The Best Historic Neighborhoods in Florida

These historic neighborhoods are particularly noteworthy for their architecture, sense of community and overall livability.

April 2, 2012
Thornton Park in Orlando

Orlando: Thornton Park

The food culture in this neighborhood is anything but ordinary—Thornton Park sits on the edge of the Mills 50 district—a cultural melting pot inspiring many local hot spots and its thriving restaurant scene. Zach Stovall

Thornton Park

The city of Orlando currently has six local historic districts. The most popular among them is Thornton Park, a revitalized community of residences, restaurants, salons and boutiques that celebrates the area’s historic nature while cultivating a hip, contemporary appeal. Styles of homes range from 1920s bungalows to Craftsman-style structures to Tudor Revivals, all of them lining renovated brick streets with pristine landscaping.

Gillespie Park in Sarasota

Sarasota: Gillespie Park

Gillespie Park is home to young professionals as well as empty nesters, plus the celebrated Honeygo Park, a 10-acre green space where locals gather for neighborhood brunches, outdoor concerts and afternoon strolls. Zach Stovall

Gillespie Park

Gillespie Park was originally planned as an experimental farm to champion agriculture in 1886 for the then-new city of Sarasota, but when its soil proved inhospitable to crops, it was platted as a city subdivision in 1917. Today, this recently rejuvenated community—one of three historic downtown neighborhoods undergoing city-sponsored revitalization efforts envisioned by the renowned New Urbanist Andres Duany—is a charming collection of colorfully restored cottages and bungalows built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s as well as a few midcentury ranch houses.

Flamingo Park in West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach: Flamingo Park

“We are a real old-fashioned neighborhood,” gushes Margee Yansura, president of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association. Impromptu gatherings happen almost nightly in a rotating collection of front yards. Jon Whittle

Flamingo Park

Flamingo Park, just a short stroll from downtown West Palm Beach and the waterfront, is reclaiming its identity as a cherished and celebrated historic community defined by a well-balanced diversity of homes: ranchers, bungalows and, of course, 1920s structures influenced by the Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Mission-style resorts of architectural darling Addison Mizner. In fact, many of the homes have made it onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Apalachicola in North Florida

North Florida: Apalachicola

There are no big-box stores in Apalachicola, no noise, no traffic and absolutely no structures, restored or new, that rise more than three stories. What’s more is that because Apalachicola is bordered by waterways and national forests, urban sprawl is nonexistent. Jon Whittle


With some 900 historic listings, including homes, churches and businesses, Apalachicola, or Apalach as the locals call it, has garnered a reputation for being a beautifully and painstakingly preserved area. In 2008, it was named a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. But the architecture, which ranges from small cottages to Victorian manses constructed of heart pine or cypress with nary a slab of Sheetrock to be found, is not the only thing residents are committed to maintaining in Apalachicola. The pristine bay and the character of this small, close-knit community are of equal import to the people here.

Coconut Grove in Miami

Miami: Coconut Grove

The Grove is home to nearly 2,400 residents, among them artists, writers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, activists and hippies. The architecture of this approximately 10-square-mile neighborhood is even as diverse as its residents Diane Bradford

Coconut Grove

It all started with Coconut Grove. From this first settled community in Miami-Dade, a whole county grew. The Tequesta Indians were the first to arrive and later came the Bahamians, who chose this lush vegetated paradise as a place to plant roots. They were followed by Northerners seeking a warm escape from harsh winters. And so the story goes. Today, some of the city’s oldest structures still remain treasured, evidence of Coconut Grove’s important historic past. The Barnacle House, for instance, the oldest home in Dade County, was the residence of Ralph Munroe, one of South Florida’s original pioneers. City Hall is currently housed in the former headquarters of Pan American World Airways, which was founded here to shuttle passengers to and from Cuba and the Caribbean.


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