History of Tarpon Springs, Florida (2024)


This page was last revised on Jan. 6, 2020.

1848. Lake Butler is named in honor of Col. Robert Butler, Florida’s firstsurveyor general. [The name was changed to Lake Tarpon in 1949 because ofconfusion with the town of Lake Butler in Bradford County.]

1852. A man named Walter Lowe goes in the schooner Chestnut to Anclote Key and in severaldays secures a cargo of sponges. They brought such a profit that other men embarked in the business.This might be considered the birth of the sponge industry of Florida. [From an 1892 newspaper article.]

1872. The earliest burial at Cycadia Cemetery is C. L. Webster, prior to formalestablishment of the cemetery, according to a history of the cemetery. There is a marker for C. L. Webster, 1856-1872.

1876. A. W. Ormond builds the first house in Tarpon Springs, according to an obituary of son-in-law J. C. Boyer.

1877. Joshua C. Boyer (1851-1933) is the second person to settle in Tarpon Springs, accordingto an obituary. He was marriedto Mary Ormond Boyer (1852- ? ), daughter of A. W. Ormond.However, another Boyer obituary has: “In 1882, one year after A. W. Ormond built the firsthouse in this section, Boyer settled here. He operated a ferry between Tampa and Cedar Keys.Later he married May Ormond, who is credited with naming this city. Her father, after foundingthis city, moved to the east coast and founded Ormond Beach.”

1877. Landscape painter George Inness comes to Tarpon Springs, which becomes his winter home.According to History of Tarpon Springs by Robert Franklin Pent, “In 1875 George Inness, a famous American artist, discovered thescenic beauties of Tarpon which he and his son, George, Junior, later depicted in their paintings.”

April 14, 1877. Joshua C. Boyer marries Mary Ormond in Tampa.

Dec. 4, 1878. The Bay St. Joseph post office is established, with James C. Craven as postmaster.[The original location may have been near where Tarpon Springs was established.The post office moved and changed names. An 1881 publication shows William Saunders as the postmaster of Bay St. Joseph. On Aug. 3, 1882, the name was changed to Yellow Bluff.On Jan. 30, 1888, the name was changed to Sutherland.]

1880. Mary Boyer gives the town its name,Tarpon Springs, according to the recollection of her husband, Joshua C.Boyer. Another source says she suggested the name in 1879. (Some believe Joshua actuallysuggested the name.)

1880. Hamilton Disston purchases four million acres of the central west coast of Florida. The purchase includes Tarpon Springs.

Nov. 9, 1882. The Weekly Tribune reports:

Tarpon Springs are a cluster of beautiful springs, or more properly, small boiling lakessituated almost two miles distant from the Gulf on the Anclote River.

These springs take their name from the fact of their being the feeding ground of a largesea fish called the tarpon.

The future city of Tarpon Springs will be built on the beautiful pine and oak shaded hills whichsurround these springs.

The land is already laid off in lots, and eleven avenues are now being cut, all of which will unitedirectly or indirectly at the site of the new city.

A first-class hotel with accommodations for one hundred guests will be opened by the firstof January, and every arrangement is being made to supply the table (?) with every delicacy of sea andforest.

Dec. 10, 1882. A newspaper reports, quoting the Florida Times:

Though twelve months ago the land at Tarpon Springs could be bought for $1.25 per acre,they now readily command $40 an acre in lots and are being bought up by parties from the North wishing to establish winter homes in theSouth, and English families have purchased lands and are rapidly improving the locality. The railroad, now some fifty miles distant,is expected to reach the town in about eighteen months. A $50,000 hotel is being erected.

1883. Anson P. K. Safford and family move to Tarpon Springs. He was a partner in the Lake Butler Villa Company. His sister, Mary J. Safford,was a homeopathic physician.

1883. The Tropical Hotel and Tarpon Hotel are built. [The Tropical Hotel was later renamed The Ferns.]

Oct. 22, 1883. A newspaper reports, “Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, and Tampa, Florida, are becomingfavorite winter resorts for Northern people.”

