In 1968, the United States was in the throes of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon was elected President, and Spring Hill was established. It is hard to imagine how the mega land developer, Deltona Corporation, would choose to develop this specific piece of Florida.
The Mackle Brothers created the Deltona Corporation to build their Florida communities. They created the name Deltona by combining Daytona and Delray. It was through Deltona Corporation that Spring Hill, an unincorporated area of Hernando County between Clearwater and Brooksville, was planned and built.
Frank Mackle, III, explained Spring Hill’s location, “Between Clearwater and Brooksville were miles and miles of raw land: gently rolling, oak tree covered and lake dotted.” So the western portion of Hernando County was converted to the unincorporated census tract we know today. It was the Mackles’ third Deltona Corporation community.
The Mackles began building Florida homes in 1938. By 1954, they had built over 10,000 houses in the Miami-Dade area. They were pioneers in selling Florida land through General Development Corporation, advertising that “for $10 down and $10/month, you could own a piece of the Florida dream.” It was to this end that they began developing planned communities after WWII.
The Mackle brothers, Frank Jr., Robert and Elliott, purchased 21,440 acres of land for their newest community. In typical Deltona fashion, they master-planned for 15,000 acres and left the rest as “inventory.”
In the master plan for Spring Hill were seven school sites, 23 church sites, 500 acres of commercial-business property, and 165 acres for future industrial development. Two golf courses and two housing cores were included.
At the time of the opening, Deltona Corp. had built 5 miles of roads, 15 model homes, an administrative building, a sales office and a water and sewage system and not much more.
At the entrance to this grand community, Deltona Corporation constructed a park that featured a beautiful waterfall fountain with 3 large flagpoles to welcome prospective buyers.
Spring Hill opened to huge crowds in May of 1967. Sales of home sites went at a record pace and the 28,500 platted lots were essentially sold out in three years!
Fifty years later, Spring Hill has changed dramatically. The Deltona Corporation’s sales office has been converted into smaller offices and the brick pillars which once bordered the park are still there, but they look out of place along the easement of US 19. I would guess that the ropes or boards that once made a quaint fence have long rotted away in Florida’s hot sun and wicked rainstorms.
Most of the Spring Hill homes that Deltona Corporation built are 2 bedroom, 1 ½ bath structures with a single car garage, targeting the limited-income retiree. In the 1980s, many of these homes were remarketed to Pinellas County dwellers – again, as a low-cost alternative.
Today, most developers have models on Spring Hill drive, and they are more likely to be 3BR-2BA. There are newer master-planned communities and larger lots.
The intersection of Spring Hill Drive and US19 is still marked by the same beautiful waterfall today, but by 2011, it had fallen into disrepair. No longer did the letters sparkle or the water flow.
Hernando County Parks Department had cared for the landmark off and on since the 1980s. 2011 was a horrific budget year for Parks and Rec and the decision was made to cease its maintenance. There was concern over the Waterfall sitting idle and its working parts ceasing up.
Hernando County tried to get Withlacoochee River Electric Coop to step in and repair the electric, but they were turned down. There was public outcry that the Spring Hill would lose its main landmark. But what to do?
The Spring Hill Garden Club took on the project of restoring and maintaining the Waterfall. It was costly and labor-intensive. The Club’s members began with a “Save the Waterfall” rally in January 2011.
In response, the community came together with donation drives and fundraisers to ensure necessary repairs would be made and operation of the waterfall continue. Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative came out and repaired the electric, installing lights to illuminate the flagpoles at night with some of the proceeds. Area businesses, as well as individual residents, worked together, raising money for this community cause.
Within a few months, the waterfall was refurbished and operating! In 2014, the Garden Club returned its maintenance to Hernando County.
The landscaping has stayed under the willing hands of the Spring Hill Garden Club, operating out of the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens, 1489 Parker Avenue. There are 21 themed gardens which the Garden Club maintains.
If you would like to help with maintaining the Spring Hill waterfall landscaping, please gather with the members on location Saturday mornings. Everyone is welcome, no experience necessary!