The boomtown that shouldn’t exist

Cape Coral, Florida/Wikicommons

By Michael Grunwald | Political Magazine

The ads promised paradise, “Legendary Lazy Living” in a “Waterfront Wonderland.” The brochures sold the Florida dream, “an enchanted City-in-the-Making (average temperature: 71.2 degrees)” without winter, worries or state income taxes. Cape Coral was America’s land of tomorrow, just $20 down and $20 a month for a quarter-acre slice of heaven: “Breathtaking, isn’t it? How could it be otherwise when Nature was so lavishly generous to begin with?”

The Raso family moved from Pittsburgh to Cape Coral on September 14, 1960, lured by that sunny vision of affordable utopia. At the time, the vision was just about all there was. The City-in-the-Making was still mostly uninhabitable swampland, with just a few dozen homes along a few mosquito-swarmed dirt roads. “We were pioneers in a station wagon instead of a covered wagon,” recalls Gloria Raso Tate, who was 9 years old when she piled into the back seat with her three sisters and a mutt named Peppy.

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