Lee Irby


In 1953, Fred Wilder, a World War II veteran from Ohio, arrived in St. Petersburg and look possession of four acres of land on Sixth Street South. Wilder intended to open a trailer park and live on site with his family, taking advantage of the second-generation mobile homes that offered modern amenities, especially for retirees. He began clearing the land so that, by 1954, he could take in his first residents. Renting lots of thirty-three by fifty-two feet, Wilder charged twenty dollars per month, which included water, sewer, and garbage collection. By May 1957, Wilder's Trailer park reached full occupancy. Of the first park residents, nine out of ten were senior citizens. The genesis of Wilder's Park embodies the dramatic demographic shifts that changed Florida's political, economic, and social landscapes in the postwar era, In droves, older Americans migrated to Florida to retire, often living on fixed incomes in the most affordable housing: mobile homes. In St. Petersburg, this choice of lifestyle precipitated a full scale politcal war that revealed biases against trailerites, often older widows living alone. How the trailerites fought back in turn demonstrated the emerging political clout of retirees in Florida.