Nov. 7, 1883. The Tarpon Springs post office is established. [The first postmaster was Edward A. Blum.According to History of Tarpon Springs, the post office was located between Anthony Proesto’s realestate office and the Sylvania Motel on West Tarpon Ave.Early postmasters:Edward A. Blum, 7 Nov 1883;Silas Merrick Whitcomb, 27 Nov 1885;Wilber F. DeGolier, 12 May 1892;John J. Hope, 15 Feb 1894;Ernest L. De Long, 1 Mar 1895;John C. Beekman, 3 May 1901; Charles F. Drexel, 14 Mar 1898;Nellie De Land Drexel, 5 May 1900;George F. Fernald, 7 Sep 1901;George F. Fernald, 29 Jan 1907;John C. Beekman, 14 Mar 1907.A 1907 listing showed that John C. Beekman was postmaster and Miss Mary E. Craver was assistant postmaster.]

Dec. 16, 1883. An advertisem*nt for Mark’s Hotel appears in the New York Herald:

MARK’S HOTEL, entirely new, Tarpon Springs, Hillsborough county, Florida. Post office address, Tarpon Springs.All rail by Pennsylvania railroad to Cedar Keys, then by steamer daily to Anclote Also by Mallory steamers to Fernandina, then by railroad to Cedar Keysand steamer to Anclote. Now open. H. L. SCRANTON, Proprietor.

1884. The first Tarpon Springs newspaper reports several black dances, with Handy Williams playing the fiddle and John Hayes the tambourine [Tarpon SpringsFlorida: The Early Years]

Feb. 17, 1884. The New York Times carries the following advertisem*nt:“TARPON SPRINGS HOTEL.—ENTIRELY new, Tarpon Springs, Hillsborough County,Florida; all rail by Pennsylvania Railroad to Cedar Keys, also by Mullory Steamersto Ferdinan, then by railroad to Cedar Keys, and steamer to Tarpon Springs, daily.H. L. SCRANTON, Proprietor.”

Oct. 1884. The body of J. A. Buckner, editor of the Gulf Coast Heraldof Tarpon Springs, is found in a bayou between Anclote and Tarpon Springs. He hadbeen murdered.

1885. Fourteen Universalists gather in a hall over a store to form a congregation with the Rev. Henry deLafayette Webster as its first minister.[By 1886 a small wooden church, the first in Tarpon Springs, was built on land donated by Anson P. K. Safford, a Universalist.The building was destroyed by fire in 1908 and in 1909 the present structure atGrand Boulevard and Read Street was erected. The congregation has at various times been named Church of the Good Shepherd,First Universalist Church, and Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs.Information from the web page http://www.uutarpon.org/history.htm.]

Dec. 3, 1885. The Olean Democrat reports, “C. E. Andrews and wife are keepinghouse at Tarpon Springs, Florida, where Mr. Andrews finds the climate delightful,and his health constantly improving.”

1886. John King Cheyney (1858-1939) comes to Tarpon Springs to manage family interests. [Or in 1889, according to his obituary.]

1886. The Tarpon, later the Tarpon Springs Truth, is founded by George Truax.[An 1895 newspaper mentioned the Tarpon Springs Truth, editor George N. Truax.An 1898 newspaper mentioned C. S. Polk, editor of the Tarpon Springs Truth.Another 1898 newspaper refers to the West Coast Truth.Rowell’s American Newspaper Directory (1898) has:“Florida West Coast Truth; Wednesdays; independent; four pages 18x24;subscription $1; established 1889; C. S. Polk, editor and publisher.”]

Mar. 10, 1886. The First Presbyterian Church of Tarpon Springs is organized, according toa 1936 newspaper article reporting on its 50th anniversary.

