, initial accessibility to previously isolated areas, and
busts and booms in land values. However, because of the narrow shape of
the peninsula of Florida, it has bee~n possible to delineate at selected
time intervals th~e northernmost limit or~ extent of this type of rural
development. In other words, a northern "fringe" or "belt" has always
existed, although it has experienced numerous shifts both northward and
southward within the peninsula. It is this "fringe" area that repre-
sents precisely how far north developers, in a particular year or period
of time, felt that rural retirement. subdivisions would still be success-
ful. When conditions were favorable, the pattern has been to move in a
northerly direction. Conversely,-. unfavorable conditions have resulted
in a southerly retreat. The scope of this study centers on the present
northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions in peninsular Florida.
Objectives and general methodology are discussed later in this chapter
but for a better understanding of-the present northern fringe, it is
necessary to examine in detail the location and characteristics of
fringe areas in the past.
The 1880 1900 Period
The location of the northern- fringe of rural retirement communi-
ties,6 within the longitudinal limits of the study area,7 was not static
during the 1880 1900 period. Historical factors such as the penetra-
tion of the inland areas by the railroads and the subsequent decline of
traffic on the St. Johns River8 brought about changes in the extent and
location of the area which it covered. Until 1884 the northern limit of
rural retirement communities,9 owing to their orientation toward water
transportation, was confined to t'e area along the shores of the St.
Johns River north and south of Palatka. Following the construction of
railway lines in that year, however, the northern fringe expanded
westward across Putnam County. Map 1 shows the delineation of this
fringe as it existed toward the end of the nineteenth century.11
The choices of location for the establishment of rural retirement
settlements .throughout the Putnam County area were not haphazard. Two
important historical factors--accessibility and tourism--exerted con-
siderable influence over these decisions.
Accessibility: A Key Factor
Throughout the twenty-year period from 1880 to 1900, accessibility
was a key locational factor for the establishment of rural retirement
communities. Until the first railroad reached Palatka in 1884,12 steam-
ships on the St. Johns River, which was navigable as far south as San-
ford,13 represented the only mode of transportation providing convenient
access into the study area. As a result, the establishment of rural
retirement settlements was more or less restricted to areas adjacent to
or in close proximity to the river. People wishing to retire obviously
did not favor a difficult and treacherous overland journey to an inland
settlement. Indeed, any communities which existed several miles from
the St. Johns River were almost exclusively populated by young, ambitious
pioneers who were capable of surviving an isolated existence.14
When the railroad finally reached Palatka from the west in 1884,
vast interior areas were opened up. Since much of this interior region
was covered by virgin pine forests, timber cutting had become a prosper-
ous industry and was largely responsible for the construction and
location of this line. A network of railway lines connecting sawmills
soon interlaced the countryside and many new rural settlements appeared
along the railway's right-of-way. Most were sawmill or farming
communities but a substantial number were established for retirement
purposes.15 Beautiful inland lakes teeming with fish, unlimited wooded
areas abounding in wild game, and the pleasing aesthetic qualities of the
landscape served as natural inducements for people to retire here.1 In
addition, the soil and climate combined to provide an apparently excel-
lent growing condition for citrus, which was an important part of the
rural retirement way of life during this period.17
The Importance of Tourism
Palatka, known as the "Gem City of the South," became a leading
tourist center during the early 1880s.1 Thousands of tourists came
here each year on steamships that had brought them from as far north as
New York City.19 After arriving in Palatka, many of the tourists then
boarded smaller boats which took them to the various winter resorts
scattered along the shores of the St. Johns River. Some of the most
popular resort communities were Welaka, Fruitland, and San Mateo.20
The tourists arrived year-round, although the influx was heaviest
during the winter months. This was due to the fact that most of the
tourists wanted to take advantage of the mild winter climate inherent to
this part of Florida. This wonderful winter climate not only afforded
these vacationers an opportunity to escape temporarily the dreadfully
cold winters of the North, but it also offered some relief for those who
were afflicted with such debilitating ailments as arthritis.21
In later years most of the people coming to the South chose to
travel by railroad rather than by the slow-moving steamships. However,
Palatka did not lose its reputation as a leading tourist center. This
is attributed to the network of railway lines which existed at that time.
Palatka represented the eastern terminus of the Florida Southern Railway
and also was a scheduled stop on the main line running along the east
coast (Map 2). Thus, until 1895 when a direct rail line was completed
from St. Augustine to Ormond Beach, many tourists were exposed to the
attractions of the Palatka area even though they may have been enroute
to resort areas in other parts of the state.22
The development and perpetuation of the rural retirement communities
in the Putnam County area depended heavily upon tourism because this
provided a continuous supply of prospective retirees.23 Following their
exposure to the amenities of the area, a few tourists on their return
trips would purchase land in a rural retirement settlement in preparation
for their eventual retirement. Only by a personal visit were these
people able to become fully aware of what the area had to offer. A
pleasant climate, excellent hunting and fishing, a picturesque landscape,
and the opportunity to own a citrus grove were the main attractions.
Very little, if any, national advertising of the rural retirement
communities was undertaken.2 Prospective retirees learned of the exist-
ence and attractiveness of these settlements primarily by word-of-mouth
or from personal visits in this area. If they chose to purchase land in
one of the communities, the business transaction was generally conducted
exclusively between them and the land owner. Real estate agents seldom
handled the transactions, although a few unscrupulous individuals, as
related in the following paragraph, pretended to represent land owners
in various rural retirement communities.
In a few of the places where passenger trains made scheduled stops
advertisements depicting spacious lots of majestic live oak trees
festooned with huge, hanging clumps of Spanish moss were to be seen in
the railway depots. As the passengers stepped off the train, real estate
agents, or "hawkers" as they were known locally, approached them and,
with all the graciousness of a canned, high-pressure sales pitch, pointed
out the paradise in the advertisements and offered it to them at a once-
in-a-lifetime bargain price. Since most of the passengers were in trans-
it and had less than an hour until the train resumed its journey, the
high-pressure sales technique often was successful because it forced a
quick decision. Placing their trust in the "hawker," many of the people
purchased their lots "sight unseen" for so many dollars down and so much
per month. After the purchasers returned to their northern homes, they
would boast about their newly acquired "Florida paradise" which they had
picked up at an excellent price. Unfortunately, many returned to Florida
years later only to learn that they had been "taken." Often, the lot was
situated in the middle of a masquito-infested swamp, or had never been
legally recorded and thus did not even exist.25
Rural Retirement Communities Characterized
The rural retirement communities which were located within or just
to the south of the northern fringe as depicted on Map 1 resembled one
another morphologically.26 Streets had been laid out in regular inter-
vals creating geometrically arranged lots comprising anywhere from one-
half to ten acres. Most of these lots had been planted in citrus and
were owned by retired individuals who lived in homes that were either
located on the lot proper or near the nucleus of the settlement. The
settlement nucleus was made up of churches, stores, municipal buildings,
and hotels. In essence, the basic morphology differed little among the
rural retirement communities existing during this period of time.
The only major characteristic which served to differentiate between
the settlements was that of site orientation. Using this as a criterion,
three distinct types of rural retirement communities can be recognized--
riverside, lakeside, and those not water oriented. The following is a
brief discussion of a representative sample of each of these types.
Federal Point: a riverside example
Federal Point is situated on the eastern shore of the St. Johns
River approximately fifteen miles north of Palatka. It was originally
settled in 1856 by John Francis Tenney who had moved there from Vermont
to pioneer in citrus culture.27 Until the late 1870s, Federal Point
consisted of only Mr. Tenney's farmland, a thousand-acre tract. At this
time, however, he subdivided part of this land into small acreage.10ts
and sold them to northerners at a price ranging from five to twenty-five
dollars per acre.28 A large percentage of these buyers were retired
individuals; consequently, Federal Point soon became known as a rural
Most of the retired residents had their lots planted in citrus.
These groves supplied a moderate annual income and required very little
labor and expense.29 In addition, ownership of a citrus grove was re-
ported to be a prerequisite to feeling truly "Floridian."30
In order to attract more retired residents, a large hotel was built
to accommodate winter tourists (Figure 1). It was hoped that spending
the winter here would prompt some tourists to consider residing
Figure 1: Federal Point Hotel. Once bustling with winter tourists, the
hotel at Federal Point is now abandoned and is deteriorating
from exposure to the elements.
permanently in Federal Point following retirement from their occupations
in the North.
Interlachen: a lakeside example
Interlachen, a Scotch word meaning "between the lakes,"3 is situ-
ated on a ridge between Lakes Lagonda and Chipco in the central part of
Putnam County. Originally named Blue Pond,3 Interlachen was one of the
most famous rural retirement communities in this area of Florida. To
many people it was known as the "Colorado Springs of the South."33
Interlachen was laid out by John Francis in the early 1880s.3 An
executive of the Florida Southern Railway Company, Francis became in-
trigued with the aesthetic value of the landscape and its potential for
a rural retirement sett~lement.3 Thus, with an orientation toward
retirement, he then sold five-acre lots to interested buyers. These lots
sold at a phenomenal pace and within a few short years, Interlachen was
well on its way to becoming a thriving rural retirement community. As
with Federal Point, nearly all of the land owned by the retired residents
had been planted in citrus.
