The Mackle Company of Miami rose to national prominence in the mid-1950s when it shifted to the vacation and retirement housing market. Capitalizing on a newly emerging population of retirees with disposable pension income and on a growing number of middle-class Americans seeking fun in the sun, the family firm targeted these groups in an aggressive, nationwide marketing campaign. Central in this promotional scheme were the sundrenched locations of its residential developments on the east and west coasts of south Florida. The Mackles’ marketing strategies belie a complex relationship with the environment, one deeply rooted in American ideas regarding the perfectibility of nature. The company’s houses, typically containing generous indoor-outdoor living spaces and lined with bands of windows opening onto waterfront lots, were presumably designed for a living experience tailored to the Edenic qualities of the Sunshine State. But, paradoxically, they relied on central air conditioning, a modern amenity intended to thwart the tropical climate that lured northerners to Florida in the first place. Moreover, the company depended on significant land modifications through dredging and filling, bulkheading and canal digging, beach improvements, and clearing of foliage and trees to make its communities inhabitable and appealing to its out-of-state clients. The tension between celebrating Florida’s subtropical landscape while simultaneously altering it pervaded the company’s marketing materials, even as the scale of the Mackle Company’s efforts increased, culminating in an ambitious project at Marco Island begun in the mid-1960s. Although the Mackles’ ambitions did not succeed to the extent they envisioned, their sales pitch to “sell sunshine” dramatically reshaped the cultural and natural landscape of south Florida.


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pp. 59-82
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