An Economy of Historicity: The Carefully-Crafted Heritage of The Villages Timothy Burke University of South Florida COM 7933: Cultural Heritage 12 December 2005

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 2 Phillip K. Dick's 1966 science-fiction short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale introduces us to Douglas Quail, described as a "simple and quiet" man who has but one dream: to visit Mars before he dies. Alas, Quail's job as a "miserable little salaried man" working for the West Coast Immigration Bureau leaves him far short of the funds necessary for such an excursion. Thus, he makes an appointment with the Rekal Corporation, a company that offers implanted memories, or "extra-factual memory." The process quickly goes awry, however, as the implanted memories conflict with Quail's actual memory (one that had been, it is suggested, erased earlier) and, it is later discovered, actually reflect Quail's lived reality. Rekal attempts to restore Quail's memory, but by this point it is impossible to discern which memories were of lived experience and which were falsely implanted. The story would later inspire the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall and pave the way for future "manufactured reality" films like The Matrix and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, each dealing with the manipulation and reconstruction of both the present and the past. The central question to understanding cultural heritage is, typically, "How is the past constructed?" In the traditional course of heritage research, we can examine artifacts of the past -- their production and interpretation -- and their presentation in the present, considering how well the gap between then and now is bridged. The process by which individuals in a culture navigate and interpret their artifacts is thus the dominant locus for observation. Further, we can inquire into memory; what we remember, and why, provides significant insight into the past and how we identify with it. However, what happens when a past is constructed -- literally -- through the process of creative motion and a corporate goal? Our inquiry into the ever-debatable

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 3 concept of "authenticity" becomes surreal when the truly authentic never existed to begin with. This circumstance is the one we must deal with when considering the community of The Villages, an area that spans three northern Florida counties and is home to more than 50,000 residents. Known as "Florida's Friendliest Hometown," despite the fact its exclusion of citizens below the age of 55 makes this motto somewhat impossible, The Villages is, as an unincorporated (but most certainly corporate) census-defined place, a powerful force in the development of north-central Florida. Growing primarily out of the township of Lady Lake, a town that until the development of The Villages had a population of only 400, the "active adult community" has grown at a rate such that the federal government is expecting the population to exceed 100,000 by 2010. This immense growth would make The Villages Florida's 14th largest city, immediately behind Clearwater, and force serious considerations into infrastructure and political issues in the surrounding areas, considered to be some of Florida's poorest. The CDP is operated entirely by the private corporation that owns The Villages; the only public institution on its property is The Villages Charter School, which, while a public school of the state of Florida, was built and is overseen by the private, family-owned interests. As a planned community, one of the nation's largest, The Villages does not demonstrate the typical centralized nature of large cities. The term "The Villages" refers to the sprawling neighborhoods of similarly-shaped homes that radiate from two town squares that lie roughly two miles from each other. Citizens of The Villages are identified into these two communities via their proximity to them. The two squares, Spanish Springs Town Square and Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, have significant

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 4 differences in the landscaping, architecture, and city planning, contrasting greatly with the nearly identical nature of the community's homes and secondary amenities (post offices, swimming pools, and the like). However, the more intriguing qualities of the communities are found in the town squares themselves. Each is built to resemble a certain theme; Spanish Springs the Mexican Mission town, and Lake Sumter Landing the New England fishing/shipping community. While the town squares (each of which are true town squares, with a large courthouse-type building overlooking a square complete with gazebo and entertainment area) have their significant differences, both are constructed to reflect a past that never existed in those places. While less than 20 years old (in the case of Spanish Springs) and five years old (Lake Sumter Landing), both are artificially "weathered" to appear hundreds of years old; furthermore, each "landmark" in the town square is noted with a placard or signpost indicating the previous "history" of the location. The towering buildings that overlook the town squares, for example, tell stories of fishing magnates, hotel owners, or ranchers who built the communities "hundreds of years ago." Today, these buildings serve (as they have since their construction) as the corporate centers for The Villages; specifically, they house the real estate concerns of the respective communities (The Villages owns the land and constructs every home in the CDP). Accordingly, the restaurants and shops that line the streets of the town squares each have their own constructed past; what today is a shoe store might have once been "D. Philips' General Store" and the like. The illusion is continued through the use of "dated" features in the town squares; towering clocks might be of cast iron dated turn-of-the-century; hand-powered water pumps line streets, but are "no longer functioning."