Rluntington: a landlocked example
Founded in 1883 by Mrs. Katherine Brinley Sumner H~untington of
Hartford, Connecticut, Huntington became a very exclusive rural retire-
ment community.36 Located nineteen miles south of Palatka and three
miles west of Crescent City, this community catered to a very specialized
clientele--wealthy and influential northerners.37 Mrs. Huntington her-
self wielded considerable influence and it was her power alone that was
responsible for the building of the Jacksonville-Tampa-Key West Railroad
through Huntington rather than through Crescent City as originally
En 1890 Mrs. Huntington ordered a large hotel to be constructed
which she named "The Qui-Si-Sana Hotel," meaning here is health.3
Locally, this hotel (Figure 2) was known as the "Big House" because of
its size and the "fancy social life" which centered around it.40 Many
residents of Huntington chose to live year-round in the hotel instead of
building their own homes. Lots, especially with citrus groves, were
available for occupancy for a selling price ranging from five to fifty
dollars per acre.4
The "Big Freeze"
The character of the rural retirement communities changed drasti-
cally during the winter of 1894-1895. A severe freeze in the Putnam
County area on February 7, 1895, killed all citrus to the stump.42 The
effect that this "Big Freeze," as it was called later, had on the success
of the rural retirement settlements was crippling. Many of the retired
residents of these settlements who had become accustomed to the annual
income derived from their citrus groves packed up their personal belong-
ings, deserted their homes and land, and moved away.4 As a result, a
few settlements, such as Federal Point and Norwalk, which lost a large
percentage of their retired residents were never again to regain their
status as a rural retirement community.4
Extension of the Coastal Railway
Although independent of the "Big Freeze," the completion in the same
year of a direct railway line from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach dealt
Figure 2: "Qui-Si-Sana." The famous "Qui-Si-Sana" hotel, or "Big House"
as it was known locally, no longer accommodates wealthy and
influential guests. Today, a disabled handyman lives here
rent-free in exchange for keeping down the weeds.
another devasting blow that was to have a longer-lasting effect upon the
success of the rural retirement communities than the freeze of 1894-1895.
With the opening of this line, all east coast rail traffic now bypassed
Palatka. Thus, many tourists who were prospective retirees never passed
through the Putnam County area.
Sunnary of the 1880 1900 Period
Accessibility, provided first by steamships on the St. Johns River
and later by the railroads, was an important factor in the development of
rural retirement communities during the 1880 1900 period. This enabled
retirees to take advantage of the natural amenities of the area such as
a healthy climate, sportsman's paradise, beautiful landscape, and the
growing of citrus. These amenities, especially the growing of citrus,
were appealing to prospective retirees. Thus, the rural retirement com-
munities that were established experienced prosperity for many years.
Unfortunately, too much dependence was placed upon the citrus culture by
retirees and the killing freeze of 1895 stifled the success of these
The Boom Twenties
The northern fringe of rural retirement communities shifted in a
southerly direction following the killing freeze of 1895 and was not to
advance northward again for nearly twenty-five years. The popularity of
this type of rural settlement had waned considerably after the turn of
the century and it was not until the Twenties that rural retirement set-
Clements began to reappear in north-central Florida. Different from
their predecessors, the new settlements were in the form of subdivisions
rather than communities (see endnote 6).
The new developments were spurred in the 1920s by a land boom in
south Florida which generated nationwide interest in Florida real
estate.5 Also, railroads were de-emphasized in favor of the more flex-
ible automotive transportation which made virtually any location acces-
sible by building a road. As a result, land development firms purchased
large tracts of the less expensive land, which was generally not served
by a railroad or navigable waterway, subdivided it, and sold it to
northerners for investment and retirement purposes.4
For the first time in the history of rural retirement subdivisions
in Florida, extensive national advertising was used to attract customers.
Sales were brisk, although the actual occupancy of the subdivisions was
limited.7 Most of the buyers were still working and bought their lots
in anticipation of their future retirement.
The northern fringe of these subdivisions was located farther north
than the fringe for the rural retirement communities of the 1880 1900
period, even though most of the activity was centered much farther south
than it was during the earlier period. If delineated on a map, it would
be shown as a continuous belt across the central portion of Clay County.
Unfortunately, the subdivisions comprising this fringe were not destined
to be successful. The historical Florida land bubble had begun to
deflate by 1925 and burst abruptly the next year after a hurricane
devastated the Miami area.8
Developers of the rural retirement subdivisions in the northern
fringe had depended upon the publicity of the land boom to provide a
constant supply of customers. When the land boom failed, developers
encountered difficulty in securing an adequate market for their lots.
Consequently, sales dropped off considerably and blue prints for new sub-
divisions were scrapped. Already faced with imminent financial crisis,
the developers were delivered the final blow in 1929 with the collapse
of the stock market. In the ensuing years, nearly all of these rural
developments became defunct (Figure 3).4
The Modern Period
Owing to the abandonment and failure of the northernmost rural
retirement subdivisions which were established during the Twenties, the
northern fringe of these developments assumed a much more southerly loca-
tion following the economic hardships of the Depression years. The
precise location would be difficult to determine but the indications are
that a southward shift in excess of a hundred miles occurred. For exam-
ple, during the 1940s and early 1950s, the Orlando area was considered to
be the northern limit for retirement settlement in peninsular Florida.50
Florida entered a new land boom in the late 1950s and the northern
fringe of the rural retirement subdivisions began advancing northward
from the Orlando area at an unprecedented rate. As county after county
became saturated with these developments, land developers pushed even
farther northward in search of available tracts of relatively inexpensive
rural land. This northward advancement has yet to terminate. Today, the
present northern fringe exists roughly in a line extending from St.
Augustine to Cedar Key.
Figure 3: "Belmore City." "Belmore City" was a large rural retirement
subdivision established during the boom years of the 1920s.
While hundreds of lots were sold in this subdivision, most
were deeded back to Clay County for tax defaults following
the Great Depression. Presently owned by the Gilmore Paper
Company, the abandoned shacks pictured above are all that is
left of "Belmore City."
A seemingly inexhaustible market is one of the primary keys to the
success of the rural retirement subdivisions of the modern period. Some
'of the traditional retirement areas in south Florida are becoming less
attractive to prospective retirees because of the high cost of land,
increased property taxes, exorbitant construction costs, and more severe
restrictions. Many people who are planning to retire merely on social
security and/or other retirement compensation cannot afford to pay these
expenses. As a result, land developers wishing to tap this market, which
is indeed considerable, continue their northward thrust of rural retire-
ment subdivisions. Because so many people want a larger lot for fewer
dollars, these rural developments are experiencing great success. In
addition, the country setting offers peace and quiet, fresh air, isola-
tion, and the opportunity to grow a large garden. Of course, there are
many disadvantages to living in a rural retirement subdivision but from
the rate at which new developments are being established it is apparent
that the prospective retirees feel that the advantages far outweigh the
Objectives and General Methodology
The following are the objectives of this study: (1) to delineate
the present northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions in peninsu-
lar Florida, (2) to classify the rural retirement subdivisions located
within the fringe so that their characteristics may be compared and
contrasted, (3) to analyze trends, patterns, differences, similarities,
etc., found among the various classes of subdivisions, (4) to isolate
the major determinants of the present patterns of rural retirement
subdivisions within the northern fringe, and (5) to determine to what
extent the present and possible farther northward shift of the fringe
will affect land resource use.
A chapter is devoted to each of these major objectives, wherein the
following secondary objectives, which are hoped to be of benefit to all
future purchasers of property in north-central Florida, land developers,
and local and state governmental planning agencies, are met: to provide
a better understanding for prospective lot buyers of the advantages and
disadvantages of rural isolation, building restrictions, and social life
associated with rural retirement subdivisions; to present a detailed
profile of the typical resident and nonresident property owner; to explain
the morphological and recreational aspects, financial responsibilities,
and investment potential of rural retirement subdivisions in documented
format rather than in glamorized brochures; to provide information for
land developers concerning the problems of dissatisfied residents which
can easily be avoided by better planning; to illustrate to local and
state governments how improper planning can lead to the establishment of
rural retirement developments with inferior roads, poor drainage, and
unsanitary sewage facilities and subsequent problems of increased popula-
tion such as inadequate police and fire protection and overtaxing of
local medical services; to determine to what extent the presence of rural
retirement subdivisions affect surrounding land values; to gain an in-
depth perspective of the role that size of landholdings, land values,
climate, topographic features, soil type, proximity to Florida attrac-
tions, and other phenomena play in the locational patterns of rural
retirement subdivisions; and to suggest an improved use of the
environment, not only in terms~ o~f'landscape pollution created by uncon-
trolled and unrestricted development, but especially in terms of future
land resource use in Florida.
Because of the empirical nature of the phenomena being examined,
this study is basically a qualitative descriptive analysis of the present
northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions in peninsular Florida.
Since very little literature exists on this subject, field observation,
interviews, and the use of mail questionnaires were the principal means
of gathering data. More than two hundred rural retirement subdivisions
were visited personally, numerous personal interviews with county
officials, developers, and residents were conducted,. and several thou-
sand questionnaires were either delivered personally or mailed to
residents and nonresidents. The specific details of these techniques
are outlined in the appropriate places in the text.
"New American Land Rush." Time, XCIX (February 28, 1972), 72.
2The developers of Palm Coast, a one hundred thousand acre planned
rural community situated in Flagler and St. Johns Counties, Florida, have
used these posters to decorate their sales offices.
3U.S. News and World Report (LXX(I, December 13, 1971, 33) in an
article entitled, "The Big Land:Rush: No Slowdown in Sight," cites a
land developer who "estimates that.300,000 lots in Florida alone are sold
over the telephone each year, with the buyer never seeing the lot, and
adds that the figure probably is a bit low."
