Where Exactly Is This “Old Florida” Anyway?

Casey Key in 1970

James at West Wind in 1970. I’ve changed, but the West Wind…not so much, thank God.

Old Florida”…the very words take us to a better time from days gone by. A simpler time when family bonds were stronger and the legacy of family vacation memories were recounted and built upon each year. We feel very fortunate here at West Wind Apartments that for many of you, this place has been a family destination and a part of your family’s happiest memories for many decades. We proudly resemble what is thought of by many as the epitome of Old Florida.

But where else, if anywhere, can one still find the Florida of yesteryear, and does it even still exist? I could actually tell you how to get there…but my directions might not lead you to a place you’d want to be. You see, “Old Florida” is as much a mindset as it is any specific geographic location. What one may consider “Old Florida” might differ in very significant ways from another’s interpretation of the expression. For most, “Old Florida” must be understood in the proper context in relation to the individual.

What Old Florida Is Not

In today’s Florida, one doesn’t need to search very hard to find an abundance of $400.00+ a night luxurious high-rise resorts scattered all over the state…most overlooking a fine stretch of beach. Most are within walking distance or a short drive from every type of 5 star restaurants and recreational activity one could ever imagine. There’s never a shortage of things to do and places to see. These types of vacation destination often leave you feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation once you return home.

How Does Old Florida Still Exist?

The preservation of the places still unassuming and charming enough to fall into the “Old Florida” category is not a simple task. Often, many years of hard won victories in battles with the likes of city hall and wealthy investors have taken place over many, many years. For example, here on Casey Key the zoning laws prohibit high-rise condominiums and resorts. What remains are a mere handful of low-rise hotels that were initially allowed before the zoning changes. Also worth noting is that in the late 1970’s, a majority of the island was declared a conservation district.

“The legislature of the State of Florida hereby finds that the hereinafter more particularly described area lying within Sarasota County and constituting the northerly part of Casey Key is an area of particular natural beauty, abundant in marine, animal and bird life. The preservation of the natural beauty, marine, animal and bird life of said area is in the best interests of the property owners of said area, the citizens of Sarasota County and of the State of Florida. It is the purpose of this act to preserve the natural beauty, marine, animal and bird life of said area.” – A beautiful portion of House Bill #5158

Nowhere has simply been forgotten in time and has accidentally lasted this long in the state one might have found it back in the first half of the 1900’s or earlier. There are many places like Ybor City, founded by cigar makers in the late 1800’s that have also fought hard to preserve their heritage. What remains of the culture and the architecture are a testament to the will of the original founders and they definitely tell a story.

In Summary

I think that for me, Old Florida is anywhere that has remained true to the heritage and history of how a city or community came to be in the first place. These magical places lend a certain flavor and atmosphere to its visitors. I think that this allows us to take it all in and then leave with the very real sense that we have left a part of ourselves there and yet somehow taken a part along with us. Vacationing in Old Florida is something that’s never really over. These places draw us back in year after year and become a part of our family’s own story. Places like this are not so over the top that we can’t even enjoy each other and the experience of simply “being there”. To me, these are the best vacations ever.

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