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 5 Clearly, the use of heritage to recall the past is an important part of promoting the product being sold by The Villages, namely property (and the sizable monthly community fees). Clapp (1999) indicates authenticity is a powerful force in this kind of promotion. Cohen (1988), drawing on contemporary existential approaches to anthropology, explains the quest for authenticity is a central behavior of "modern man." In this, we seek authenticity as a reaction to an increasingly inauthentic modern society. In this, he foils to MacCannell's (1973) argument and suggests authenticity is a socially constructed and "negotiable" concept. Crick (1989), however, explains that as culture is in constant flux, the line between authentic and inauthentic is constantly shifting. While the past constructed for the town squares of The Villages is exactly that, by living amongst the past created for them, residents become a part of a history that is as authentic as any lived history. In all of this, we see lines of discussion pointing toward Baudrillard's (1981) proposition of the concept of "simulacrum:" a copy without an original. Baudrillard argues technology can create a "hyper-reality" by creating a virtual world that disconnects us from established reality. To gain a greater understanding of the constructed heritage of The Villages and, more importantly, how residents of The Villages interact with and perpetuate the storylines present in their communities, we will first examine the markers and architecture that build The Villages' false heritage. Second, and more importantly, we will explore the process by which residents identify with this heritage through observation and interviews with residents. Finally, conclusions will be drawn about the roles this heritage plays in the daily life of residents of "Florida's Friendliest Hometown."

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 6 The Villages: The Beginnings

Harold Schwartz led a colorful life before dying in 2003 at the age of 93. Originally an advertising executive in Chicago, in 1950 he obtained control over "borderblaster" radio stations XEG and XERB in Mexico. These stations operated transmitters aimed toward the United States but without FCC regulations they were able to transmit at a much higher wattage and to a much larger audience. During his tenure, Schwartz launched the career of disc jockey "Wolfman Jack," whose repertoire on XERB was featured prominently in the film American Graffiti (Fowler & Crawford, 1987). From this, he began selling plots of Florida swampland from his Chicago-based mail-order company. A 1969 legislative crackdown ended this lucrative enterprise, so he started to investigate mobile home sales. An avid golfer, in 1982 he purchased the Orange Blossom Gardens mobile home community near the community of Lady Lake, Florida. The main attraction of this community was the Orange Blossom Golf Course, which was accessible to all community residents. At the time, Orange Blossom housed about 1,500 retirees (Nohlgren, 2000). Schwartz envisioned a sprawling city of neighborhoods punctuated by championship-quality golf courses, all free for the use of local residents (Mormino, 2005). He and his son/business partner Gary Morse began upgrading the facilities and mobile homes, realizing eventually that it would be more profitable to build homes themselves. From this, they elected to control the development of the commercial sector themselves, as well; thus keeping both residential and commercial aspects of their community within their corporation. Morse explained the motivation for building the first town square in a 2000 interview:

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 7 "Our people were small town people. We wanted a town to remind them of their youth […] We didn't think our people wanted to live in a new glass building type place" (Nohlgren, 2000). A team of Canadian architects hired after Schwartz admired their work at the nearby Universal Studios theme park in Orlando presented a challenge: tell us what story to work with, they said, and we'll build your town. As tradition holds, the Morse family (with the help of a bottle of scotch and case of beer) concocted a "fanciful history" of Spanish Springs, complete with soldiers' garrisons, Indian attacks, epidemics, hoteliers, and shopkeepers (Nohlgren, 2000). One oft-repeated tale is that Ponce de Leon visited Spanish Springs on his search for the famed "Fountain of Youth" (Kunerth, 2002). In 1993, Spanish Springs was quickly erected and filled with the businesses that populate any typical town square:
Statue of Harold Schwartz, Spanish Springs Town Square1.

restaurants, shoe stores, taverns, a Chamber of Commerce, and a Starbucks. While the interiors were usually contemporarily decorated, the exteriors exhibited the Spanish tileand-stucco architecture that reflected the town square's backstory as constructed by the Morse family. A bronze statue of Schwartz was built in a fountain at the northwest corner of the square. The statue has housed Schwartz' remains since his 2003 death ("Harold

1. All photos courtesy the author.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 8 Schwartz, developer of The Villages, dies," 2003). Nearby, a large non-denominational "Church on the Square" looms in its appropriately Mexican Mission design.

Façade of Spanish Springs Brewing Company, off Spanish Springs Town Square.

