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Our Town Comes of Age

Publisher's Note: Home & GArden 2014

by Lisa Burwell

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Twenty-one years ago this past March, I moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Florida to take a position as marketing director of Seaside Merchants Association. In those days, the mandate was to tout the town’s unique shops and restaurants and welcome the patronage of everyone—even those who were not living or vacationing in Seaside. At times, I felt like I had landed on Mars—it was such a foreign way of life for a city girl like me. But, it was a nice life, and after all these years, several of those merchants have become a huge part of the town’s distinct personality.

In 1994, there wasn’t much along the eighteen-mile scenic corridor of Highway 30-A. Driving from one end to the other, you could count the cars you passed on your fingers and toes. Other than Seaside, there were the old residential townships (Dune Allen Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Seagrove Beach, Seabreeze, and Seacrest Beach) with their few small shops and cafés; the famed Criolla’s (now Grayton Bar and Grill) had been around for a few years, and the Red Bar had just opened its doors. I didn’t think I would make it past my two-year contract with the Seaside merchants, but once the beach owns your heart, it’s hard to believe that there could be a better place to live. My mind has been busy reminiscing during these early summer days—looking back and seeing that so much has changed yet still remains the same. We’ve all grown up. A lot of us who chose to forge new lives in this area are still here, having persevered through thick and thin. And that feels really good.

VIE Magazine Editor in Chief, Lisa Burwell

During the thirty-year anniversary celebration of Perspicasity Open-Air Market on May 10 that VIE sponsored (see “People + Places: Perspicasity’s Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration”), I saw many familiar faces: Bob and Linda White, founding proprietors of Sundog Books; Charlie Modica of Modica Market fame; Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud & Alley’s; Daryl and Robert Davis, Seaside’s visionaries and developers, as well as owners of Perspicasity; and so many more.

We are honored to have Robert Davis as a contributing writer in this issue: he shares the vision that he and town planners DPZ (Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk) had even before it was aptly coined New Urbanism. To diligently follow an idea like Seaside through to the end with such passion and excellence is beyond commendable. Robert writes that one of the goals he and Daryl shared was to create a place where people could be happy. Thinking of all the people who have been made happy and whose lives have been bettered because of that vision shows the scope of their success.

I remember Robert frequently saying that the town would look better and seem more authentic after it had time to mature and develop its patina. And just as age can perfect a fine red wine, time is ripening the vision of Seaside and its thirty-three-year-old traditions. Seaside was the first New Urbanism community of its kind; it made its mark on our beloved 30-A and paved the way for so many more to follow. Trailblazers, visionaries, artists, architects, developers, and all who can appreciate quality have found their way to our little piece of paradise. It’s this collective effort and appreciation for creating things of beauty, longevity, substance, and value that have made the lives of so many that much richer.

Scenic Highway 30-A has bragging rights to beautiful beaches, rare coastal dune lakes, a bike and running path, and three New Urbanism communities within a ten-mile radius—Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach. DPZ masterfully built upon lessons learned at Seaside as they created the new communities of both Rosemary Beach, which is approaching its twenty-year anniversary next year, and Alys Beach, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. We cannot exclude the masterful land planning achievements of The St. Joe Company and its creation of two outstanding traditional neighborhood developments—WaterColor and WaterSound. In this issue, we feature a beautiful WaterSound Gulf-front home that began life as the Southern Accents Idea House in 2004 and now has experienced a rebirth (see “The Legacy Home—A Show House Revival”).

Bricks and Mortar

After a nearly seven-year lull in building activity, once again we hear the pounding of hammers, the buzzing of power saws, and the noise of large equipment excavating foundations. The sights and sounds that go along with erecting bricks and mortar are indeed welcome, although I do somewhat miss the peace and quiet. After waiting out the Great Recession, we are seeing growth and feeling a sense of renewal. It seems that as fast as the proverbial and collective economic clock stopped in 2007, it woke up just as quickly this year. Now we’re all scurrying about to make up for lost time—a rebuilding and restoration have begun to take hold.

In this issue, VIE is proud to present select homes from along Highway 30-A, as well as some local gardens. We also have a special feature on Bellingrath Gardens, a gorgeous public display garden located in Theodore, Alabama, just outside Mobile.

There are pivotal crossroads in everyone’s life, and one of mine was moving to an area that I am blessed to call home.

To Life! —Lisa

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