Highways in the Sun

The opening of highways to southern states during the second decade of the twentieth century allowed newly mobile northerners and adventurous men and women from around the nation to see the unique sites and communities of Florida's interior, away from the more developed cities and destinations on the east and west coasts. After the completion of the Dixie Highway from Montreal to Miami in 1915, the number of automobile tourists increased dramatically every year, and Florida's rural areas and small towns began to change as well.

William Frost Layton in recreational vehicle on tract of land he later developed into Layton's Cottage, Trailer, and Fishing Park: Riviera Beach, Florida (ca. 1940)

William Frost Layton in recreational vehicle on tract of land he later developed into Layton's Cottage, Trailer, and Fishing Park: Riviera Beach, Florida (ca. 1940)

Image number: PR30428

Men and their trailer (December 5, 1949)

Men and their trailer (December 5, 1949)

Image number: C012543

Accompanying note: "Morris Monts de Oca, Charlie Anderson, Bill Buford, Freddie Crews, Wyatt Blassingame, Von Walker, & Wilton Sauls. After 6 days and nights on the beautiful Suwannee River these men are headed home. They traveled the river from Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico."

Campers in Corkscrew Swamp: Collier County, Florida (19--)

Campers in Corkscrew Swamp: Collier County, Florida (19--)

Image number: C027949

View of trailer parked near entrance to the Myakka River State Park: Sarasota, Florida (1947)

View of trailer parked near entrance to the Myakka River State Park: Sarasota, Florida (1947)

Image number: C011695a

Myakka River State Park was opened in 1942.

Unidentified women sunbath at the Hollywood Beach Trailer Park : Hollywood, Florida (1953)

Unidentified women sunbath at the Hollywood Beach Trailer Park : Hollywood, Florida (1953)

Image number: C017603

Red Coconut Trailer Park (1949)

Red Coconut Trailer Park (1949)

Image number: PR03347b

Boyds Modern Tourist Cottages: Pensacola, Florida (1941)

Boyds Modern Tourist Cottages: Pensacola, Florida (1941)

Photo by: Marion Post Wolcott

Image number: RC02739

Original image caption: "Sign advertising tourist cottages on highway outside Pensacola, Florida." The image was created by the New Deal program, Farm Security Administration (originally the Resettlement Administration) in order to demonstrate the hardships of farm workers during the Great Depression.

Roey Stickles sits out on the porch in the trailer park: Sarasota, Florida (1946)

Roey Stickles sits out on the porch in the trailer park: Sarasota, Florida (1946)

Image number: C002889

Michael Sadler holding a sculpture stands outside a trailer: Dead Lakes, Florida (1947)

Michael Sadler holding a sculpture stands outside a trailer: Dead Lakes, Florida (1947)

Image number: C006771

From early automobiles, modified to carry sleeping quarters, kitchen equipment, and barrels of water, to the sophisticated campers as luxurious as nice homes, Florida’s vacationer-explorers used their beloved vehicles to find out-of-way locations of interest and comfortable places to live for a few days or weeks. The original tin can tourists of the 1920s pioneered camper travel, and the practice became ever more popular among the booming families after World War II and increasingly-mobile retirees journeying south.

Trailer parks developed to cater to the waves of new visitors bringing their accommodations with them. Roadside attractions and amusement parks likewise developed facilities to meet the needs of the expanding variety of campers and trailers. Snowbirds, young families, and mobile workers all found Florida welcoming, and more permanent trailer parks appeared recreating the familiarity of village life, only with movable structures comprising its residents’ homes.

Retired railroad man sitting on the bumper of his house-car (1931)

Retired railroad man sitting on the bumper of his house-car (1931)

Image number: PR02800

Retired railroad man from Ohio at the Long Branch Trailer Park.

Trailer enters the Bradenton Trailer Park: Bradenton, Florida (1949)

Trailer enters the Bradenton Trailer Park: Bradenton, Florida (1949)

Image number: C011444

Residents by the pool: Miami, Florida (1953)

Residents by the pool: Miami, Florida (1953)

Image number: C017592