However, the most prominent feature of the Spanish Springs Town Center is the hulking edifice that houses the sales and promotion departments of The Villages. Home to the corporate interests of The Villages, it is exquisitely decorated on the interior, an attempt to impress even the casual visitor. It is, after all, the first place most prospective homebuyers visit upon their arrival into The Villages. It is where their first meetings with realtors (who are all employees of the corporation; all home construction and sales are managed by The Villages) occur and where most buyers "sign on the dotted line." A library, dining room, and conference room fill the lower floor, each with white polo shirted employees milling about. Most of the individuals working in the sales center are, themselves, retirees: The Villages prides itself on surrounding visitors with people who "look like they do." It is notable, then, that nearly every face a visitor to the sales center observes is a white one. The Villages, while catering to nearly every whim and interest of

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 9 its citizens, is not an ethnically diverse community. Despite its over 50,000 residents, the town's African-American Club has only 65 members (Kunerth, 2002). The 2000 census estimates that 97.5% of residents are white and non-Hispanic. Residents of The Villages are predominantly white, Protestant, and upper-middle class (Kunerth, 2002). It was with one of these white, Protestant, grey-haired retirees that I received the "grand tour" of The Villages, one usually reserved for prospective homebuyers. She described herself as a retired teacher, who had moved here five years ago with her golfloving husband, an ex-businessman of some sort. "I love The Villages so much I decided to work for them," she explained. We weaved through the streets that connect the individual neighborhoods to the golf courses, recreation centers, swimming pools, and post offices by which residents make life happen. Occasionally, we passed by a field of grazing buffalo, with gates marked by Old West style signs reading "Protected Buffalo. NO TRESPASSING. Survivors will be prosecuted." I ask about the buffalo. "Oh, we love the buffalo here. Our high school's sports teams are named after them, we have a lot of buffalo-themed groups…" "But why are they here?" "Our founder loved buffalo. When he moved here 100 years ago he brought them with him from Michigan." I let the obvious falsehood drop, and instead remark that we had buffalo farms back home, in Ohio. Media tycoon Ted Turner built them for his chain of restaurants. "WE DON'T EAT THE BUFFALO HERE. THEY ARE OUR PETS," she sternly rebukes.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 10 I am taken to both Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter Landing, and visit the community centers, the workout gyms, and the golf course clubhouses. She points out the massive hospital -- on average, one resident dies daily -- and informs me despite its size, it lacks a maternity ward. In all, the tour takes several hours and I'm exhausted not only by the walking but in the constant response of "No, I'm fine" to her questions of "Do you need to use the restroom?" "Sorry, force of habit, you know how old people are," she explains. Of course, this all grew from the Orange Blossom trailer home community, home to mid-to-lower income retirees, which to an outside observer seems to no longer exist. My host made no reference to it until I inquired specifically, and was met with a terse response when I did. It does, indeed, still operate in its original area and under the control of The Villages. However, it has been secluded for aesthetic reasons. A large, brown stucco wall runs along the street that separates it from the Spanish Springs district. An elevated walkway, weathered to match the décor of Spanish Springs, extends into the mobile home area and allows for passage of pedestrians and golf carts, the preferred method of transportation in The Villages. Indeed, the golf cart presence is curious and memorable to the visitor. No fewer than 45 golf cart parking spots are painted in front of the Publix grocery store a block from the Spanish Springs town square. Next door to the Publix is a large, well-outfitted golf cart dealership. Residents of The Villages take pride in their carts; while a used cart can be had for roughly $4,000, more elaborate models can reach the $20,000 threshold. It is not uncommon to see Cadillac or Porsche-branded carts tooling around on special cartonly roads throughout The Villages, complete with chrome rims and air conditioning.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 11 Contentious debates happen over beers in local taverns regarding the relative merits of electric versus gasoline-powered carts. Personal touches like license plates and flags indicating home states or alma maters of residents adorn the ubiquitous vehicles. Automobile drivers are reminded AT ALL TIMES to yield to golf carts as they crisscross the community, ever-present golf clubs bouncing around while strapped to the back. Curiously, the consumption of alcohol is a point of pride for some residents and shopkeepers in The Villages. While the area doesn't feature the myriad clubs and bars that one might find in a college town like Gainesville, an hour away, residents of The Villages do enjoy a drink or two. At a new homeowners' breakfast, The Villages' head of hospitality Mackie McCabe boasts the community outdrinks any Florida college town. "We have the highest per capita consumption of draft beer in the state of Florida," he claims (Kunerth, 2002). The Spanish Springs Brewing Company, a microbrewery, is particularly popular, and its products are sold in several venues throughout The Villages. The rapid growth of The Villages exceeded even the most optimistic projections. In 2003, with the population pushing 36,000, the company purchased thousands of acres of land south of the original area and persuaded Sumter County officials to allow an annexation. The centerpiece of this new development was a large man-made lake, named Lake Sumter, and a new town square whose creative motivation would be anchored to the presence of the lake. This new town center would be named Lake Sumter Landing, and would capitalize on the success found by the Spanish Springs backstories. Lake Sumter Landing is designed in the style of a turn-of-the-century (as in 1900) New England fishing village. Market Square at Lake Sumter Landing features a large faux lighthouse, performance gazebo, and weathered pastel blues and pinks hearkening