"New American Land Rush," Time, p. 72.
5These early settlements we're the forerunners of the later rural
retirement subdivisions and differed considerable in morphology, charac-
teristics, etc., as is explained ~later in the text.
A rural retirement community which existed during the 1880 1900
period is defined as any settlement that was established for or catered
to retirement living and had a population of fewer than 500 persons.
Unfortunately, the percentage of residents who were retired in these
communities is not known. Because this information was never recorded,
the historical reputation of the community serves as the principal
criterion on which to label it as retired or otherwise. These reputa-
tions were learned from interviews with several local historians and from
the historical literature of the area.
7The area between longitude 81.30' West and 82*15' West was selected
as a representative section of the northern fringe for both the 1800 -
1900 period and the Twenties.
IRobert B. Dowda, "The History of Palatka and Putnam County," un-
published manuscript compiled in 1939, p. 110.
The first rural retirement communities in Florida originated in the
St. Johns River area during the 1880 1900 period. Although this study
is concerned with the northern fringe of these developments, it should be
pointed out that the southern limit of this type of retirement develop-
ment was less than a hundred miles downstream. Traditional present-day
retirement centers of south Florida were only small settlements at this
For the purpose of delineation, the "fringe" is defined as a con-
tinuous belt, ten miles in width, which best represents the location of
the northernmost rural retirement communities.
11The year 1895 was more representative of the northern fringe of
retirement during this era than 1900. Reasons for this are explained
later in the text of this chapter.
Dowda, "H~istory," p. 41.
1Louis E. Tenney, personal interview.
HI. S. McKenzie, personal interview.
1Examples include Interlachen, Keuka, and Hawthorne.
16H. S. McKenzie, personal interview.
Most retired residents owned at least five acres of citrus groves.
18Dowda, "History," p. 161.
1Ibid., p. 37.
20Mrs. Mattie Douglas, personal interview.
According to H. S. McKenzie, people with bad health often spent
their winters in Florida for years prior to their actual retirement. The
warm climate and the crystal clear water which emanated from underground
springs were thought by many to be of great medicinal value.
22Dowda, "History," p. 110.
A. W. Nichols, personal interview.
Jim Millican, Jr., personal interview.
John Hastings, personal interview.
Official plat maps for a few of these rural retirement comrmuni-
ties still exist in the county courthouse plat books.
2Unless otherwise documented, the historical information regarding
Federal Point was obtained from a private interview with Louis E. Tenney.
A Panorama of Palatka and Putnam County, local promotional booklet
published in 1895, p. 44.
According to Louis E. Tenney, colored labor was brought by steam-
ship from Jacksonville and hired to work in the citrus groves for as
little as one dollar per day.
30Dowda, "History," p. 156.
31Ibid., p. 127.
2According to Dowda, "History," p. 127, Blue Pond was the original
name given to Interlachen. However, it was changed to its present name
when the post office department refused to grant a post office to a two-
33tI. S. McKenzie, personal interview.
3Judy Hunter, "Interlachen," unpublished paper compiled in 1963,
3M. F. Coburn, Facts about Interlachen, brochure published by the
Interlachen Improvement Society in 1905, p. 1.
36Dowda, "History," p. 138.
A. W. Nichols, personal interview.
8Dowda, "History," p. 138.
408. S. McKenzie, personal interview.
4Panorama, p. 45.
4Dowda, "History," p. 149.
Ibid., p. 136.
Louis E. Tenney, personal interview.
5George B. Tindall, "The Bubble in the Sun," American Heritage,
XVI (August, 1965), 76-83, 109-111. According to this historical arti-
cle, Miami was only a small community of 1,681 persons in 1900. But
during the next twenty-five years a land boom gripped this area which
the author compares to the great California gold rush of 1849. Land
values soared to unprecedented heights and people from all parts of the
nation flocked to Florida in "tin lizzies" or by train in hope of making
a fortune in land dealing overnight. Property would change hands maybe
ten times in one week, each time selling for a higher price. Brass
bands, baton-twirling girls, and other enticements were used to augment
sales. The author quotes Will Rogers, who referred to one developer who
"rehearsed the mosquitoes till they wouldn't bite you until after you'd
MiHchael Simpson, personal interview.
Mickey Murray, personal interview.
"8,The 'coup de grace' to the boom was administered by a formidable
tropical hurricane, with winds in excess of 128 miles per hour, which
roared over the Gold Coast and the Everglades on September 18, 1926. The
storm killed 115 people in the Miami area, .. Miami Beach was entirely
inundated, . and four thousand homes were destroyed and nine thousand
more damaged in the area from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, with property
losses in the Greater Miami area alone put at $76,000,000." From Tindall,
"The Bubble," p. 111.
Mickey Murray, personal interview.
John Hastings, personal interview.
DELINEATION OF THE NORTHERN FRINGE
Rural Retirement Subdivision
As applied in this study, a rural retirement subdivision is a real
estate development which has satisfied the following three requirements.
First, the development must have qualified as a subdivision, which is
defined as any tract of land exceeding ten acres, which, for the purpose
of selling lots to prospective customers, was subdivided into lots of
five acres or less. Second, the development must be situated in a rural
setting, which is defined as any area located beyond the periphery of a
municipality.1* Third, the development moust have demonstrated an orien-
tation toward retirement, which is defined as a development in which a
minimum of 51 percent of the residents are retired.2
Peninsular Florida, for usage in this study, is defined as that
part of the state located south of the Florida-Georgia state line and
east of the Aucilla River.' All areas of the state lying west of the
*Notes begin on page 38.
Aucilla River were considered to be a part of the Florida panhandle and
were excluded from this study.
The northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions, which is de-
lineated in this chapter, is defined as a continuous belt of approximately
equal width extending across the peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico to
the Atlantic Ocean and which best represents the northernmost extent or
fringe of rural retirement subdivisions in peninsular Florida.
The approximate location of the northern fringe of rural retirement
subdivisions in peninsular Florida was determined in the following man-
ner. Beginning at the Florida-Georgia state line and working southward,
county-by-county, each rural retirement subdivision encountered was
plotted on a county highway map.4 County records (particularly plat
maps), personal interviews, and field inspection were the principal means
of discovery. The mapping was discontinued after a sufficient density
(the northern fringe) was revealed.
In the search for the rural retirement subdivisions, the county
courthouse was selected as the starting point in each county. Here
personal interviews were held with the county tax assessor, clerk of
circuit court, or other employee or individual who had knowledge of the
rural development, if any, that had occurred in the county. From these
interviews, a list of known rural retirement subdivisions was compiled.5
Following the interviews and the compilation of the list, the plat
maps in the office of the circuit court were consulted.6 Two objectives
were accomplished by this procedure, First, a page-by-page examination
of the plat books revealed any rural subdivisions which were not included
on the list secured from the interviews. Although the retirement status
of these developments was not known at the time, each development was
plotted on the appropriate county highway map for later verification. The
second objective accomplished by this procedure was the determination of
the precise locations and sizes of the rural retirement subdivisions
which were included on the original list. The perimeters of each of
these developments were plotted on the same county highway map on which
those of the rural subdivisions of ~unknown retirement status had been
drawn. Because of the detail involved, care was taken concerning map
identification and the recording 'of information to ensure accuracy and
After the mapping procedure was completed, a general reconnaissance
of the county was undertaken to determine the retirement status of the
rural subdivisions which were discovered while leafing through the plat
maps but which were not included on the list of known rural retirement
subdivisions compiled from the interviews. These developments were
systematically visited, and interviews were conducted with the subdivi-
sion developer, salesagent in charge, or a resident to learn the
approximate percentage of retired presidents. Those developments which
did not qualify as being retirement-oriented were stricken from the
county highway map. Those which did qualify were designated accordingly.
In many counties a limited number of unrecorded rural retirement
subdivisions existed.' If these developments were not included on the
original list, their existence passed unnoticed. However, while
conducting the general reconnaissance in each county, most of these
developments were discovered through field observation. As they were
discovered, each development, provided it satisfied the three require-
ments of the definition of a rural retirement subdivision, was also
plotted on the county highway map. The above explanation indicates how
virtually every rural retirement subdivision was located and mapped in
When it was determined that the density of the rural retirement
subdivisions plotted on the county highway maps was sufficient to ensure
the accurate delineation of the northern fringe, the mapping procedure
was discontinued. At this time 363 rural developments in twenty-three
counties had been investigated. However, only 205 of these developments
qualified as a rural retirement subdivision, according to the definition
set forth in the beginning of this chapter. The remaining 158 rural
developments were stricken from or never included on the county highway
maps because they were either occupied by a majority of residents who
were not retired, were found to be located within the periphery of an
urban complex, or were never located during the field research, owing to
possible errors in the recording of their legal descriptions on the
county highway maps or, in certain instances, to the fact that although
plat maps had been officially recorded in the office of the clerk of the
circuit court in the county courthouse, the intended developments never
materialized as no improvements were ever made upon the property nor
were any lots ever sold. Table 1 shows by county the number of rural
developments which were investigated and the number which were subse-
quently determined to qualify as rural retirement subdivisions.
