Back in the 1970’s my aunt from Michigan use to refer to her living room sofa as “the davenport,” to which I was always invited to engage in massive hug sessions before I went to bed on my visits to her during the holidays. It was a word that was popular in 19th & 20th centuries. It was popular too when the town of Davenport, Florida, was formally established over a 100 years ago.
Before I found out that this tiny, un-city-like City of Davenport was not named after what we know today as sofas, I thought it was a comfortable, inviting, quirky and positively kitsch kind of town: simple lived-in and spiced with a quilt-like array of home styles, like my aunt’s living room decorations in rural Muskegon.
Davenport’s a mix of old and new that all looks pretty well together. Old houses mixed with new one. Oldie quirks such as when the cows got loose from a local farm and took over Suwannee. Or, this morning, saying hello to a thin gentleman in white pants and a hot pink shirt topped with a black, wide-rimmed hat, a cigarillo in his mouth, coffee in his other hand riding down Suwannee on a tall bike.
Besides an old and a new, Davenport is a community of two’s in almost every way. There’s the vast Disney-oriented new section separated from the historically weathered old section. There’s its railroad that cuts the town in two. There’s the fact that this little Mayberry is located smack dab in the middle between two of the world’s longest beach coasts.
Then there’s the division between the actual city and the area that the local post office calls Davenport, an unincorporated area of north-east Polk County, which has always been a conundrum for locals. Is this Davenport? No, it’s Polk? Is this Polk? No, it’s Davenport.
Most people, when you ask them where in the world is Davenport, they tell you, “Iowa.” not knowing that there is this other Davenport that is nowhere near as large as the Davenport in Iowa, but nonetheless brimming with increasing community pride, resilience against super-storms and hurricanes, and as old-fashioned Florida, as Davenport, Iowa, is old-fashioned farming and corn fields.
I visited Iowa in 2016 and noticed that many of the homes there are similar to homes in Florida’s Davenport. My home, for example, is red-roofed on top of a white structure, the common home fashion in Iowa.
Iowa’s Davenport is also bustling with upscale, well-paying industries, with an average annual salary in excess of $12,000 more than anything you’d find in the job market in Florida’s Davenport. It’s also a much bigger with a population of over 102,000 compared to our little Mayberry’s measly 4,000.
It’s worth to note that their success is what would make a relationship between Mayberry and the big Davenport in the North worth our while. Imagine a sister-city setup where Iowa helps us figure out how to increase wages, setup local public transportation, and make the businesses on Rts. 17/92 ones we can boast about. It’s a one-way thought, but if a relationship builds, we can find out what we can do for them too.
 While “sister cities” are normally international in nature, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be done on the US mainland.
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