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 12 back to a shipping and fishing heritage. Its parallel to the large sales office at Spanish Springs is a Grand Hotel-style building which is home to the sales offices of neighborhoods south of the county road that separates the older area from the newer. Lake Sumter Landing is unique from Spanish Springs in that it is larger and more "storied" than its older neighbor. It features no fewer than 76 "historic" locations, some of which house businesses like tea shoppes or restaurants, but many of which are empty, awaiting new tenants. Regardless of whether the spaces are currently occupied, they each have a sign placed by the "Lake Sumter Landing Historical Preservation League" describing the past constructed by the creative minds of The Villages. A frequent (and observant) visitor to Lake Sumter Landing will notice new construction, perhaps a seafood restaurant or sports bar, that hadn't existed six months prior; it will, inevitably, have a plaque testifying to a provocative past. This creates a comic and somewhat absurd effect, one not observable in the more static architecture of Spanish Springs. Visitors to Lake Sumter Landing are provided a broadsheet "Lake Sumter Landing Historical Map" detailing all 76 locations. It is accompanied by a letter from "Frank Butterfield," Chairman Pro Tem of the Lake Sumter Historical Preservation League and sealed with the Lake Sumter Landing (Est. 1841) logo. The letter reads:

Honored Guests and Visitors: As Chairman Pro Tem of the Lake Sumter Landing Historical Preservation League, it is with pride, gratitude and humility that I, on behalf of all the dedicated and hard working members of the League, welcome you to Lake

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 13 Sumter Landing and your journey of historical discovery through the streets of this venerable and charming town. Uncovering and, in some cases, interpreting the history of Lake Sumter Landing has been a protracted labor of love for members of the Historical Preservation League. In instances where uncovering and interpretation have failed us, we have resorted to invention. Where invention has faltered, we have borrowed… from Florida history, from American history, from local legends and from family stories. In all instances it has been our desire to entertain you first and foremost and to educate you only as a distant afterthought. Our feeling and guiding philosophy has been that history is what you make of it and what you make of it should be fun. With that in mind, we wish you a great deal of enjoyment as you explore Lake Sumter Landing and delve into its totally unbelievable history.

Lake Sumter Landing continues to grow, and it is projected that establishments will ring the outside of the entire lake (save for the north face, bordered by one of The Villages' 27 golf courses) by 2010.

Narrative Inquiry: the Stories of The Villages While the stories constructed for various areas of The Villages stand on their own as testimony to the "past," there are common threads through which the narratives are woven. A key figure to this backstory is one Katie Belle Van Patten, after whom the exclusive residents-only Katie Belle Saloon is named.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 14 Katie Belle, it is told, was the wife of a wealthy Jacksonville hotelier who, in an attempt to flatter his wife, named its new tavern after her. Much to his chagrin, she immediately traveled to Spanish Springs and took over the role of constructing it -- and thence operating it personally, contrary to the rules for proper etiquette of the times. "Katie Belle made the saloon her showplace and her kingdom," the plaque outside the Katie Belle Tavern reads, "with an iron fist in a velvet glove for almost forty years and in so doing, made the Katie Belle Saloon a legendary place for good times throughout the territory." Despite the quasi-feminist nature of the Katie Belle Saloon backstory, it is ironically the most exclusive and discriminatory establishment in all of The Villages. It is the only establishment that is restricted to residents of The Villages and their registered guests, and is rumored to be the town's hottest nightspot. Katie Belle's story doesn't end there, of course. A plaque (placed by the venerable Lake Sumter Landing Historical Preservation League) in front of the sales office reads:
Plaque to Katie Belle Van Patten, Katie Belle's Tavern, Spanish Springs Town Square.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 15 In 1855, the prominent Spanish Springs couple John & Katie Belle Van Patten decided to build their first private home in Lake Sumter Landing. After having resided in their Spanish Springs Hotel for four years, Mrs. Van Patten declared herself ready for a change in scenery and a change in society. Katie Belle Van Patten decided the perfect place for her new home would be in the center of Lake Sumter Landing, overlooking the Market Square. The home, by far the largest in the town (or the region, for that matter) was made even larger by Katie Belle's decision to simultaneously build two smaller, flanking homes: one for each of her two spinster sisters. Emily and Eve Shiveline relocated to Lake Sumter Landing in 1856 and lived in the homes until their deaths in 1875. After Mrs. Van Patten retired in 1880 she sold her home and her sisters' homes to a hotel company out of Tampa Bay. The buildings were closed for one year in 1881 for remodeling to increase guest capacity. The structure was reopened 1882 as The Grand Hotel. At the time it was one of the largest wooden hotels in Florida. It remained in successful operation until 1931.

