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Retire in Port St. Joe, Florida?
Overview: Rural, low key Port St. Joe, nestled along St. Joseph Bay on Florida's eastern Panhandle, stands where the "lost city on the bay," St. Joseph, once stood. In the 1840s, St. Joseph was Florida's largest population center, a boom town known for its prosperity and raucous ways.
Legend says that St. Joseph was so wicked and wild that God summoned a plague (yellow fever) and a great storm (a hurricane) to destroy it. In the early-1900s, Port St. Joe took St. Joseph's place and eventually grew into a mill town owned in large part by the St. Joe Paper Company. The large paper mill was sold in 1996, closed in 1998 and torn down by 2003. Today, Port St. Joe is a fishing hub, and since it is traversed by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a deep water port as well. Pleasure watercraft traveling between Brownsville, Texas and the Panhandle regularly stop in for food and supplies.
The town has two traffic lights, five parks, a small town square and a pretty marina with waterfront restaurants. A Piggly Wiggly is the primary grocery and a popular gathering spot. The Saturday morning SaltAir Farmers' Market boasts fresh seafood and produce. Gulf Coast Community College has a good menu of classes and presents concerts, plays, musicals and art shows.
The St. Joseph Bay Country Club has 18 holes of golf, and WindMark Beach, which was developed by the St. Joe Company, is an upscale master-planned community with condos and single family homes. It stands just northwest of downtown where the old Port St. Joe Paper Mill once was. Residences outside of Windmark include bungalows, ranch ramblers, stilt homes and more.
Population: 3,500 (city proper)
Percentage of Population Age 45 or Better: 44%
Cost of Living: Meets the national average
Median Home Price: $250,000
Climate: This area has a humid subtropical climate, meaning two seasons a year. Summer and early fall are hot and humid. Late fall and winter are less humid and cooler.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? Yes
At Least One Accredited by Joint Commission? Yes
Public Transit: No
Crime Rate: Meets the national average
Public Library: Yes
Political Leanings: Very, very conservative
Is Florida Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Cons: This area is susceptible to hurricanes and was struck by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. In 2018, Hurricane Michael caused significant damage, flooding homes, tearing off roofs and sinking fishing boats. Parts of town are still rebuilding and may be for some time. Port St. Joe is losing population, about 2% in the last decade. The loss rate is, however, slowing. For years the area was home to four chemical processing plants, and some old worksites have been found to have asbestos.
Notes: Amenities are limited. The St. Joe Company still owns a lot of the surrounding land and may develop it. The town is racially diverse, and church attendance is high. The only signs of old St. Joseph are found in the cemetery ruins. Beautiful St. Joseph State Park, one of the best beaches in the nation, full of wildlife and nearly empty stretches of white sand, was severly damaged during Hurricane Michael. It is, though, undergoing restoration.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Sticking out into Hurricane Alley, Florida was a land no nation seemed to want. Ruled successively by Spain, France, England, and the Confederate States of America, the state had a backwater reputation. Other than St. Augustine and Pensacola, there were few cities. The area was rural and populated by frontier farmers.
In the late-1800s, changes came when railroads began chugging down both coasts. Industrialist Henry Flagler's Florida Easy Coast Railway even made it all the way to Key West. The Great Florida Land Boom, the build-up to World War II, and the space industry also helped turn Florida into one of the nation's most populous states. In 1900, there were about 500,000 residents. Today, there are more than 20 million, almost 351 people per square mile.
Why do people keep coming? Tourism marketing is one reason. Annually, millions visit Orlando's theme parks and the state's 663 miles of white sand beaches. Taxes generated by the billion dollar vacation industry allow Florida to prosper without a personal income tax. Budget-sensitive retirees have flocked to its cities and shorelines.
If you can ignore the hurricanes, the state's climate is relatively mild. Only five other states are sunnier. Florida's system of state universities and community colleges is sizable, and its big cities are meccas for culture and the arts. Sarasota is a good example. Its Ringling Museum Complex contains internationally known art museum, a circus museum, an historic theater, and a 66-acre garden. Museums near Orlando range from a Zora Neale Hurston gallery to a Madame Tussauds.
Population - 20,612,439
Persons 65 years old and over - 20%
High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 87%
Bachelor's degree or higher, persons age 25+ - 27%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 24%
White persons, not Hispanic - 58%
Median household income - $47,525
Median home value - $159,900
Social Security taxed? No
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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