NUMBER OF RURAL DEVELOPMENTS INVESTIGATED AND DETERMINED
AS RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS BY COUNTY
County Rural develop- Rural develop- Rural developments
ments investi- ments determined determined as
gated as nonrural rural retirement
retirement sub- subdivisions
1. Alachua 23 23 0
2. Baker 0 0 0
3. Bradford 11 6 5
4. Citrus 8 3 5
5. Clay 44 32 12
6. Columbia 6 3 3
7. Dixie 8 5 3
8. Duvalb 0 0 0
9. Flagler 18 13 5
10. Gilchrist 14 3 11
11. Hamilton 3 0 3
12. Lafayette 10 0 10
13. Lake 0 0 0
14. Levy 35 14 21
15. Madison 0 0 0
16. Marion 84 32 52
17. Nassau 0 0 0
18. Putnam 71 12 59
19. St. Johns 3 0 3
20. Sumter 6 5 1
21. Suwannee 13 1 12
22. Taylor 6 6 0
23. Union 0 0 0
Totals: 363 158 205
aFor some of the southernmost counties such as Lake, Sumter, or
Citrus Counties, these data apply only to that part of the county which
was investigated, usually only the northernmost section.
bDuval County was automatically excluded by definition because the
Duval County line and the city limits of Jacksonville are synonomous.
The next step involved the consolidation of the information that was
collected on the county highway maps into a base map in order that the
northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions could be delineated
accurately. Preparation of this map presented a problem of scale because
of the number of counties involved and the relatively small acreages of
many of the developments. But this problem was alleviated by the selec-
tion of a conterminous map of all the counties inspected with a scale
that was large enough to superimpose the sections of the township and
range survey system.8 Using this grid formation, each section in which
a rural retirement subdivision was located was blacked-in rather than
within the perimeters of the subdivisions proper. This procedure per-
mitted a minimum unit of 640 acres as opposed to certain of the smaller
developments which contained fewer than twenty acres.9 Obviously, the
completed base map presented an exaggeration in terms of the area occu-
pied by the rural retirement subdivisions but it nevertheless provided a
reasonable portrayal, for the purpose of delineation, of the location and
distribution of these northernmost developments.
Map 3 shows the northern fringe as delineated on the completed base
map. The methods that were used to determine the boundaries of the
northern fringe are outlined below.
Exclusion of the Suwannee River Valley
As indicated by Map 3, a limited number of rural retirement subdivi-
sions are situated along the banks of the Suwannee River. However, these
developments were justifiably excluded from the delineated fringe area
for several reasons. First, the Suwannee River Valley represented an
outlying area. Hardly any rural retirement subdivisions were located
beyond the northern boundary of the delineated fringe except those along
the Suwannee River. Therefore, it was concluded that developments in
this area were established only because of the amenities offered by the
river and that they could not be considered a part of the fringe proper.
A second reason for the exclusion of the developments along the
Suwannee River was the very limited development that had occurred. While
Map 3 reveals that rural retirement subdivisions are located in several
sections, it must be pointed out that the large majority of these develop-
ments contained very small acreages and only a token number of permanent
residents. Thus, the density of development was much less than in the
area covered by the delineated northern fringe.10
The fact that the Suwannee River and certain of its tributaries may
possibly be included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of the United
States was the final reason for exclusion of this area from the northern
fringe. If this impending legislation is passed, and there is a good
chance that it will, rigid regulatory controls concerning development
along the Suwannee River will be established.11 In fact, waterfront
residential development may be prohibited and/or severely restricted
along most of the river.12 Therefore, with the chance that development
of rural retirement subdivisions along the Suwannee River may be cur-
tailed sharply, it was logical that this area be excluded from the
Northern Boundary of the Fringe
Since the northern fringe is defined as a continuous belt of equal
vidth that best represented the northernmost limit of rural retirement
subdivisions, it was logical that the northern boundary of the belt or
fringe be drawn first. While various criteria were established to mini-
mize the degree of subjectivity involved in this undertaking, the
demarcation of the northern boundary, for the most part, was self-
evident.13 Fortunately, the locations of the northernmost developments
did not taper off gradually but rather terminated abruptly (Map 3). In
fact, with the exception of the Suwannee River Valley, only a very few
rural retirement subdivisions were situated north of where the northern
boundary of the fringe was drawn.
Map 3 illustrates the precise location of the northern boundary of
the fringe area. Beginning on the Gulf of Mexico coastline, this bound-
ary line extends from the mouth of the Suwannee River northeastward to a
cluster of rural retirement subdivisions located in northeastern Levy
County. Here the boundary line turns southeastward, dipping into west-
central Marion County where it again turns northeastward and runs toward
the eastern terminus of Orange Lake. At this point the line actually
undertakes a northerly direction toward the Keystone Heights area where
it abruptly changes toward the east. This direction is then maintained
until the boundary line reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
The fact that the northern boundary does not follow a relatively
even east-west direction across the peninsula raises several questions.
For example, why does the line dip suddenly into Marion County, com-
pletely bypassing Alachua County? Also, why does the line run due north
into southern Clay County, an area whose latitude is much farther north
than the location of the boundary line in the western half of the penin-
sula? These and other questions about the locational patterns of the
fringe area are examined later in Chapter VI.
Southern Boundary of the Fringe
According to the definition of the northern fringe, this phenomenon
is a belt of equal width. This implies that the southern boundary of the
fringe must be parallel with respect to the northern boundary. Thus,
after a proper width was determined, the location of the southern bound-
ary was automatic.
Experiments were made with several different widths of the northern
fringe before a final selection was made. For example, a delineated belt
of only ten miles or less did not encompass an adequate number of rural
retirement subdivisions for a meaningful study. On the other hand, a
belt with a width of thirty miles or more was too broad and included far
too many developments for an efficient examination. A logical compromise
led to the selection of a belt with a width of twenty miles. The area
covered by this belt was occupied by a sufficient but manageable number
of developments. Map 3 shows the location of the southern boundary.14
The twenty-mile-wide belt as delineated on Map 3 represents the
northern fringe of rural retirement subdivisions in peninsular Florida as
it existed in early 1972. Of the 205 developments which were identified
and mapped during the field research, 15215 were encompassed by the
delineated belt (Table 2). The remaining 53 rural retirement subdivi-
sions were excluded because they were either situated along the Suwannee
River Valley or were located north or south of where the boundaries of
NUMBER OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS
COMPRISING THE DELINEATED NORTHERN
FRINGE BY COUNTY
aFor convenience, the several small, adjacent rural retirement sub-
divisions commonly referred to as Demory Hill were combined into a
bFor convenience, the several small, adjacent rural retirement sub-
divisions commonly referred to as the Yankeetown area were combined into
a single unit.
the delineated northern fringe were drawn. The remainder of this study,
except for the discussion in Chapter VII of possible future northward
shifts of the location of the fringe, will be based upon information col-
lected only from within this delineated fringe.
Configuration of the Northern Fringe
Such phenomena as land values, availability of large tracts of land,
property tax rates, county regulatory controls, topography, soils, prox-
imity to water bodies, and others, all of which are discussed at consid-
erable length in Chapter VI, have, together or separately, served as
locational factors for the establishment of many of the rural retirement
subdivisions that comprise the northern fringe. However, since these
locational factors do not occur in a uniform spatial distribution, the
northward advancement of these retirement developments has not proceeded
at an even pace across the peninsula. That is to say, subdivision devel-
opers have pushed northward at a rapid rate in certain areas while
remaining stationary or only advancing slowly in others, resulting in a
snakelike configuration of the delineated northern fringe (Map 3), which,
even roughly, does not conform to a continuous east-west axis.
Three major clusters of rural retirement subdivisions, loosely
linked by scattered individual developments, can be identified within
this snakelike configuration of the northern fringe. These clusters,
located in eastern L~evy and western Marion Counties, southeastern Marion
County, and the Putnam County area, reflect quite well the unequal
spatial distribution of the locational factors discussed above. It was
here that the establishment of these northernmost developments was
deemed the most feasible and profitable by the land developers. Had
other areas been equally appealing, perhaps the northern fringe would
have been located at higher latitudes at other points across the
In the context of this study, periphery refers to the perimeter,
which is arbitrarily delineated with no regard given to the location of
corporate limits, of the conterminous urban complex of a municipality.
As a general rule, the periphery is located beyond the corporate limits,
encompassing recently established yet unannexed subdivision developments.
Occasionally, however, the periphery occurs well within the corporate
limits. For example, the city limits of Jacksonville are synonomous with
the Duval County line, even though a large portion of the county is not
urbanized. Therefore, because the corporate limits do not reflect the
actual area occupied by an urban complex, the periphery was used as the
criterion for distinguishing between rural and urban.
2The calculation of this percentage was based exclusively upon the
occupational status of .the residents of the development. Nonresident
property owners were not included.
The Aucilla River does not serve as the only recognized division
between the peninsula and the panhandle but its geographical location
and its coincidence with county boundaries were ideal for this study.
With a scale of one inch to two miles and with the township and
range land survey system superimposed, the county highway maps, which
were procured from the Florida Department of Transportation, facilitated
an accurate recording of the boundaries of the rural retirement sub-
Although the definition of a rural retirement subdivision was
explained in detail to each individual who was interviewed, his designa-
tion of a development as a rural retirement subdivision or otherwise was
an educated estimate. If uncertainty was expressed concerning particular
developments, these were later checked out by field inspection.
A plat map is defined as "a public record of various recorded
plans in the municipality or county," according to Robert W. Semenow,
Questions and Answers on Real Estate (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), p. 13.
An unrecorded rural retirement subdivision is a development for
which no plat map has been recorded.