The "Katie Belle" legacy is seen elsewhere, as well. A plaque in front of an Italian restaurant tells the story of yet another hotel, the Sevilla. It describes the history thus: a Chicago hotelier upon visiting Spanish Springs purchased the land which had previously been home to a "gentlemen's establishment" known as the Silver Slipper Social Club. That establishment burned
Sevilla Hotel plaque, in front of Pauly's Pizzaria, Spanish Springs Town Square.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 16 down in 1897, and the Sevilla Hotel (named after the hotelier's sister) opened in 1900. "Mr. LaSalle's Hotel was the most opulent establishment of it's [sic] kind in the region, featuring furnishing and fixtures imported from Europe and a design by one of Chicago's leading architects," reads the plaque. "A feud with another local hotel owner [implied to be the Van Patten establishment directly across the street] led to shots being fired at this establishment shortly after its opening. The window glass has long been replaced, but the bullet holes remain in the upstairs ceiling. Mr. LaSalle ordered the holes never to be repaired, but rather to be kept as a reminder to always keep one eye on the competition."

Alas, the upstairs portion of the establishment is off-limits to patrons. Lest Katie Belle be seen as a ruthless individual, a small cottage (now offices for staff of The Villages) sports a story labeled "Caretaker's Cottage":

Built in 1855, the same year as the larger and more opulent home of Katie Belle Van Patten immediately to the north, this modest cottage was constructed to house the Spirodan family, employed by Mrs. Van Patten to take care of her home and the surrounding gardens. The home was given as a gift to its occupants by Mrs. Van Patten in 1880 and remained the home of the Greek immigrant family until 1924 when they relocated to Spanish Springs, a few miles to the north.

While Spanish Springs contains fewer "historical markers" than Lake Sumter Landing, it does feature a unique element of somewhat random placements of biographical plaques. A particularly charming one tells the tale of "Silencio" Sanchez:

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 17 The first female resident of Spanish Springs, Maria Sanchez arrived at what was then only a wide spot in the trail in 1788. Accompanied by her husband, Ramon, and their four sons, Maria helped establish the roots of the young community. A few years after arrival, in partnership with neighbor and friend Keller Sebald, she helped to develop the recipe for the potent local brew known as "Mosquito Juice" and opened the budding settlement's first tavern, The Blind Mosquito. Maria earned the nick"Silencio" Sanchez plaque, on Main Street, Spanish Springs Town Square.

name "Silencio" by remaining quiet for 60 years after the death of her husband in the Great Fire of 1812.

As mentioned earlier, Lake Sumter Landing features a several more historical markers. Businesses as pedestrian as Häagen-Dazs feature white-framed signs with a narrative of someone who once conducted business there. They often make references to a shipping industry that quite clearly could not have existed in Sumter County; there are no rivers that flow through or around The Villages. Nevertheless, a Johnny Rocket's diner has a placard describing the lucrative industry that once ruled Lake Sumter Landing:

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 18 C.F.C. River Freight Company In 1840 the office of the C.F.C. River Freight Company was a small wooden shack located just above the high-water line on the muddy shores of Lake Sumter, a few hundred feet to the north of its present location. With the explosion of river traffic in Florida after the end of the Civil War, it grew to be one of the highest volume transport companies in the region. At one point in its history the company operated 48 large, flat-bottomed riverboats moving goods along the waterways of central Florida. The larger, more substantial wooden headquarters building was designed by the company's founder, C. Foley Coggins, shortly after the war and was completed in 1872.

