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Trending the Florida Dream

When Harris Mullen founded FLORIDA TREND in 1958, his timing was pitch perfect. The Florida dream was in full throttle: America liked Ike and adored a Florida bursting with energy and optimism.

The Florida dream held out the promise of pristine beaches, eternal sunshine, swaying palm trees, and most importantly, the possibility of a better life, or at least a second chance and a warmer February.

Technology made possible modern Florida. In Cape Coral, The Villages and Port St. Lucie, Isaiah’s prophecies came true: The hot was made cold, the wet became dry and crooked rivers bent straight. Air conditioning, interstate highways and DDT allowed year-round living in once isolated places such as Captiva Island and Seaside.

In 1940, Florida was the smallest state in the American South; by 2014, Florida surged past New York, the Empire State, to become America’s third-largest state. Today, the Sunshine State has surpassed 22 million inhabitants, a figure not including 138 million tourists.

The first decades of the 21st century tarnished Florida’s image and promise. The Great Recession flattened Florida’s economy. Global warming and sea level pose monumental challenges for a state with 825 miles of coastline. Florida has always faced great challenges: The Ice Age, colonialism, slavery and racism. May we be worthy of future challenges. Florida dreams amid the storms.

Gary R. Mormino is a professor emeritus of history at USF St. Petersburg and the author of Dreams in the New Century, a study of Florida, 2000-2010.