The scale selected for the base map was one inch to eight and one-
Regardless of the number of sections in which a rural retirement
subdivision was situated, only one section was blacked-in for each 640
acres of the development. For example, if a development occupied a
tract of 400 acres but was located in four different sections, only the
section that contained the largest percentage of the development was
blacked-in on the base map.
A survey in early 1971 revealed that only 48 miles of the more
than 600 miles of riverbank of the Suwannee River and its tributaries had
been platted or sold for residential development. More importantly,
these developments, for the most part, did not extend inland but rather
were confined along the riverbank, thereby constituting only very small
acreages. (Source: Stacey Bridges, "Suwannee: A New Lease on Life,"
Gainesville Sun, October 11, 1971, sec. A, p. 9. [Reference to the sec-
ond part of a five-part series in a daily paper, made up of several
sections, separately paged].)
Ali joint federal-state task force of about twenty-five agencies
completed a study of the Suwannee River and recommended that it be in-
cluded in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Their findings
revealed that "many present development trends along the river are unde-
sirable and consist of speculative ventures which produce little in the
way of planned community development and resource protection. Existing
authority to zone and to establish building codes has not been exercised.
Uncontrolled residential, vacation cabin and trailer developments pose
the greatest eminent threat to the river's scenic beauty and water
quality." (Source: Stacey Bridges, "Suwannee: Ai New Lease on Life,"
Gainesville Sun, October 14, 1971, sec. C, p. 9. [Reference to the
fifth of a five-part series in a daily paper, made up of several sections,
1The following are certain of the requirements that will apply to
the Suwannee River if the river is included in the federal Wild and
Scenic Rivers Act:
(a) Private property owners may retain right of use and occupancy
of land for noncommercial residence for a term not over
twenty-five years or life tenancy, whichever they prefer.
(b) The river shall be administered without limiting other uses
that do not substantially interfere with public use and
enjoyment of the wild and scenic nature of the river.
The former would restrict present owners from subdividing their land and
the latter would control any future development. (Source: Stacey
Bridges, "Suwannee: A New Lease on Life," Gainesville Sun, October 10,
1971, sec. A, p. 8. [Reference to the first in a five-part series in a
daily paper, made up of several sections, separately paged].)
13The mapping of the northern boundary was accomplished by drawing a
continuous line which connected the northernmost rural retirement
subdivisions. Outlying clusters and isolated developments situated more
than ten miles north of its nearest neighbor were excluded.
An exact parallel width of twenty miles was not possible in areas
where the northern boundary experienced changes in direction that were
less than a ninety-degree angle.
1This total includes forty-eight developments which were unoccupied
at the time of field investigation but were nevertheless determined to
quality as rural retirement subdivisions. Thirteen were recently estab-
lished developments for which sufficient time for occupancy had not yet
expired. However, according to interviews with their developers, it was
determined, based upon lot sales that were already concluded, that the
eventual inhabitants would be comprised of a majority of retired indivi-
duals. The remaining thirty-five developments were, from information
that was available, originally planned as rural retirement subdivisions
but for unknown reasons were never inhabited. Today, these defunct,
unoccupied developments are in a rapid stage of deterioration, which, in
effect, reinforces the probability that they will never be inhabited.
Although the number of these developments appears to be considerable, the
figure is somewhat misleading. Near Interlachen in F~utnam County one
developer subdivided a single parcel of land into twenty-five, forty-acre
rural retirement subdivisions, none of which was ever occupied.
.CLASSIFICATION OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS
A detailed study and subsequent analysis of individual developments
would have presented a laborious and particularly redundant task since
preliminary field research indicated that although some rural retirement
subdivisions possessed certain unique characteristics, the vast majority
exhibited many features which were present in all developments. More-
over, a definite hierarchy of subdivisions was found to exist, ranging
from very exclusive developments displaying expensive conventional homes
with manicured lawns, extensive recreational facilities, paved streets,
and a highly organized social life, to the less-attractive developments
sporting mobile or cheaply constructed conventional dwellings, ungraded
dirt roads, few, if any, recreational facilities, and little social
organization among the residents. Therefore, in order that the study
of the rural retirement subdivisions within the delineated northern
fringe be more meaningful and efficient, it was decided that a classifi-
cation would be devised by which the various developments could be
grouped into logical classes. In this manner the differences and
similarities of the characteristics of all the developments could be
more effectively compared and contrasted.
The development of a reasonably objective and logical classifica-
tion was difficult, however, owing to the subjectivity involved in
selecting class or group divisions. Therefore, in order to ensure
maximum objectivity, a review of the geographical literature pertaining
to the classificatory process was conducted. The following is a brief
summation of this investigation.
Review of Literature
Classification is defined by Johnston as "the grouping of objects
into classes on the basis of properties or relationships they have in
common."l This technique of "simplifying and clarifying the complexi-
ties of the geographer's universe"2 is an indispensable tool for
geographical research. Hartshorne has written:
The organization of knowledge does not require a
neat division into compartments, which would in
fact be a violation of the essential unity of
reality, but rather the recognition of coherent
and mana eable but preferably overlapping di-
Hartshorne demonstrates that classification is not a natural phenomenon,
but exists only within the organization of man's knowledge. This means
that all classificatory schemes are devised arbitarily. As a result,
the subjectivity used in dividing phenomena into recognizable classes or
groups often detracts from the value of the classification. However,
the more objective the classificatory methodology, the less subjective
will be the classification. It is this point that needs to be discussed.
An excellent article by Johnston, "Choice in Classification: The
Subjectivity of Objective Methods," brings together and summarizes the
methodology used in geography and related disciplines for classification
*Notes begin on page 60.
of various phenomena. In this article Johnston states at the outset that
regardless of objective numerical data, any decision to classify the data
is subjective. He then discusses the nature of these arbitrary decisions
and considers in detail the ramification of choice. Through the manipu-
lation of data by various quantitative techniques, he illustrates how the
investigator can actually show what he wants to show.
While this article is quantitatively oriented, it is still very
useful for a qualitative classification in that the basic fundamental
steps of the classificatory process are clearly defined. For example,
Johnston states that any classification is formulated in only one of two
1) From a general awareness of phenomena to be
classified, a classification is set up followed by the
assignment of' each object to its respective class or
group. (A deductive approach.)
2) A discriminatory analysis of individual observa-
tions is made from which a classification is created from
the differences and similarities of the characteristics
observed. (An inductive approach.)
The deductive approach depends upon an a priori grouping and is
highly subjective. Brian Berry suggests that this method should be
avoided to ensure that an optimal classification has been made.5 On the
other hand, Johnston's second method, an inductive approach, represents
a more objective and rational means of classification. Schaefer, who
once stated that a priori grouping is more subjective, contends that "an
intelligent classification either anticipates or is based on some sort
of lawfulness. If, therefore, the material itself suggests some sort of
classification by mere inspection, one may hope to be on the track of
some lawfulness." In other words, Schaefer suggests that a cursory
deductive classification may be a stepping stone leading to a highly
sophisticated and objective inductive classification.
An extensive geographical literature exists in which classifica-
tions, both deductive and inductive, have been used to compare and con-
trast differences and similarities of phenomena. These range from
merely casual descriptive classifications to highly complex functional
groupings. A problem with any type of classification, however, is that
"the purposes for which classifications are designed are seldom made
explicit, and sometimes little is done with them after they are
finished.7 Obviously, the categorizing of fence types has not been as
instrumental in the organization of geographical knowledge as the system-
atization of climates and regions. But any systematic attempt to
organize the complex structure of the geographer's world deserves some
merit, regardless of how insignificant it may seem. Indeed, classifica-
tion is an invaluable geographic aid.
Selection of a Criterion
An inductive classificatory approach was utilized in the development
of a classification of the rural retirement subdivisions. Rather than
create classes or groups of subdivisions merely on the basis of casual
field observation (deductive approach), a comprehensive checklist was
drawn up which listed most of the characteristics which were observed
among the subdivisions during the preliminary field research. Also
included on this form were blank spaces to allow for any characteristics
which may have passed unnoticed. Then, during a systematic visitation
of all rural retirement subdivisions located within the delineated
northern fringe, a separate checklist was filled in for each development.
Following the completion of this procedure, the information recorded on
the checklists was thoroughly examined in an effort to determine which
characteristic would best serve as the criterion on which to base a
classification. Only situation orientation, institutional framework,
building restrictions, and a combination of these three characteristics
were chosen as possibilities. All others were rejected.
Situation orientation was the initial characteristic to be con-
sidered as a criterion. With special reference to the orientation of
each development toward water bodies, four distinct classes of sub-
divisions were recognized. These included riverfront, lakefront, ocean-
front, and nonwaterfront properties. Table 3 lists the number of the
rural retirement subdivisions comprising the delineated northern fringe
which were assigned to each of these classes.
