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in beautiful Southwest Florida

Progress over Time


Marco Island Development

Marco Island in the mid-1960s




Marco Island in the late 1990s :: Photo courtesy of Marco Island Historical Society

Marco Island in the late 1970s :: Photo courtesy of Marco Island Historical Society

          Above are pictures of Marco Island in various stages of development. The top left picture is a mostly undeveloped island. Some early signs of dirt roads and primitive shelters can be seen. In the top right picture (from the mid 1960's) you can see land being cleared in anticipation of full scale development. This was the time the Mackle brothers and Deltona had plans to develop the Island. The bottom left picture (from the mid to late 1970's) shows a rapidly growing Marco Island. The plans of the Mackle brothers and others have led to successful development. The bottom right picture (from the late 1990's) further shows how much Marco Island has grown from it's early days. While build out is projected to take place in 2012 there are still opportunities to make a claim on your own piece of paradise. There is still time to own a lot and build your dream house or purchase a house or condo on the secondary market.   

         Marco Island's Early Days

     Marco Island was founded and created by Elliot, Frank and Robert Mackle. It was in the middle of winter when the Mackle brothers' dream was revealed to anyone who would listen. Up north the residents were suffering through another typical winter But newspaper ads up north were promoting a new community in Southwest Florida that was being developed by Deltona Corporation and was being touted as a premier resort community. This was Marco Island in its infancy.

     Marco Island was just being built from the dense woodland that covered its entire surface. The canals were being dredged and the northern population were invited down to see the Island. Tens of thousands of northerners took Deltona up on their offer. When they arrived on Marco Island they were pleasantly surprised. They were greeted with temperatures in the 70's and 80's with white sand beaches, warm Gulf of Mexico waters and gentle breezes. Many signed contracts and bought land or Deltona build houses on the spot before flying back to the frigid north.

     Marco Island had early success not just because of the fabulous weather, but also because the Island was situated on the Southwest coast of Florida away from the Eastern Florida coast which is the usual striking ground for hurricanes. Also, Marco Island's prices for small homes, most with a canal in your backyard, was reasonable and affordable for the average person. This was the Mackle's brothers dream, to create a world class resort community that is within reach of the average family.

     But, most of the island still had to be built. This required permits to be issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps did not approve as much of the Island for development as the Mackle's wanted and required parts of Marco Island to remain undeveloped forever in order to develop the rest of the Island. Some buyers of lots had to be told they could not purchase the land after all because the Corps did not approve a home being built upon it. Eventually, Deltona purchased most of the land on the island, secured the required state and county permits and also the dredging rights. This would enable them to obtain fill for land interlaced with canals or waterways, which would in turn provide hundreds of waterfront home sites.

     The obstacles were slowly overcome, tons of dirt were moved, a canal system was devised to create new landfill sites for homes, the mosquitoes were controlled and the island was ready for its first visitors in early 1965. The Mackles succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The crowds started arriving to see this magnificenttransformation of a nearly totally wooded island being transformed into a first class resort. It was estimated later that 25,000 people attended the grand opening, and many of them became customers.

     Deltona proceeded with its plans. Homes went up, roads were paved, churches were built, a school was established and the population grew slowly. High buildings rose beside the water, and new homes were built along side canals and also inland.

     But the Department of the Interior now began to take a keener interest in the Marco operation. One disagreement led to another, and Deltona could see the road narrowing ahead of them. Though compromises were sometimes worked out, the company was doomed. Unable to complete units which depended upon new permits from the Corps, the Mackle's could have declared bankruptcy and left prospective customers stranded. Instead, they offered people who had money deposited for home a chance for a better lot in an existing area, or a complete refund, and this policy destroyed them in the end. Deltona was suddenly losing money. They began selling off some of their land holdings to stay afloat.

     So, the island was never fully completed to the specifications of the Mackle brothers and Deltona's master plan. But, what was built was enough to form the seeds of what is presently modern day Marco Island. Marco Island owes its present to the forethought and pioneer spirit of the early day developers of the island. Marco Island was not easy to construct but the effort put forth by these visionaries is seen everyday in the vast beauty of Marco Island. 


Note all the undeveloped beachfront land.  This complex is part of the Marriott today.



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