It’s become a meme in recent years. Whenever a news headline begins with “Florida man,” you know the story will include some bizarre details.
There’s no single explanation for its weirdness, but a little history will help provide some context.
An inauspicious start
After becoming a state in the mid-19th century, it failed to build a vibrant population for decades. But by the 1880s, developer Henry Flagler began reimagining the swampy peninsula into a destination for the elite to get away from their everyday lives.
He built hotels, railways, bridges, and much more, ultimately transforming Florida into a welcoming retreat for those who could afford it.
By the 1920s, word had spread and middle-class Americans wanted a piece of the fun. In many cases, people would purchase real estate without even seeing it just to be among the select few who had a stake in the booming region.
Fulfilling its destiny
Now, it’s become developed beyond Flagler’s imagination — and the strange story behind its growth has given rise to some truly unique areas, including:
- The Villages: This is a massive private development with a size and scope that rivals many cities. It’s an overwhelmingly conservative, rapidly growing over-55 community unlike anything else.
- Cape Coral: The world’s largest system of navigable canals can be found in this strange town, which despite not being planned out very well has attracted people of all ages from across the U.S. (most notably the Midwest).
- Palm Beach: Here we’ve got an ultra-high-end resort island where mansions have multimillion-dollar price tags and residents spend just over six months of each year there to take advantage of the tax breaks.
Add in the theme parks and you’ve got a state that’s very different than anywhere else in the country … or on the planet.