After careful analysis a~nd deliberation, this classificatory scheme
was rejected. Close examination revealed that this scheme did little
more than highlight the various geographical areas within the delineated
northern fringe where the different water bodies, the criterion for the
classification, are either present or absent. In other words, the rural
retirement subdivisions grouped into the four classes of situation
orientation revealed clustered patterns in the areas where their respec-
tive water body is most common, or, in the case of the nonwaterfront
properties, in the areas where water bodies are generally absent. As
SITUATION ORIENTATION OF RURAL RETIREMENT SUBDIVISIONS
County Lakefront Riverfront Oceanfront Nonwater- Total
Bradford 5 0 0 0 5
Citrus 1 2 0 2 5
Clay 10 0 0 1 11
Dixie 0 0 1 0 1
Flagler 0 2 1 0 3
Levy 1 1 0 12 14
Marion 22 4 0 26 52
Putnam 37 18 0 3 58
St. Johns 0 1 1 0 2
Sumter 1 0 0 0 1
Totals: 77 28 3 44 152
illustrated by Map 4, lakefront developments are predominant in the west-
central and northwestern portions of Putnam County, southwestern Clay
County, and eastern Marion County, while the riverfront subdivisions are
prevalent along the St. Johns River in Putnam County and the Rainbow and
Withlacoochee Rivers, which are situated in the southwestern part of the
delineated northern fringe. Oceanfront properties, although few in
number, obviously are located along the coasts. On the other hand, the
nonwaterfront rural retirement subdivisions, which incidentally, are
found scattered throughout the fringe area, are particularly clustered
in the sand hills region of southwestern Marion County and eastern Levy
County. Thus, a classification utilizing situation orientation as the
criterion revealed obvious clustering of the classes of rural retirement
subdivisions it created; but, most importantly, and the principal reason
for its rejection, this classification proved ineffective in terms of
explaining areal, morphological, institutional, social, and other
differences and similarities found to exist among the developments.
The second characteristic to be examined as a possible criterion
for the classification of the rural retirement subdivisions was that of
institutional framework or subdivision ownership. Information provided
by the checklists indicated that all subdivisions were developed by one
of three types of institutions. These were corporations, unincorporated
or private, or special interest groups such as a labor union or a
religious organization. Table 4 shows the total number of rural retire-
ment subdivisions comprising the delineated northern fringe which were
assigned to each of these three forms of ownership.8
County Corporation Unincorporated Special Undetermined Total
Bradford 2 3 0 0 5
Citrus 2 2 0 1 5
Clay 4 5 1 1 11
Dixie 1 0 0 8 1
Flagler 2 1 0 0 3
Levy 6 8 0 0 14
Marion 25 21 0 6 52
Putnam 12 35 1 10 58
St. Johns 2 0 0 0 2
Sumter 1 0 0 0 1
Totals: 57 75 2 18 152
INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK OF RURAL
RETIREMENT SUBDI S
The adoption of institutional framework as the criterion on which
to base the classification of the rural retirement subdivisions was
seriously considered but was justifiably rejected. A major deficiency
in this classificatory scheme was that, because only two developments
were assigned to the special interest ownership class, essentially only
two different classes of subdivisions were represented. Therefore, in
view of the fact that many of the developments in the corporate and
unincorporated classes were virtually identical in other respects, it
was determined that a classification with more than two well-represented
classes was necessary in order to account for differences and similari-
ties observed among the various rural retirement subdivisions.
A multilevel classification, utilizing, as the criteria, situation
orientation, institutional framework, and building restrictions (regula-
tions imposed upon the property owner by the developer which govern the
type of dwelling that may be constructed), represented an experimental
attempt to produce a highly complex classification. Unfortunately, this
system proved to be redundant, inefficient, and unmanageable, owing to
the very large number of classes and subclasses which were created.
Moreover, it was discovered that while no subdivisions were assigned to
some of the subclasses virtually identical developments were assigned to
Building restrictions, it was decided after careful deliberation,
were the most meaningful criterion on which to develop a logical classi-
fication of rural retirement subdivisions. Because most of the other
characteristics of the subdivisions were either a result of or strongly
influenced by the nature of the building restrictions imposed, the class
divisions offered by this characteristic were clear-cut and proved to be
very effective in terms of accounting for the many differences and simi-
larities which existed among the various developments. In other words,
a positive correlation existed between the classes of subdivisions based
upon building restrictions and the hierarchy of developments that was
apparent from field observation. This is best explained by the fact that
the building restrictions proper, as a general rule, dictated the pres-
ence, absence, quantity, and quality of most of the other subdivision
characteristics. For example, developments where only exclusive con-
ventional homes were permitted usually displayed equally high quality in
the presence of other features such as paved streets with curbs and
evenly spaced street lights, elaborate recreational facilities and club-
houses, a higher percentage of the residents who had retired from
professional careers, and, in general, a very pleasing aesthetic appear-
ance. On the other hand, in developments where building restrictions,
if any, were greatly relaxed, the quality of the different features had
diminished considerably. Roads were generally ungraded dirt paths sub-
ject to constant erosion, recreational facilities were minimal or absent,
the typical resident had retired from a semiskilled or unskilled
vocation, and the overall appearance was inferior to the more exclusive
developments with more stringent building restrictions. Thus, generally
speaking, the form of building restrictions was most instrumental in the
determination of the character of most of the other features of the
developments, and, therefore, was the basis of the subdivision hierarchy
and the logical choice as the criterion from which to devise the classi-
fication of rural retirement subdivisions.
Classification Based upon Building Restrictions
Using building restrictions as the criterion for classification, six
distinct classes of rural retirement subdivisions we're recognized. Out-
lined below, these classes are arranged in descending order of the
Class I "Planned Community"
In Class I subdivisions only conventional homes, subject to certain
specifications and requirements regarding the square footage of living
area, type of construction materials, and a garage or carport, may be
erected. Mobile and modular housing is disallowed. Outbuildings, junk
cars, livestock, or any other features, which, in the eyes of the
developer, are a detriment to the aesthetic value of the subdivision,
are expressively prohibited. An easily identifiable characteristic of
this class is a coordinated growth pattern emanating from a predetermined
nucleus. In other words, development is not random but rather expands
outward from a central location, following a "planned community" concept
Class II "Conventional Homes Only"
Class II subdivisions differ primarily from Class I developments in
that a coordinated growth pattern does not exist. It is left to the
discretion of the property owner when, if ever, he will decide to build
a home on his lot. As a result, the settlement pattern is usually ran-
dom (Figure 5). Restrictions on home construction are basically the same
as those for Class I, although they may be slightly more relaxed.
Figure 4: Class I Development. Few vacant lots can be found between
these attractive and comfortable conventional homes located
in St. Augustine Shores, a Class I subdivision situated along-
side the Matanzas River in St. Johns County. This is due to
the fact that development and housing construction spread
outward, roughly in the form of concentric circles, from a
preselected central point. A master plan, prepared long be-
fore the first lot is sold, designates the scheduled comple-
tion date for each of these circular sections. Then, to meet
these completion deadlines, a provision is written into the
deed of each lot sold which stipulates that the property
owner must erect a residence upon his lot within a certain
period of time. The actual date, of course, depends upon the
circular section in which his lot is located. The inner sec-
tions require very early construction but the outer sections
may not be scheduled for completion for as many as ten to
Figure 5: Class II Development. The owner of this conventional home in
Rainbow Lakes Estates, a Class II subdivision located in
western Marion County, may never have next-door neighbors.
Property owners in this development are not obligated to
build a home on their lots. This results in a random settle-
ment pattern which is characteristic of all rural retirement
subdivisions except those assigned to Class I.
Class III "Conventional Homes: Mobile and Modular Housing Zoned"
A large percentage of the total acreage in each of the Class III
subdivisions is restricted to the erection of conventional homes only.
The remaining areas, usually the back or most undesirable lots, are
zoned specially for the installation of mobile or modular housing units.
In both areas, however, minimum restrictions have been established which
regulate the size and type of conventional home or the size, model,
and/or year of the mobile or modular home (Figure 6).
Class IV "Conventional Homes or Mobile and Modular Housing"
The property owner of a lot in a Class IV subdivision has the option
of erecting a permanent conventional home or installing mobile or modular
housing (Figure 7). Regardless of this choice, however, the dwelling
must meet certain minimum requirements set forth by the developer.
Class V "Eiobile or Modular Housing Only"
Conventional homes are disallowed in the Class V developments.
Property ownersl0 may install only a mobile or modular housing unit
(Figure 8). Basic restrictions exist which regulate the size, model, and
year of the housing unit.
Class VI "No Restrictions"
In Class VI subdivisions no building restrictions whatsoever are
imposed upon the property owner by the developer. The property owner has
the liberty to construct any type of structures) he desires, as long as
county safety and sanitary codes are met (Figure 9). Livestock, junk
cars, outbuildings, etc., are not prohibited.
Figure 6: Class III Development. When a prospective retiree is consid-
ering the purchase of a lot in Williston Highlands, a Class
III development in northeastern Levy County, he is informed
by the developer that the subdivision's building restrictions
require that only a permanent conventional home, like the one
pictured above, be erected on most of the lots. Any other
form of housing, such as mobile or modular, is confined to
specially zoned areas in the back sections of the subdivision.
Figure 7: Class IV Development. Some residents who live in expensive
conventional homes in Interlachen Lakes Estates, a Class IV
development in central Putnam County, express concern that,
owing to the relaxed building restrictions of this sub~divi-
sion, other mobile or modular housing units, such as the ones
shown above, may eventually be installed on the vacant lots
adjacent to their homes, thereby depreciating the value of
Figure 8: Class V Developments. Because of a spiralling cost of living,
mobile and modular home living is continually increasing in
popularity. The lots in this Class V development, known as
Southgate Mobile Manor and located in southern Marion -County,
were sold out in three years and almost fully occupied in
Figure 9: Class VI Development. As illustrated by this architectural
specimen found in Lake Tropicana Ranchettes in western Marion
County, building restrictions are absent in the Class VI sub-
divisions. A few residents also raise their own beef and
pork, keep a horse, and maintain an extensive garden.
1David Grigg, "Logic of Regional Systems," Annals, Association of
American Geographers, LV, No. 3 (September, 1965), 466.