The most recognizable icon at Lake Sumter Landing is easily the large lighthouse that dominates the north end of the square. Its sign represents one of the more unique and amusing stories crafted for the community:

In 1835 an eccentric New Englander named Willoughby Waggoner came to Lake Sumter Landing as a passenger on a riverboat. Mr. Waggoner, a civilian who was rumored to have inherited a tidy sum back home in Maine, nonetheless dressed in the fashion of a disheveled naval officer and always referred to himself in the third person as "The Commodore." For reasons never clear to anyone but himself, shortly after arriving Mr. Waggoner became fixated on the notion that Lake Sumter Landing needed a lighthouse to insure the safety of what he called its "navy" and what everyone else saw as the regular traffic of barges and

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 19 riverboats that serviced the community. Mr. Waggoner, or "The Commodore" as he began to be known by locals, purchased the point of waterfront land just north of downtown and, over the next ten years, proceeded to single-handedly build both a home and a functioning lighthouse on the site. For the next 25 years he served as self-appointed lighthouse keeper and village eccentric. The Commodore was reportedly never happier than on those few nights a year when fog or a thunderstorm actually made his lighthouse seem a necessity instead of a curiosity.

The story of the Waggoner family wasn't left there, however. The accounting offices of The Villages are housed in a building labeled "First Bank of Lake Sumter:"

This unique building was originally the home of retired sea captain Barnabas Waggoner. It was built in a somewhat nautical theme in 1872 when Captain Waggoner moved to Lake Sumter Landing to keep an eye on his eccentric brother, Willoughby, self-appointed community lighthouse keeper. The design and many of the details of the home were either inspired by the sailing ships of the era or salvaged from actual ships from Captain Waggoner's former New England home in Maine. After the demise of the captain in 1909 the home was purchased by and converted to the First Bank of Lake Sumter. This institution was owned and operated by the same investors group that had earlier chartered The First Bank of the Village of Spanish Springs a few miles to the north prior to the turn of the century. For many years The First Bank of Lake Sumter and the town's original bank, The Old Dominion Bank fought for dominance within the

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 20 community. Old Dominion, however, proved to be less agile than its younger competitor and was bought out by First Bank in 1922.

Even Lake Sumter Landing's first-run movie theatre, the Old Mill Run Playhouse, gets into the act:

In 1895 the hunger for entertainment in Lake Sumter Landing led local business leaders to form a partnership to build the Old Mill Run Playhouse. It was a successful community theatre and a regular stop on the southern vaudeville circuit for over 30 years. The advent of the talking motion picture in the early twentieth century eventually led to the conversion of the playhouse to a movie theatre. Thankfully, remnants of the old playhouse were gracefully preserved during remodeling, and elements of the old stage and some props have been kept in place. During the heyday of vaudeville, the visiting magician Nicholai The Magnificent, as part of his act, threw a playing card from the stage at the ceiling of the theater so hard that the card lodged in a crack in the plaster -- where it remains to this day.

We must note the small sign in reference to "Acme Taxidermy & Trophy," which stands outside the door to a tea shoppe owned by a pair of charming British sisters. "So Realistic, You'll Want To Shoot It Again!" was the marketing phrase utilized by one Mr. Vaughn Dzuro, who took advantage of the turn-of-the-century increase in hunting and fishing around Lake Sumter Landing. It alleges examples of Mr. Dzuro's "artistry" are

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 21 still on display in several buildings in the Market Square District. While I was unable to find any of these examples, I did find a unique artifact in the middle of Market Square: a large clock, with gleaming bronze pistons, labeled "Market Sq. Steam Clock." A smaller caption below informs the reader it was donated by the Lake Sumter Landing Businessman's Association in 1840. A small panel on the back, obscured by a floral arrangement, belies the caption -imprinted on the iron are the words, "Electric Time." Behind the square and near the ice cream parlor are a series of 1950'sera gasoline pumps, an anachronicity amongst anachronicities. The price per gallon reflects easier days: 29.9 cents a gallon -- dating it around 1952.
Acme Taxidermy & Trophy sign, in front of The Tea Plantation & Floral Boutique, Lake Sumter Landing. Acme Taxidermy & Trophy sign, in front of The Tea Plantation & Floral Boutique, Lake Sumter Landing.

