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The community of Perdido Key is located on the west side of the key, just south of Escambia Bay. The area was first settled in 1822 by John Gantt, who built a plantation house near what is now known as "the lighthouse." The name "Perdido" (Spanish for "lost") came from a shipwreck that occurred off the coast in 1820. In 1886, Henry Ladd Smith bought land at Perdido Pass and built a home there which still stands today and has been designated as an historic site by both Alabama and Florida. He also established one of America's earliest automobile dealerships there with his partner William S. Mayo; their company later became General Motors Corporation. The town grew slowly until after World War II when returning soldiers were given GI loans to buy homes along this stretch of beachfront property.