The Story of Lehigh Acres is sad and uniquely American. In the 1950s, Businessmen Gerald Gould and Lee Ratner (who got rich selling D-Con rat poison) divided up a huge stretch of land in southern Florida, owned by Ratner, into tiny half-acre parcels that they then sold to Northerners for low, low prices. At ten bucks down and ten a month, it seemed like a bargain; however, there was no infrastructure in place (schools, roads, running water) and very few houses were built. Many lots were resold when checks stopped coming in, and the place was still pretty barren by the ’80s.
When the real estate boom of the late ’90s began, however, hundreds of cheap, quick houses started flying up on those old lots that baby boomers had inherited from their gullible parents. Far, far too many houses to actually meet the demand to live there. And when the real estate bubble popped, the suburbs of Lehigh Acres became a veritable ghost town.
There are many blocks with only one or two occupied houses, many with none at all. Plants, flowers and alligators rule over this vast, empty suburban skeleton; one can easily imagine that they are in an alternate universe where the Cold War turned out a bit differently.