Preston E. James, "On the Origin and Persistence of Error in
Geography," Annals, Association of American Geographers, LVII, No. 1
(March, 1967), 17.
3Richard Hartshorne, "Perspective on the Nature of Geography," p.
179, as quoted by 0. H. K. Spate in "Quantity and Quality in Geography,"
Annals, Association of American Geographers, L, No. 4 (December, 1960),
RB. J. Johnston, "Choice in Classification: The Subjectiviity of
objective Methods," Annals, Association of American Geographers, LVIII,
No. 3 (September, 1968), 575-589.
5B. J. L. Berry, "A Note Concerning Methods of Classification,"
Annals, Association of American Geographers, XLVIII, No. 3 (September,
Fred K. Schaefer, "Exceptionalism in Geography: A Methodological
Examination," Annals, Association of American Geographers, XLIII, No. 3
(September, 1953), 227.
0. D. Duncan, W. P. Scott, S. Lieberson, B. Duncan, and H. H.
Winsborough, Metropolis and Region (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press for
Resources for the Future, Inc., 1960), p. 35, as quoted in 'Method and
Purpose in Functional Town Classification,"' a review article by Robert H.
T. Smith appearing in the Annals, Association of American Geographers,
LV, No. 3 (September, 1965), 539.
8In certain situations the developer was reluctant to divulge any
information pertaining to the ownership of the subdivision and time did
not facilitate intensive research through county records in order to
learn by whom the subdivision was owned. Also, information regarding
the ownership of the defunct developments often was not available. Thus,
the institutional framework was not determined for eighteen of the rural
In certain of the Class I subdivisions the developer builds the
houses and then offers a house and lot package deal.
10Mobile home parks where lots were rented but not sold were excluded
from this study.
CHAPTER IV .
The information contained in this chapter was obtained from the
comprehensive checklists used in the preceding chapter for the determi-
nation of a logical criterion for the classification of the rural
retirement subdivisions. After the classification was devised, the
information provided by these checklists was segregated according to
subdivision class. Then, a summary of this information was arranged in
tabular form, as depicted by Table 5, for convenience in the study and
analysis of the differences and similarities found to exist among the
characteristics of the six subdivision classes, the focus of this
chapter. In the following text, each of these characteristics included
in Table 5 is examined and discussed in detail, with supplemental in-
formation, data, and tables inserted where appropriate.
Number of Rural Retirement Subdivisions Per Class
The initial characteristic to be examined is the total number of
individual rural retirement subdivisions assigned to each of the six
classes. Shown on the first line of Table 5, these totals indicate that
in terms of frequency of occurrence the Class IV developments are the
most common (fifty-two), followed by Classes II and III, each with
twenty-six. Next in total numbers of individual developments are Classes
V and VI with seventeen and sixteen, respectively. Class I, consisting
of only three rural retirement subdivisions, represents the smallest of
the six classes. Not shown in Table 5 are twelve developments for which
classificatory information was not available.1*
While these raw totals appear to demonstrate some statistical sig-
nificance by implying a preponderance of one class relative to another,
it must be stressed that these figures cannot be equated with total
acreages occupied by the subdivisions in each of the six classes, which
is a more effective measure for comparing the relative density of the
different classes of developments. Thus, it is not the intent of this
chapter to concentrate upon any statistical significance which may or
may not be attached to the number of developments per class but rather
to focus upon more meaningful characteristics which distinguish certain
classes from others, the key to the subdivision hierarchy.
Number of Acres Occupied by Rural Retirement Subdivisions
The total number of acres occupied by the rural retirement subdi-
visions of each class, as shown in Table 5, emphasizes that no positive
correlation exists between this characteristic and the total number of
developments per class. While only three subdivisions are included in
Class I, these developments encompass nearly as many total acres
(113,200) as all of the 137 rural retirement subdivisions assigned to
Classes II, III, IV, V, and VI (116,095). Also, Class IV ranks first in
terms of the total number of individual developments but ranks third in
the total acreage occupied by each of the six classes of subdivisions.
*Notes begin on page 123.
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Moreover, with reference to their total number of developments, Classes
II and III and Classes V and VI possess equivalent or nearly equivalent
totals (26 and 26, and 17 and 16, respectively), but examination of the
data in Table 5 does not reveal correspondingly equivalent totals with
respect to the total number of acres occupied. The Class II developments
occupy approximately one and one-half times the acreage of the Class III
subdivisions (39,085 and 26,835, respectively), whereas the developments
comprising Class VI encompass more than fourteen times as much land area
as do the Class V subdivisions (13,040 and 865 acres, respectively).
Thus, through the support of these data, it is illustrated that figures
pertaining to the frequency of occurrence of rural retirement subdivi-
sions in each class are somewhat misleading and are not as meaningful as
those figures which reveal the actual land surface enveloped by the
developments of each class.
Map 3, because of a problem of scale, depicts only the sections of
the township and range land survey system in which a rural retirement
subdivision is situated and does not show the perimeter of each develop-
ment, thereby presenting an exaggerated portrayal of the actual acreage
occupied by these subdivisions. Nevertheless, Table 6 shows that the
rural retirement subdivisions which comprise the delineated northern
fringe occupy a substantial total of 230,050 acres.2 This is equivalent
to approximately 360 square miles or sections, whereas slightly more
than 600 sections are blacked-in on Map 3. Despite this exaggeration,
however, Map 3 does illustrate the areas in which the subdivisions are
concentrated or clustered, a phenomenon which is reflected in the total
acreage occupied by the developments in each county (Table 6).
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According to information provided by resident property owners of
the rural retirement subdivisions, most retirees would prefer to live,
provided they had the financial capability to do so, in a development
which offers or has access to water-oriented recreational facilities,
such as fishing, boating, and, in some cases, swimming. Although this
is discussed at length in the following chapter, the proclivity of
these retired residents toward water-oriented recreation is reflected in
the percentage of rural retirement subdivisions which border on either a
river, a lake, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 140
rural retirement developments within the delineated northern fringe
which were classified, a total of 102 or 73 per cent border on some form
of water body (Table 7).
For many years land developers in Florida have recognized the water-
related recreational interests of prospective property owners and they
have capitalized on their foresight by purchasing and developing water-
front tracts wherever possible. Actually, the percentage of rural
retirement subdivisions with a waterfront situation orientation would
probably be much higher if waterfront property did not command such an
exorbitant price and if there were not so many large tracts of inexpen-
sive, agriculturally little-used, nonwaterfront land available for
The data in Table 7, from which, incidentally, the qualitative
descriptions in Table 5 are based, show that a discernible pattern is
evident in regard to the situation orientation for each of the six sub-
division classes. With the exception of Class IV3 the proportion of
water-oriented developments in each class decreases gradually in descend-
ing order of the subdivision hierarchy. From Class I through Class VI,
waterfront developments comprise 100, 73, 62, 89, 47, and 25 per cent,
respectively, of the total number of classified rural retirement subdi-
visions in each class. It is logical to assume that because the purchase
of waterfront property and its subsequent development represents a con-
siderable investment for the land developer, it behooves him to impose
rigid building restrictions upon the property owners in order to main-
tain an overall aesthetic value that would be in alignment with the high
prices he asks for his lots. This assumption lends more than a partial
explanation for the pattern of situation orientation among the subdivi-
sion classes but it must also be pointed out that there are many
exceptions as well.
One of the keys to the financial success of a rural retirement sub-
division is advertising. If a development is located adjacent to a water
body, there is no better way to inform potential buyers of this attrac-
tive inducement than to include such a reference in the name of the
subdivision. And land developers have not been reluctant to take full
advantage of this advertising technique. St. Johns Riverside Estates,
Interlachen Lakes Estates, Palm Coast, Suwannee Acres, and Lakeside Hills
are only a few examples. However, much to the chagrin of many a pro-
spective lot buyer, the reference in the title of the subdivision
indicating that the development possesses a waterfront situation orienta-
tion is often very misleading. For example, Lake Tropicana Ranchettes,
a three-thousand-acre rural retirement subdivision situated in western
Marion County, derived its name from a fresh water lake located within
the perimeter of the development. However, the lake occupies fewer than
five acres, and, in the interest of preserving accessibility for all
property owners, no lakeside lots have been or will be sold. Further-
more, the size of the lake prohibits boating and water-skiing, and swim-
ming has been banned as a favor to resident fishermen (Figure 10).
Indeed, someone who has purchased a lot through the mail might possibly
have his retirement dream shattered upon his first opportunity to inspect
his property and the development in which it lies.
