< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: The Eastern United States: Seaside         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of The Eastern United States: Seaside

What does Seaside, the bellwether of the New Urbanism, look like? Here's a peek from about the year 2000.

Make default image size larger

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 1

From the Mexican border to New York, the East Coast consists of a coastal plain, nearly all of which of which is edged by sandy beaches. (The mangrove swamps of South Florida are the chief exception.) Tides range less than two feet in the Gulf of Mexico, where mean minimum surface-water temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit even in winter.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 2

Freshwater ponds form within the dunes, indicating a water table both fresh and high enough to support a forest.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 3

Developers have been working this coast for a long time, with very mixed results. Here, not far from the previous pictures, is the condo lineup at Fort Walton, part of what promoters call "the Emerald Coast."

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 4

It's certainly one way of doing things.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 5

Here's another: it's a path between two rows of freestanding houses at Seaside, the better part of an hour's drive to the east and about midway between Fort Walton and Panama City.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 6

Everything here is post-1980, but the houses mimic the wood-frame houses built here a century ago.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 7

Yes, there are plenty of variations from that historic baseline; some, like the tower here, are designed to create a beach view.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 8

Other houses hunker in the trees. Lawns are forbidden, according to the dictates of political ecology.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 9

The whole development sits on only 280 acres. Twenty years ago, the landowner, Robert Davis, began working with two architects, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany, to create an "urban village" on this land--a place where nobody was more than 800 feet from the town center. In the background here, Seaside Chapel.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 10

The town center does grow denser.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 11

Some of the buildings look as though they might be rooming houses from company towns in 1900.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 12

Some of the stores in the commercial center have a surprisingly rough feel.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 13

Other parts are seriously cute.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 14

Beachfront businesses are fastidiously casual.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 15

You can't buy a snack that isn't foodie-approved.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 16

The central commercial district has residential flats above shops comprising an official artist's colony. It's even named Ruskin Place, as if an artist like Turner, so admired by Ruskin, could afford to live here. A 2,400 square-foot pad runs about $1.3 million. (Prices circa 2000.)

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 17

That's the fly in the ointment. The average 2,000-square foot cottage in Seaside sells for $900,000. Such prices keep shop clerks and carpenters at bay. They also explain why half the 300 homes are on short-term rentals. Rentals rates are high, too, starting at $200 nightly for a 2-bedroom, or $300 nightly for a 3-bedroom, place. Are there permanent residents in Seaside? Yes, but they occupy only a tenth of the homes. For those who really like the place, however, there's space in the Seaside cemetery. Plots are $15,000: minimum two, tombstones extra. This particular "cottage," named Proteus, appears to have been designed by an engineer last employed in 1880 by the Public Works Department of Madras. Except the color then would have been ocher, not white.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 18

Just east of Seaside, the St. Joe Company has begun a sister settlement on 500 acres. St. Joe owns about a million acres in Florida--and some 39 miles of coastline. There are more profitable things to do with it than chop trees and grind them into paper. Jaque Robertson, who had a hand in Disney's town called Celebration, was hired to do some town planning here, on a site with the stratospherically toney name of "Watercolor."

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 19

The signage (shame on you: you don't think an architect would say "sign," do you?) hints at the price level.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 20

It's a long way from Fort Walton condos.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 21

About as simple as you can get in new American housing, but a 1,260-square foot Watercolor cottage runs $370,000. A two-bedroom cottage rents for $3,000 a week in summer, $2,000 in winter.

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 22

A line of new shops. The Chairman and CEO of St. Joe speaks feelingly of "place creation" and how his company aims to built a "true place," another Nantucket, Napa Valley, or Santa Fe--with "authenticity, history, craft, boundaries and community."

The Eastern United States: Seaside picture 23

Who's in that "community"? Not the men who built the houses. They live 50 miles away in houses that probably need some paint.


www.greatmirror.com Web   
 

* Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page