Controversy: The Villages & Friendliness

Despite the consistent lauding of The Villages by most residents one encounters in the town squares, there is a latent but consistent amount of controversy surrounding the community and its residents. Its rapid growth (on average, four new homes are sold every day) have led to resentment on behalf of Sumter County residents who feel The Villages

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 22 isn't doing its part in county affairs, while trying to gain political influence in the interest of corporate profits for the Morse family. The issues have led to a series of quickly-quelled picket marches, some of which were, apparently, shut down without legal merit. Lee King, author of The Villages: Then and Now (2005), explains the developers have not cooperated with county officials or participated in any of the dozens of community meetings that have been put together to discuss the impact such an immediate rise in population will have on county affairs. King also expresses concern that the constructed history is masking what is a legitimate and interesting ("authentic," in her words) heritage of the Lady Lake area. “There are not many places that put up a false history […] The tragedy is, you’re missing out on the opportunity to inform people about the real history, which is very rich" (Koonce, 2005). In June 2005, roughly 30 residents of The Villages picketed in front of the Spanish Springs sales office to protest the closing of Chula Vista, a popular restaurant. The crowd alleged it was to make way for a community center, one that would be financed through residents' monthly fees. The protest was quickly broken up when Lady Lake police arrived and informed the residents they needed a permit to protest; officers later apologized and acknowledged there was no such law (Callahan, 2005). The incident raised a number of issues that are a consequence of the unique structure of The Villages. Despite its large population, The Villages is not an incorporated city; there is no government nor elected officials. Law enforcement is provided by county sheriff's deputies, but this creates its own problems as the two town centers exist in different counties. Two competing homeowner's associations have

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 23 developed in response to this; one is closely affiliated with The Villages company, and the other tends to be antagonistic toward the corporation. Occasionally, the harsh regulations on behavior are changed through community action (veterans successfully fought for the right to fly American flags in 2001) but the overall attitude appears to be, "If you don't like it, leave" (Sargent & Kunerth, 2002).

Symbols, Interaction, & the Public: Villages' Residents and Stories

Of course, the massive effort put toward crafting such a rich and detailed "history" would be for naught if it wasn't acknowledged by residents of The Villages. Indeed, it is not even of particular necessity to ascertain if residents perceive the structures and their histories as authentic. It would seem that, for the most part, they are seen as a quirky aspect of their new hometown. However, there are some that either buy in, or want to buy in, to the ideas:

"There's enough detail in the story to make you feel it's true. But I don't think it's all true," said Margarite Muller, 55, who moved down three years ago from New Jersey. "It's one of the places the Spanish looked for the Fountain of Youth," said Joe McKane, 86. "And we found it!" (Kunerth, 2002).

Upon sitting down and talking to a number of residents of The Villages, I realized I was hearing the same responses to my inquiries, almost as if I were listening to a skipping LP. "This place has everything I need," stated Bud, a former businessman from

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 24 Omaha. "It's just perfect in every way," explained Glenn, a former Cleveland dentist. When I asked about the histories constructed for them, they seemed to understand entirely that they were inauthentic, and that neither a Spanish Mission nor shipping empire existed in their home town. Yet there was this twinkle in the eye, an upward curve of the lips, a nonverbal representation that the stories contributed to their adaptation of The Villages as a "home." "They make it feel like a nice, safe place, you know?" explained Mary, an "80something" former Cincinnati schoolteacher. "I know that they're just there to impress the visitors, give them a reason to stick around, and try and move here, but they're pretty, and something to do when you're on a walk." I asked her if she felt there was an authentic heritage to the Lady Lake area that was being overlooked in the process of promoting the Katie Belle Van Patten et al. stories. "Oh, probably, but this is Florida. It probably wasn't the nicest history." Perhaps not, but Lee King alleges it was an interesting one. Prior to the "invasion," the Lady Lake area was ruled by cattle baron Clyde Bailey, who operated ranches and watermelon field across eastern Sumter County. King takes special care to point out the original names of many of the streets, lakes, and other geographical features that have been since renamed by Schwartz and Morse. Of course, King has her own agenda. Her family moved to the Lady Lake area in 1900, and while she has her own critical perspective on the development of the area, she's perhaps a bit less harsh in The Villages: Then and Now than she could be, simply to enable her to sell her book in the community.

