A Man a Woman
and a Dream
When Robert Davis and his wife-to-be, Daryl, conceived of the beach town that would one day become Seaside, they had the rare gift of a blank canvas. Robert’s grandfather, J.S. Smolian, had purchased 80 acres of what some family and friends deemed “worthless sand and scrub” in 1946 during a family vacation at the beach, and when passed it along to Robert in 1978, it remained undeveloped. Robert and Daryl were limited by nothing but the scope of their collective imagination.
Robert, already established as a successful real-estate developer, longed to create a town that defied the trends of suburban sprawl and short-sighted construction, with careful thought in every detail and an eye for timeless grace. Daryl shared this vision, her intuitive style the perfect complement to Robert’s methodical planning. Their contrasting backgrounds—he was from Birmingham and often reminisced about the uncomplicated summers spent on the Gulf as a youth, while she was from Brooklyn, with fond memories of a close-knit neighborhood where front stoops were gathering spots—converged on a strong belief in the kind of community Seaside would foster.
Before the first nail was ever hammered, Robert and Daryl spent two years touring the South in their 1975 red Pontiac convertible. Traveling back roads, taking pictures and knocking on doors, they sought the elusive qualities that defined the character of the architecture and small-town structures they admired.
By 1981, the couple was ready to hold their breath and leap in. They enlisted two talented young Miami architects, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, to share in their ideas and put in place the beginnings of a Building Code for Seaside. Robert and Daryl became Seaside’s first official residents, moving into a house the built on Tupelo Street, and a real-estate agent they recruited sold six lots in a week. Robert and Daryl were married, beachside of course, in the Tupelo Pavilion. It was the beginning of a new chapter.
Ever since Robert and Daryl’s dream has continued to play out here on the 80 bestowed by a grandfather. Families grow memories here, newcomers arrive to fall in love for the first time, and the canvas on which Seaside is painted
grows more vibrant with each passing year.