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  City of Palm Coast Historical Society

 
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  A Brief History of Palm Coast

by Arthur E Dycke, City Historian

 

 

 Before 1969, land that would eventually become the City of Palm Coast was considered by some as nothing more than a “big pine-covered swamp.” But when the corporate eyes of ITT/Levitt looked upon the virtually uninhabited land, they saw 22,000 acres of golf courses, marinas, oceanfront motels, scenic drives, and house lots awaiting the arrival of sun-seeking “pioneers.” Marketing strategies targeting urban residents in the north and midwest offered slices of land cut out of miles of forests, and soon a 500-mile infrastructure of roads, utilities, and sewer lines bound Palm Coast to a future that included becoming the largest planned unit development in Florida history.

 

Lehigh Cement Lehigh Stack

Where once Lehigh Cement was a major employer, a lone sentinel now keeps vigil.

 

International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT) began as an international communications firm in the 1930s. It grew to become a multinational corporation by 1968 with an income estimated over $7 billion. From the outset ITT provided the financial muscle to purchase large tracts of land and pay the enormous cost of constructing an infrastructure to create a huge development in rural Flagler County, Florida. The man in charge of the Palm Coast development from its inception until 1975 was Levitt and Son’s Dr. Norman Young whose marketing group planned and named this project.

 

 In a February 1970 report to the Flagler Chamber, Dr. Young projected the completion of a sales/model center, a golf course, and homes for the residents by the end of the year. The grand opening of newly named Palm Coast occurred on October 29, 1970. The first public building erected, the Welcome Center, served as the hub for sales activities and was surrounded by pleasant walkways leading to a dozen model homes. The 64-foot high observation tower provided panoramic views of the surrounding woods, lakes, streams, Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and Atlantic Ocean. It presided over a golf course, model homes, canals, and early home construction that was to become the “core area” of Palm Coast.

 

Welcome Center WC Model Homes

 

Welcome Center awaits visitors arriving on

 "Palm Coast I"

Early model home grouping viewed from Welcome Center

 

 

Originally, visitors came from Route A1A to a small dock on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway and proceeded by boat to the Welcome Center on the main canal. Prospective buyers were taken by elevator to the top of the tower.

 

 Earliest “pioneers” occupied their homes in January 1972. ITT soon allowed the sales center to be used as a place of worship for religious organizations. The Welcome Center was sold after ITT left the community in 1995 and the building was torn down.

 

Publix 0
 

Hungry Palm Coasters no longer needed to drive miles to shop after Publix opened their first store in 1979.



From their start in 1969 until ITT withdrew, the corporation provided most of the services and leadership in Palm Coast. They had planned, built, and maintained a model environmental community. In a unique private/government relationship, ITT had financed Palm Coast’s most necessary improvements. The interchange at I-95 and the Hammock Dunes bridge were funded at relatively unnoticeable cost to local taxpayers and the state. As ITT withdrew from Palm Coast, the void left by its departure was increasingly felt in the community.

 

I-95 Interchange Hammock Dunes Briddge
 

The I-95 Interchange (1981)

 

 

Hammock Dunes Bridge (1988)

 



 

The genesis of today’s beautiful canals

 

 

 

Then the complicated and often contentious process of incorporation began. Flagler County residents’ opposition groups debated. The county authorized a feasibility study, the state legislative delegation sponsored incorporation, and the Florida state government approved the referendum.

 

Journal Headline


 Home Rule Coalition 
First Ciity Council

Palm Coast Home Rule Coalition committee John Scripp III, Manny Rivera, Jim Canfield, Bob Croc­etta, and Marty McLean

The “city” of Palm Coast elects its first city council: (seated) Jim Holland, (standing) Jerry Full, Jim Canfield, Bill Venne, Ralph Carter

 

 On September 21, one week after Hurricane Floyd postponed the vote, 65.6% of the nearly 12,000 voters casting ballots had opted to turn the unincorporated population center of Flagler County into a city. On December 31, 1999 residents of Palm Coast celebrated the end of a millennium and a century – plus a new year and a new city. 

 

 Palm Coast’s population on January 1 was estimated at 29,360. Mayor Jim Canfield, city council, and the city manager all seemed to agree that this first year’s emphasis should be on planning rather than forging ahead without giving sufficient thought to the complicated problems facing a new city.

 

Originally, city business was done in two-and-a-half rooms of the present Community Center. In March, newly chosen city manager Richard Kelton arranged to rent office space at the former ITT headquarters building at One Corporate Drive. By May, the Flagler County Commission turned over the former county library to be renovated and used by the city as its first “permanent” city hall.

 

In 2001, providing residents with essential government services and promoting the community’s economic growth were two major goals. As a result of joint meetings of Palm Coast City Council and Flagler County Commissioners, the county turned over many parcels of land to the city benefiting fire, public works, recreation and parks, and the locating of new schools. At the same time, the city began studying the acquisition of its water sources.

 

Water Tower

Water tower receives facelift reflecting new city logo

 

 In future years, a beautiful new Florida Hospital–Flagler opened near the I-95 interchange on SR-100. Palm Coast purchased their own water company, relocated their city hall after selling their building to expand a local business, approved European Village, and annexed 5,800 acres in the northwest corner of Flagler County near the St. John’s County line. Most significant to the city’s future was the approval in 2004 of a large site for Town Center which would provide the city with 1 million square feet of office space, 2 million square feet of retail/commercial space, 750,000 square feet of institutional buildings, a 2,400-seat movie theater, and 240 nursing home beds. City Council passage started the process of seeking approval of the massive DRI by state agencies.

 

Palm Coast was officially designated the “fastest growing micropolitan area” in the country by the United States Census Bureau in 2005. The population had more than doubled to over 64,500 since incorporation.

 

Cobblestone Village started construction, Palm Coast was named “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation, and a room was provided on the side of city hall for the Palm Coast Historical Society. The city saw an increase in the amount of commercial construction activity later that year, especially in the new 1500-acre Town Center, the “heart of Palm Coast.”

 

 Originally opening in Palm Coast in 1987, Wal-Mart later upgraded to a supercenter, and now a newly constructed four-lane road is prepared to accommodate a second store. The grand opening of a Target Superstore in July 2008 provided a great stimulus to the shops at Town Center. The city had reason to celebrate its “dynamic decade” at their 10th anniversary.

 

 Palm Coast started 2013 with approximately76,450 residents. Newspapers have reported a 2% drop in unemployment and home sales are reported to be at a seven-year high. There are reasonably priced home sites in all sections of the city, and the northwestern part has a huge acreage with infrastructure to accommodate commerce, industry, and new residents to join us presently, enjoying our way of life.

 

 The pioneers formed a partnership with ITT, together overcoming frontier obstacles in a spirit of mutual respect, active participation, and community cooperation. ITT was successful in building and managing a planned growth community. May Palm Coast’s present remarkable growth be sustained and managed and its people continue their cooperative community spirit channeled toward an even richer life in pursuit of “the perfect place to live.”

 

Arthur E. Dycke is the author of "Images of America: Palm Coast" and "Alan Smolen : Father of Palm Coast, 1975-85".

Regarding Palm Coast history questions contact Art Dycke at artpchistory@bellsouth.net .

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Phone: 386-283-5929
email: info@palmcoasthistory.org

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