We often describe the Vanderbilt Beach Resort as an "Olde Florida" hotel. So exactly what is Olde Florida? And how does it differ from "New Florida?"
Olde Florida is not an issue of age. Instead, if something is "Olde Florida" it means that it has a certain style and feeling that is reminiscent of the way that Florida used to be. How did it used to be in Florida -- and in Naples in particular? Well, I am sure that different people will give you different answers, but here is my answer.
In Olde Florida life moved at a slower pace. There was not much going on to hurry to, or worry about, and life was simpler and slower in this sense. News reached Florida slowly and we were not very well connected to the rest of the country. We spent more time outside enjoying what Florida had to offer -- beautiful beaches, great fishing, sunny weather, spectacular thunderstorms, and warm nights with balmy breezes -- and less time worrying about what was happening in New York and Chicago. People came to Florida to relax in the sun, swim in the Gulf, hunt for shells, eat fresh seafood and fruit and walk on the beach at night listening to the sounds of the surf. This -- along with the occasional card game or dominos match -- was our entertainment.
Olde Florida attracted people with the pioneer spirit who had interesting personalities and characters. Some were outlaws running from something and some were people who just wanted to escape the cold and the rat race for a slower and simpler life in the sun. With a few exceptions, people were generally friendly and welcoming to tourists and strangers. You got to know people in Olde Florida, and they showed you how to bleach a sand dollar, how to fillet and cook a fish, how to make a key lime pie and the best way to eat a grapefruit. You would see the same people when you returned year after year, and they would remember you and welcome you back. Once you made a friend, you were friends forever. But even though people were friendly, they also respected your privacy. If you wanted to be alone, they left you alone.
There was a great sense of freedom in Olde Florida. Although there were some rules, they were few and far between. You could do what you wanted, when you wanted, as long as you were not hurting someone or their property. You could have bonfires on the beach, keep and eat most of the fish that you caught, and build just about anything anywhere. If you were visiting, hotels would give you some suggestions and leave you alone to explore and enjoy the area on your own. Along with the "no problem" mentality was a sense of responsibility. You could do what you wanted, but you were responsible for any bad decisions that you made with this freedom. Whining about your own bad decisions was not well tolerated and was therefore rarely heard.
Olde Florida was also extremely casual. There was nobody here to impress and it was too hot to dress in layers of fancy clothes all of the time. Comfort was king. Come as you are was the norm in most places, and your attitude and actions were more important than your clothes or the car you were driving.
Houses and hotels in Olde Florida reflected the focus on simplicity and practicality. Most buildings were low rise buildings with tin or metal roofs and interiors that included terra cotta tile or terazzo (which is much cooler than carpet) and stucco construction. Hotel rooms were small and simple because guests spent most of their time enjoying the outdoors -- not inside their rooms. Most hotel rooms opened directly to the outside, which allowed guests to come and go as they pleased without passing through hallways or a lobby.
Olde Florida was not perfect, and in fairness it was often a rough place to live for long periods of time. But there was a special feeling and ambiance in Olde Florida that has largely disappeared from Florida today as glitzy hotel chains and communities have come to the state in droves to capitalize on Florida's bounty. The new hotels and communities have brought glitz and glamor, excitement and modern architecture, and have directly connected Florida to major metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago. This change is not necessarily bad, but its has come at a price, and that price has been the decline and, near extinction, of Olde Florida.
Olde Florida is now an endangered species. But the best of Olde Florida -- a laid back atmosphere, welcoming and friendly people, simple and practical design, and a focus on slowing down to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty and bounty of Florida -- is still around at a few places if you know where to look. At the Vanderbilt Beach Resort, we take great pride in keeping the Olde Florida flame burning. Although we have added modern conveniences to the hotel to accommodate our guests, we take great pains to keep the atmosphere at our hotel a true Olde Florida experience. So if you are ready for a different type of vacation, an Olde Florida vacation, come and see us.
You may decide that you never want to leave.
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