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 25 Conclusions: The Role of Staged Authenticity

Residents of The Villages appear to take the historicity of their area with several grains of salt. Nearly all of the individuals I interviewed could name ten or more aspects of life in The Villages that were more important than the heritage they were adopting. Most of those aspects revolved around golf, bowling, or other recreational activities. "I worked hard all my life, and now I'm here to play hard. If they feel the need to put up false pretenses, well, it's all in fun. I don't pay much attention to it," stated Don, a native of western Pennsylvania. Yet I maintain this heritage is more important to their lives than perhaps they would openly state, and that the histories constructed by The Villages serve a dual purpose: one of promotion/attraction and of comfort. Clearly, the process by which The Villages attempts to attract new residents is encompassed in the creation of a narrative by which they help retirees envision not a "new" life but a "better version of the old." Biggs (1999) explains this as a process of multiple identity development, but I prefer to image it in the manner of a picking-andchoosing: move to the Villages, keep all good parts of your life, and leave the rest behind. This is encapsulated perfectly in the town regulation regarding children under 18. Grandchildren are welcome to visit, but the amenities for their entertainment are few. The two movie theatres show adult fare, and there are no playgrounds or other recreational activities for children. Furthermore, guests under 18 are only permitted to visit for 30 days. "Residents are too busy enjoying their second childhood to raise their children's children," explains Kunerth (2002). "You raised your kids. Now let your kids raise their

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 26 kids," explains a former high school teacher. "I saw enough nose rings, earrings, baggy pants and short skirts and foul language working in a high school." One might argue this attitude slights younger generations' ability to provide a "breath of fresh air" to the community, but at first (and subsequent) glances, that's hardly needed. Recreation continues to be the main selling point for The Villages, and their website (2005) clearly states that "The Villages is an active 55+ community." Youth is a nuisance, though that doesn't stop the company from hiring as servers for its restaurants an almost exclusively white, female, teenaged workforce. The second, and more important role the staged authenticity of The Villages' town centers plays is in that of comfort. While residents perhaps come to take the stories for granted after a period of time, they represent a safe haven for individuals -- an anchoring point, in other words. Residents know exactly what to expect when they visit the town centers: entertainment in the gazebo, immaculately clean streets, a cold microbrew, and Katie Belle Van Patten's stern face looking down upon them all the while. Bill, a retired firefighter from Rhode Island, explains he enjoys going to the Spanish Springs area for breakfast because "it reminds me of the Old West" (Kunerth, 2002). In the end, it would seem the authenticity in terms of north central Floridian history isn't that important. What is, however, important is that residents find something recognizable amongst a world which is very new to them. The tea shoppe may be owned by two charming British women, but there's a Starbucks right down the street too. McCullough (2001) explains that Baudrillard's simulacrum can serve as a bridge; specifically, she states it is a bridge between life and an impending death. That might seem a bit too literal and/or morbid for our observation of retirees, but it serves a strong

AN ECONOMY OF HISTORICITY 27 metaphor for our observations. And as the history is represented by aesthetic means, it fulfills Simmel's (1994) argument that the bridge is an aesthetic object, both in the physical and abstract senses. The bridge that connects the origins of The Villages to its new public image is falsely aged so as to communicate its having been an original part of the community. The bridge itself has a history; it took four years of fighting with the Department of Transportation to even get it built. For residents of The Villages, the stories behind the bridge will never be particularly important. It is, however, an important part for many of their daily experiences, and in that, it becomes as vital an aspect of their lives as anything. Much like the objects of constructed history, it has a functional aspect, a historical aspect, and by the aesthetic process of its construction, a staged authentic aspect. The individual's approach to it depends on his or her knowledge of the situation, and by any approach, he or she will acquire what they seek as a result of it.


Biggs, S. (1999). The "Blurring" of the Lifecourse: Narrative, memory and the question of authenticity. Journal of Aging and Identity, 4, 209-221. Clapp, G. (1999). Heritage tourism. Heritage Tourism Report. North Carolina Division of Travel, Tourism, Film, Sports and Development. Raleigh, North Carolina.

Cohen, E. (1988). Authenticity and commoditization in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 15, 371-386. Crick, M., (1989). Representations of sun, sex, sights, savings and servility: International tourism in the social sciences. Annual Review of Anthropology 18, 307–344. Fowler, G. & Crawford, B. (1987). Border Radio. Austin: Texas Monthly Press. "Harold Schwartz, developer of The Villages, dies" (2003, December 23). Associated Press State & Local Wire. Kunerth, J. (2002, November 24). Retiree dreams come true. Orlando Sentinel, A1. McCullough, L. (2001). Jean Baudrillard and the death of God. Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 2. Retrieved November 9, 2005 from Mormino, G. (2005). Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Nohlgren, S. (2000, May 14). Retirement boom town. St .Petersburg Times, 1F. Sargent, R. and Kunerth, J. (2002, November 25.) Towns see Villages as mixed blessings. Orlando Sentinel, A1. Simmel, G. (1994). Bridge and door. Theory, Culture, & Society, 11, 5-10.

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