The establishment of a rural retirement subdivision requires a
sizeable monetary investment, although the actual cash amount depends
upon a multitude of cost factors. Many of these costs can be designated
as fixed expenses, such as the cost of land, surveying, and legal paper-
work, and cannot be appreciably reduced. But the amount of capital to
be invested in the improvements of the subdivision is, to a large extent,
left to the discretion of the developer. This financial option plays a
very significant role in the determination of the form of building
restrictions a developer may decide to impose upon the eventual lot
buyers. For instance, developers with only minimal financial resources
can ill-afford to provide expensive improvements such as paved roads,
street lights, central water and sewage systems, a community center
replete with a large assortment of recreational facilities, or a lavish,
fountain-studded entranceway. As a result, it is generally imperative
that these developers establish relaxed building restrictions in order to
generate sufficient sales appeal for lots located in a development with
Figure 10: Lake Tropicana. Recreation at picturesque Lake Tropicana is
limited to fishing, which, according to the retired residents
of Lake Tropicana Ranchettes, has improved substantially
since the lake was recently restocked by the developer.
minimal, low-quality improvements. On the other hand, developers who do
possess the financial resources required to install improvements of the
finest quality usually impose rather stringent building restrictions
upon their customers. In this manner, dwellings erected by their future
residents do not detract but instead enchance and perpetuate the original
quality of the development, a definite safeguard against a decline in
established sales appeal. With this point in mind, a discussion of the
pattern of institutional framework revealed in Table 5 is more meaning-
From the data presented in Table 8, it was learned that two forms
of institutional framework, both corporate and noncorporate ownership,
characterize the rural retirement subdivisions located within the
northern fringe. As summarized in Table 5, corporate ownership is pre-
dominant among Classes I, II, and III, but a majority of the subdivisions
belonging to Classes IV, V, and VI are noncorporate owned. Keeping in
mind the point made in the preceding paragraph and considering that
corporations generally possess financial resources far superior to those
of individuals, the existence of this pattern of institutional framework
is clearly self-explanatory.
A third but far less important institutional framework for subdi-
visions was discovered among a handful of developments. This is owner-
ship by special interest groups. For example, near Keystone Heights in
southwestern Clay County is the Postmaster's Retirement Village, a rural
retirement subdivision established by a labor union of American post-
masters. Here the original sale of each lot is expressively restricted
to union members only.4 One other development sponsored by a special
interest group is the UAW Retiree's Village, located on the St. Johns
River in southeastern Putnam County.5
Range and Average Size of Subdivisions
Areas occupied by rural retirement subdivisions located within the
delineated northern fringe range from 15 to well over 100,000 acres
(Table 5),6 but the majority (81 per cent) of the developments contain
fewer than 1,000 acres. Developments exceeding 5,000 acres are relative-
ly uncommon, but nevertheless are found in all subdivision classes except
Class V. Class V, whose developments are exclusively restricted to the
erection of mobile or modular housing only, is not represented by any
subdivision occupying more than 80 acres, a unique feature of the six
While attempting to determine the average size of the rural retire-
nent subdivisions in each of the six classes, it was discovered that the
calculation of an arithmetic mean average produced very distorted and
unrealistic results, owing to a small number of extremely large devel~op-
ments present in certain classes. Further statistical techniques and
data manipulation were utilized but again the final results were unsatis-
factory, especially when compared with a ranking of subdivision sizes for
each class. Nevertheless, examination of these subdivision sizes in
ranked order revealed that a preponderance of subdivisions were grouped
reasonably close together. Therefore, keeping within realistic parame-
ters, six size intervals were established in order that the average or
most common range of subdivision sizes in each class could be determined
Examination of the average or most common range of subdivision
sizes as shown in Table 5 suggests that a pattern exists among the six
subdivision classes in that the sizes included in these ranges become
progressively smaller passing from Class I through Class VI. The major-
ity of the Class I developments are included in the 10,000 acres or more
size interval while Classes II and III and Classes IV, V, and VI are
characterized by the 100 499-acre size interval and the 10 99-acre
size interval, respectively.
Table 9, which presents a breakdown of subdivision size intervals
by class, lends statistical support to the pattern of decreasing size
suggested by Table 5. For example, the vast majority (16 of 23) of the
rural retirement subdivisions occupying an area of 1,000 acres or more
are confined to the highest three classes of the subdivision hierarchy
(Classes I, II, and III); but, the developments assigned to these three
classes constitute only one-third of all the rural retirement subdivi-
sions encompassing fewer than 1,000 acres and only 15 per cent of all the
developments occupying less than 100 acres. Conversely, while Classes
IV, V, and VI are not well-represented by developments exceeding 1,000
acres, the subdivisions belonging to these classes do comprise two-thirds
of the total number of developments with areas less than 1,000 acres and
85 per cent of the subdivisions containing fewer than 100 acres. Such a
pattern of decreasing size with descent of the subdivision hierarchy
coincides very neatly with the patterns of institutional framework and
capital investment which are discussed above.
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State and county regulations, spurred by the occasional but un-
fortunate contamination of ground water by septic tanks too closely
spaced for local soil conditions, place restrictions on the maximum num-
bar of single family dwellings that can be erected on one acre of land
in some areas of Florida.' As a result, land developers, assuming
theoretically that one dwelling may eventually be erected per individual
lot, tend not to subdivide their developments into lots of a size which
would exceed these regulations. However, beyond complying with these
standards, it is the prerogative of the developer to determine the size
of lots in his respective development.
Within the rural retirement fringe area, the lot sizes vary from
one-fifth of an acre to two and one-half acres. Although based on data
in Table 10, Table 5 shows that the predominant lot size throughout
Classes I to V, inclusively, is one-quarter of an acre. The preponder-
ance of lots of this size can partially be explained by the financial
advantage inherent with smaller lots. As with most marketable items,
smaller lots command higher prices, when converted to a common denomina-
tor, than lots considerably larger. Moreover, the prospective property
owner is willing to pay a higher price for a smaller lot because he
realizes that, in the long run, a larger lot means more expense when
additional property taxes, maintenance, and upkeep are considered.
Class VI subdivisions are characterized by larger lots, the most
popular one being one acre in size. The total absence of building re-
strictions encourages backyard farming and gardening, which, of course,
require more area than provided by the smaller, quarter-acre lots.
Ranae and Averane Size of Lots
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While Table 10 shows that a predominant lot size was determined for
nearly all of the rural retirement subdivisions, it must also be pointed
out that not all lots within a particular development occupy an equal
amount of land. This nonuniformity of lot sizes is often the result of
physical features on the landscape, such as sinkholes, rivers, and lakes,
which interrupt a normal, rectangular platting procedure. Occasionally,
however, developers create lots of different sizes for the purpose of
providing a wider selection of retirement sites in order to meet better
the needs and desires of a greater number of prospective retirees. Fur-
thermore, because of the additional profits to be realized, the choicest
property within a development is' almost always subdivided into the
smallest possible lots.' These areas considered to be the most desirable
sites are lots located on a waterfront, adjacent to a recreational
facility such as a golf course, and abutting the principal thoroughfares
within the particular development^.
Selling Price of Lots
The selling prices asked for lots situated within the rural retire-
ment subdivisions represent one o'f the most inconsistent and unpredict-
able subdivision characteristics. that was examined in this study.
Preliminary field research had suggested that the selling price per lot
tended, on the average,* to increase progressively from Class VI to the
top of the subdivision hierarchy, Class I, indicating a possible correla-
tion to the form of building restrictions present in the development.
However, from later, more comprehensive field study, it was learned that
such a generalization is ill-founded, because, aside from building
restrictions, a host of other factors, many of which are discussed below,
exerts considerable influence which affects the final selling price.
When converted to the common~denominator of dollars-per-acre, it was
discovered that a wide range of selling prices of lots exists among the
developments of the six subdivision classes (Table 5.). The highest-
priced lots in any rural retirement subdivision in the northern fringe
are located in Rio Vista, a Class V development situated north of Dunnel-
lon in western Marion County. In early 1972, these lots, which front the
beautiful Rainbow River, were selling for an astonishing sum equivalent
to $88,000 per acre (Figure 11). According to an interview with the
owner of the Red Rooster Restaurant in nearby Rainbow Lakes Estates,
these quarter-acre lots, which include 75 feet of river frontage, sold
originally for $12,000. Six months later some were sold for $18,000,
and at the time of the interview (early 1972), the selling price had
soared to $22,000. At the other end of the scale the least expensive
lots, selling for the equivalent of $760 per acre, are found in a Class
VI subdivision known as Florida Highlands, which is located over a
sprawling expanse of sand hills in south-central Marion County. Thus,
considering the above discussions relating to the correlation of the
patterns of other subdivision characteristics to the subdivision hier-
archy, it is expected that the least expensive lots would be found in a
Class VI development, bat the discovery that the most expensive lots are
located in Class V development is' surprising.
Although the difference between the selling prices of the highest-
priced and lowest-priced lots found among all the rural retirement
subdivisions is very great, Table 5 shows that a considerable difference
also exists between the selling prices of the least and most expensive
lots of developments in each of the.six subdivision classes. These
differences can be attributed to the fact that considerable fluctuation
in lot values occurs within the individual developments as well as
among the different subdivisions. :For example, choice waterfront lots
command the highest price of any lot within a particular development.
A quarter-acre lakefront lot in early 1972 was a bargain if it could
have been purchased for less than:$6,000. Regardless of how inaccessible
or isolated, the most popular selling price for lakefront lots comprising
one-quarter of an acre or less was' $6,995 in early 1972. Riverfront lots
of the same dimensions were equally expensive. Premium prices are also
received for lots situated on man-made canals, adjoining golf courses
and major thoroughfares, and affording a view of the waterfront. (In
regard to the latter, the selling prices of lots in Lakeside Hills depend
upon the location of the lot in relation to the water; lakefront lots
sell for the typical $6,995, lots which afford a view of the lake are
priced at $2,500, and lots situated-away from the lake sell for only
$800.) In addition, the corner-lots in each block usually sell for a
slightly higher price, generally $200 more than the adjacent lots which
front on only one street. On the other hand, the cheapest lots, rela-
tively speaking, are generally those which generate the least amount of
sales appeal, such as remote lots~located substantial distances from the
subdivision entrance and recreational facilities and those lots which
are flood-prone or do not drain properly. Thus, many factors must be
taken into consideration in order to account for such a wide range of
selling prices among the rural retirement subdivisions.