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A Rich History

Spruce Creek:  A Rich History written by Bob Gandt

In a long ago era, before airplanes and automobiles, the place we know as Spruce Creek was a secluded glade beside a picturesque Florida stream. A village flourished on the site at one time, but nothing remains today except a cemetery with century-old headstones. Now Civil war veterans and their families lie here beside their modern counterparts, mute witnesses to a rich past.

WW2 Navy Field Samsula, Florida
It took a war—and the urgent need for planes and pilots—to transform the marshy Spruce Creek flatland into an airfield. In 1942 the U. S. Navy was hurriedly constructing training fields throughout the eastern half of Florida, including a base at DeLand, Florida for pilots learning to fly the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Outlying airfields were built at nearby New Smyrna and Samsula for the fledgling Navy pilots to practice take offs and landings.

The wartime field at Samsula, which eventually took the name Spruce Creek, had a single building and a control tower, with no permanent staff. The main northeast-southwest runway was joined by an “X” of two intersecting runways and another perpendicular north-south runway, providing four suitable surfaces for training regardless of the wind direction.

With the end of the war, the Samsula airfield was deactivated. Unlike the DeLand and Daytona Beach and New Smyrna fields, which were acquired by their adjoining communities as municipal airports, the remote Samsula airport had no takers. Over the years the unused airfield was the subject of various proposals, including becoming the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but none of the plans materialized. The city of Daytona Beach acquired the field in 1957 for development as an industrial park, but once again nothing came of the scheme. Meanwhile the runways found use by drag racers, go-cart drivers, model airplane flyers, and, probably, drug traffickers.

Spruce creek as envisioned in 1969In 1969 a group called Fly-In Concept, Inc., headed by a World War II Navy pilot and entrepreneur named McKinley “Mac” Conway, bought the property with the intention of developing a fly-in recreational facility. Before the development got off the ground, it fell victim to the economic downturn of the 1970s. Another developer, Jay Thompson of Thompson Properties Inc. of Florida, acquired the property in the late 1970s and began a more ambitious project—an upscale community that would encompass not only around the airport but an exclusive new country club and golf course.

Like the pieces of a sprawling mosaic, the community that would be Spruce Creek emerged, a phase at a time. The original northeast-southwest surface became the main runway, while another was turned into a taxiway and commercial avenue called Cessna Boulevard. The upper portion of the north-south runway became the taxiway known as Beech Boulevard.

From the original eight home sites on Lindy Loop, the community continued to grow, expanding to approximately 1,800 homes and 600 hangars. The country club blossomed into a facility with a modern club house, dining rooms, bar and lounge, fitness center, pool, tennis courts, and an 18-hole championship golf course that wends like a green belt through the heart of the community.

Today, the transformation is nearly complete. Almost all the available building lots have been developed. From Conway’s original vision of a rustic fly-in recreational facility, Spruce Creek has metamorphosed into its present day form—the most successful and prestigious residential air park in the world.

 

More about Author, Aviator & Adventurer Bob Gandt:http://www.gandt.com/

 

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Anne Busse-Gandt
Broker/Team Leader
204 Cessna Blvd.

Daytona Beach, FL 32128
386-756-6105
Anne.sprucecreek@gmail.com

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