The History of Seaside Institute


As the story goes, J.S. Smolian bought 80 acres on the Florida's northwest coast. Over the years, Smolian had many ideas and plans for property, despite being told by many that a lot on the Florida Panhandle was seemingly worthless. Meanwhile, Smolian's grandson, Robert Davis, spent his summers vacationing and exploring the empty lot.

Robert went on to study history and business, and became an award-winning builder/developer in the 1970's. It was now Robert's time to decide what was to become of the 80 acres on 30A. Enlisting the help of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Robert and his wife Daryl began planning a community which would forever change the coast of Northwest Florida. 

As it turns out, 80 acres was the ideal amount of land when planning a community. The Seaside code called for design features that would encourage community: walkable streets, harmonious style cottages with required front porches. Quite the opposite of the high-rise condominiums that were popping up all over the Florida coasts. These specific design principles are now known as New Urbanism, with Seaside historically known as the birthplace of the movement. 

In 1982, Robert and Daryl Davis founded the official nonprofit organization of Seaside, the Seaside Institute. The purpose of the organization was to promote buildable, sustainable places through design and education, using Seaside as a living laboratory. 

The Seaside Institute helps people create great communities.