Spring Hill turns 50

It has been 50 years since the founding of Spring Hill. Spring Hill's grand opening took place on April 30th, 1967. The president of the Deltona Corporation Frank L. Mackle Jr., presented the official dedication speech. He spoke about how he looked forward to the future of the development "with Excitement." According to Frank E. Mackle III around that time "Deltona Lakes and Marco Island were still in their early stages of development and sales and the main thrust of Deltona's land planners and land development team was on the new community of Spring Hill." Spring Hill was designed to appeal to retirees with its affordable prices.

The advertising of Spring Hill was innovative from using folksy salesman like Don McNeill to the annual chicken plucking contest, the marketing department was creative. The Deltona Corporation was growing rapidly. They grew to sixty nine franchise offices spread throughout the United States with branch offices in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Frankfurt Germany. In addition they had offices in Latin America, Western Europe and the Far East.

Elliot T. Mackle Feb. 9, 2017 Brooksville Sun Journal

The Deltona Corp. was run by the Mackle Brothers: Frank Jr., Elliott, and Robert. The first plats of Spring Hill were approved by the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners on February 9, 1967 and consisted of 1,213 lots near Hunters Lake which ranged in size from several acres to 75’ x 100’. Waterlines were being installed and a couple miles of roads had been put in at that time. The roads were built with a “soil cement base,” covered by 1 inch of asphalt. The Sun-Journal reported that is type of road construction was the first of its kind in Hernando County, but was becoming more common throughout Florida. Elliott Mackle said that it would be hard to say, but they were hoping to develop at least 8 to 10 more plats. Within 10 years, Spring Hill would encompass 21,070 acres with 31,900 homesites in the master plan.

Brooksville Sun Journal April 16, 1967.  "From afar the crowd of Hernando Countians and visiting Miamians spreads around the patio and swimming pool area at the Weeki Wachee Holiday inn. Occasion is the cocktail party before the banquet honoring Hernando county officials.  Hosts were the Mackle brothers, developers of Spring Hill.  The big announcement was that Spring Hill will open Sunday April 30."

A year after Spring Hill opened, the Mackles were in the news again. This time it was for an unfortunate event. Barbara Mackle the daughter of Robert was kidnapped while attending Emory University. This was a high profile case involving hundreds of FBI agents. The first ransom drop of $500,000 was disrupted when a police car drove by and the kidnappers fled. The second ransom drop was successful and the kidnappers provided vague direction to the location where Barbara was held. Barbara was found alive after being buried in a fiberglass reinforced box for 84 hours in the hills in the outskirts of Atlanta.

The grand opening of Spring Hill was held by the Spring Hill waterfall. Cars were parked along Spring Hill Drive which was then called Spring Hill Boulevard. At the time, they predicted that Spring Hill would one day be home to 50,000 people. Today the area called Spring Hill enclosed by US 19 to the west, Suncoast Expressway to the east, County Line Road to the south and State Rd 50 to the north is home to over 100,000 people. Roughly 98,000 people were counted in the 2010 census.

Spring Hill Brochure, 1969 Aerial showing homes surrounding Hunters Lake.

According to the Sun Journal, the opening of Spring Hill was attended by between 15,000 and 20,000 people. An official count of 4,000 cars was made.

Children's program at Little Red Schoolhouse, 1971 Mackle Brothers brochure

The Sun Journal distributed several thousand copies of a special Spring Hill Edition of their paper at the event. They wrote in an article on April 13th, 1967, “Tentative plans call for a press run of at least 25,000 copies of the newspaper, which no doubt will make it the biggest circulation weekly newspaper in the state, probably during all of 1967.” A Sun Journal spokesman said, “April 30th will be a big day for the Mackle brothers and for Hernando county.”

A few years before the Mackles opened Spring Hill, they displayed their Mackle built Florida home at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York. Florida was well represented at the World’s Fair with a sizable exhibit, there was even a water ski show. The Mackles spent over $100,000 to build their home at the New York World's Fair, which they were selling for under $12,000 in Florida. The cost of building in New York was significantly higher.

Frank Mackle III stated that the "Sales of home sites at Spring Hill went at a record pace and the 28,500 platted lots were essentially sold out in three years." Over the next 50 years the area known as Spring Hill has grown into Hernando County's most populous census-designated area. Spring Hill holds more than half the residents in the county.
From Brooksville Sun Journal Jan. 19, 1967.  The construction of "Spring Hill Blvd," now Spring Hill Dr.

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