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How it Started: The Villages, Florida

How it Started: The Villages, Florida

Golf Cart Stuff Senior Content Writer
Amber Ripley
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Florida's Friendliest Hometown, The Villages, is a vibrant retirement paradise celebrated for its love of golf carts, Florida sunsets, and a lifestyle that feels like "Disneyland for Adults." But do you know the fascinating story of how this sprawling retirement haven came into existence? Let's delve into the remarkable journey of H. Gary Morse, the mastermind behind this one-of-a-kind golf cart-obsessed community.

H. Gary Morse, Founder of The villages, Florida

Modest Mobile Homes to Marvelous Mansions

Back in 1983, The Villages was just a twinkle in Morse's eye when he arrived in Central Florida to assist his father, Harold Schwartz, who had recently acquired a small mobile home park known as Orange Blossom Gardens. With only 386 mobile homes, a modest clubhouse, and a few shuffleboard courts, the community struggled to attract buyers.

Morse, armed with his expertise in advertising and marketing, took on the challenge with unwavering enthusiasm. He relocated his family to Central Florida and embarked on a mission to transform the community into what we now know as The Villages. Pools, golf courses, and recreational activities soon emerged, and by the end of 1983, 99 homes were sold, followed by 277 more in 1984.

Morse Family - The Villages, Florida

Morse's journey wasn't without its share of challenges. In its early days, money was tight, and Morse did whatever it took to pay the bills. With the support of trusted friends like John Parker and Rick Murray, he navigated these tough times. Parker became the highest-ranking non-family member in the company, and Murray oversaw home construction until his retirement. Even Harold Schwartz, Morse's father, pledged to cover bills when the community faced a potential financial shortfall during a construction boom.

One of Morse's most significant accomplishments was transitioning from mobile homes to site-built houses. He not only oversaw the transition but also helped the existing home builders establish their successful construction businesses. This transition laid the foundation for The Villages' remarkable growth.

 The Villages, Florida Founder Morse

As legends have it, Morse once sketched his vision for Spanish Springs Town Square on a napkin during dinner with his wife, Sharon, and some guests. This drawing became the blueprint for Spanish Springs and remained relatively unchanged from the original concept.

Public Figures and Politics

Apart from his role in developing The Villages, Morse was a prominent figure in American politics, known for his unwavering support of the Republican Party. He maintained a close relationship with President George W. Bush and earned the elite "Ranger" status on Bush's re-election donor list, having contributed over $200,000 to the campaign. The Villages became a must-visit destination for GOP candidates during election seasons, with prominent figures like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, and many others making campaign stops.

Jeb Bush George W Bush visit The Villages, Florida

Conservative TV commentators, too, flocked to The Villages during Morse's tenure. Glenn Beck made multiple appearances, "Fox & Friends" broadcasted live from Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, and Sean Hannity's show aired live from "Florida's Friendliest Hometown."

Healthcare in The Villages, Florida

Morse's commitment to healthcare was also evident. He created a primary-care-focused healthcare system, The Villages Health, designed to prevent health issues and maintain residents' well-being while keeping healthcare costs low. His vision was to create "America's Healthiest Hometown" in The Villages and provide friendly, long-term relationships between doctors and patients, prioritizing quality over quantity in healthcare services.

The Villages Golf Carts

Golf Carts of The Villages

In The Villages, Florida, golf carts aren't just a mode of transportation; they're a way of life. These compact, eco-friendly vehicles have become an integral part of the community's identity. With over 80 miles of dedicated golf cart paths meandering through pristine neighborhoods, bustling town squares, and lush golf courses, residents and visitors alike can effortlessly zip around the community in style. The distinctive hum of electric motors and the sight of colorful, customized golf carts are a constant presence in this retirement haven.

Whether it's a quick trip to the local grocery store, a leisurely cruise to a live music performance, or a scenic tour of the beautifully landscaped streets, golf carts offer a unique and convenient means of getting around, fostering a sense of camaraderie among the residents and contributing to The Villages' unmistakable charm.

Long Live the Legacy

Morse's legacy continues to shape The Villages today, but it has evolved beyond his initial vision. While he once promised to halt expansion at State Road 44, subsequent county commissions encouraged further development. This led to the creation of the Village of Fenney, the Villages of Southern Oaks, and additional parcels of land near Leesburg.

The Villages Florida Buffalo

The Villages of today may differ from what Morse knew, but it continues to thrive and expand, embodying his dreams of an active, engaged, and vibrant community. Morse's passing in 2014 left behind a lasting legacy, and his family's commitment to his vision ensures that The Villages remains Florida's Friendliest Hometown, beloved for its golf carts, sunshine, and much more.


Golf Cart Stuff Helpful Blog Content WritingWhat would you get if you crossed a scientist and a golf cart? It would be our Senior Content Writer, Amber Ripley! If you have a question, she knows how to research to bring you the information you need. Before joining the ranks at Golf Cart Stuff™, Amber was in sales and marketing for industrial tool and die products, so digging into all the nitty gritty, technical details about Golf Carts is par for the course… In the words of a famous songwriter: “If you got a problem, Yo! She’ll solve it!”


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