How South Walton became a gateless gated community

Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 09:16 AM.

After World War II, when places like Panama City Beach were actively creating “amusements” and promoting fishing to attract visitors from the lower south, McGee took a different tact.  Hoping to impress people like the Birmingham banker, McGee laid out a tightly regulated community with a covenant that promised “no trailer, tent, shack, outhouse, or other temporary structure will be allowed.” 

Lots were plotted for single family dwellings and only “approved and accepted” building material could be used. Then to seal the deal, McGee guaranteed that “no noxious activities, offensive noises or odors, nor any nuisance” would be allowed to intrude on the quiet and seclusion.

Those who wanted cheap accommodations and “amusements” could go to Panama City Beach where what would come to be known as the Redneck Riviera was rapidly rising. Folks who were financially and socially above that could find their own kind in Seagrove.

In effect, McGee created a gateless gated community.  Three miles off U.S. Highway 98, without a road to connect it to its nearest neighbor, Grayton Beach and Seagrove sat in splendid isolation.  There was a little store for staples. Later a small motel with a café was added, but that was it. A “beach route” promised change and vowed not only to bring traffic and noise, but to open the coast to the element that Seagrove homeowners wished to avoid – rednecks.

Homeowners were not happy.

The road was built in phases and by the early 1970s it was completed. At first few used it. Though a pretty drive, most folks traveling between Panama City and Destin were in a hurry so they stayed inland on U.S. 98. There was so little traffic that late in the 1970s a nude/gay beach began unofficial operation at a secluded spot off the road. 

In the early 1980s things began to change.

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