In 1984, when Norwood and Jan Hodges ventured over to a little plot of land on 30A called Seaside, they likely didn’t know they were about to create a legacy that would live long after their passing. Son, Rich, says his mom and dad had often vacationed in Panama City Beach until they heard about a man and woman, Robert and Daryl Davis, who had the idea of building a little town filled with small cottages with front porches, cozy family rooms and tin roofs.
Their vision was to build a town filled with families to enjoy all that was the beach life. “Deborah Berke was an apprentice architect at the time and she, along with Robert and Daryl, helped mom and dad design their cottage at 25 Tupelo Street,” says Hodges. The story goes that the elder Hodges tried to trade a new Audi or Volkswagen for the lot, which was priced at $30,000. Convenient since he owned an Audi and Volkswagen dealership in Anniston, Ala., at the time.
Over the years Hodges and his six siblings would spend a lot of time at the cottage his dad named Panhandle – Circa 1984. “We did what kids do today,” he says. “We swam in the emerald waters, threw Frisbees on the beach, rode our bikes, walked miles and miles around the area and just hung out with other kids.”
He says it was fascinating to watch the little town grow and to develop a truly unique persona. Fast forward and Hodges, along with his brothers and sisters all got married, had children and their kids became as attached to Seaside as their parents and grandparents had.
Asked what one thing always comes to mind when he thinks of their visits to Seaside, Hodges says it’s the glorious sunsets. “I never tire of sitting at the Tupelo Pavilion with a glass of wine to watch the sun go down. In the beginning it was with my mom and dad, now my children. It’s cathartic for me,” he says. In 2013, the Hodges re-named the cottage Forever Mary, in honor of their sister who passed away. “It just felt like the right thing to do to honor our sister, knowing how much she loved this cottage and Seaside,” says Hodges.
The Barons, Nancy and Michael, were also early adopters of the Seaside lifestyle. In 1989, they purchased a vacant lot on Odessa Street and built Nancy’s Fancy. “Our family loved coming to Seaside every opportunity we got,” she says. The Barons owned their cottage until 2002 when they sold it. “Our two daughters were nearly grown, beginning their own adult lives and travelling the world; it just seemed that the time had come to sell the house that held so many memories. It was a hard decision for us, but we found our time consumed elsewhere. Upon reflection, it seemed like every time we came, the world was just a little more peaceful. Our pace of life slowed, our family grew closer and of course our love for the area grew beyond what we had ever imagined. I remember upon arrival we would always see who could spot the Seaside water tower first. Simple things like going to a movie at Perspicasity or walks on the beach, all created such precious memories. I never forgot that,” she reflects.
Even though the Barons sold their home, Seaside remained in their heart. So much so, that when their grandchildren came along it just made sense to come back to Seaside. “We wanted our children to experience Seaside as parents and of course our darling grandkids to be part of something that their parents had experienced growing up. Remarkably, the Barons walked into Seaside Realty one day to see Donna Spiers, the real estate agent who sold them their original lot. “We were interested to see what was available and we found out that the house across the street from our former home on Odessa Street had just gone on the market. Coincidentally, that was the lot that Michael and I had originally wanted to buy years before,” Baron relates. It was a quick decision to purchase. Now, when the Barons are in Seaside you will often find Nancy’s mother, who is 92, with the Baron family, representing four generations and still making memories.
Jacky Barker, Seaside’s other real estate expert, says these stories are representative of Seaside. The town now has as many as four generations of a family, all experiencing an almost indescribable lifestyle. “When we first began selling lots and getting to know our buyers and their families, I just knew there was something special about this piece of land. Communities come out of the ground across America every week. Very few are able to become what Seaside is today. It’s hard to describe, but you see it on the faces of young and old alike. It’s a place to become refreshed and to renew the kid in you, if only for a little while, during your stay with us,” she says.