Dec. 2, 1886. The Bradford Daily Era reports, “Mr. and Mrs. P. L.Webster, Frank Webster, Elmer DeGolier and H. R. Blair, of this city, Samuel Snow, ofForestville, and G. Noblitt, of Warren, leave on the 5 o'clock train this morning forTarpon Springs and Cedar Keys, Fla.”

1887. Florida Facts Both Bright and Blue by Oliver Marvin Crosby has:

Further down on the coast is the thriving town of TARPON SPRINGS, which owes its life to ex-Gov. Safford, formerly ofArizona, whose home is here. Here is a large, first-class hotel; likewise many handsomehomes owned by wealthy Northern people. The Orange Belt Railroad is rapidlybeing pushed toward Tarpon, and may be there ere these lines are read, when,owing to the attractions of the place, its growth will be rapid. Here, too,is a beautiful spring, formerly a bayou with noble shores, which latter furnishchoice building sites.

1887. Oranges and Alligators: Sketches of South Florida Life by Iza Duffus Hardy (2nd ed.)has:

Tarpon Springs is a wonderful three-years child, it is hard to realise how thisbright flourishing little town can have sprung up in so short a time, where only three yearsbefore was a "forest primæval!" We have seen no prettier nor more promising young settlementin Florida—and certainly none more trim and neat. It is a bright, pure and wholesome-looking place,with its white fences, its broad, smooth sidewalks, its generally well-finished and cleanly air. It hasthree or four stores, three hotels, saw-mills, a blacksmith’s shop, a town-hall and of course a schoolhouse—whatAmerican settlement can be found without its school? ... The “Tarpon Springs Hotel” is a handsomebuilding, and in every way most comfortably appointed. In the evening walking on broad piazzas which surroundthe hotel, and looking out upon the twinkling lights of the town, the outlines of the houses in lamp- and star-light,it is like a dream to reflect that all this has risen where there was butuntrodden wilderness three short years ago. The situation of the town is nearly perfection as we can hope to findon this earth of ours. About a mile and a half to the west lies the Gulf of Mexico, whose waters runin winding creeks and inlets—called bayous—tothe wharf of Tarpon Springs, within a stone’s throw from the hotel. At the wharf are always to be found sailingand rowing boats in plenty; and every day the steamer Mary Disston built expressly to navigate theseshallow bayous, and plying between the Springs and the Gulf, anchors there. Here is the“spring-house,” a pretty, fanciful building, built over one of the springs of natural mineralwater claimed to be a panacea for many of the “ills that flesh is heir to.” The main venue leads fromthis bayou straight through the town and on to Lake Butler—a beautiful sheet of watersix miles long, whose pine-covered shores afford many picturesque and convenient sites forbuilding, and will doubtless within a few years be dotted with delightful winter homes.

Feb. 12, 1887. Tarpon Springs is incorporated with a population of 52. [Themeeting was held in the recently opened school house and33 of the 46 registered voters participated. Under the chairmanship ofEdward Newton Knapp, they elected Wilber F. DeGolier, a retiredbusinessman from Bradford, Pennsylvania, the mayor.The five aldermen were: Edward A. Blum, Joshua Boyer, Anson P. K.Safford, W. E. D. Scott, and Charles Dix Webster. G. H. Platt waselected marshal. Merrick Whitcomb was chosen Town Clerk. Whitcomb was ayoung Harvard graduate who later spent many years as head ofthe history department of the University of Cincinnati and wrotestories based on his life in Tarpon Springs.]

June 20, 1887. A newspaper reports, “The Duke of Sutherland has decided tosettle in Florida, having purchased a magnificent river front and forty acresof land at Tarpon Springs, where he will build a cottage to cost about $15,000,in which he will spend a couple of months every winter.”

Oct. 1887. Charles Perry Keeney (b. 1849) and his wife Viola Priscilla Keeney (1854-1937) and two daughtersarrive in Tarpon Springs, according to the Keeney Family Genealogy Page.

[According to Tarpon Springs Florida: The Early Years:

A lively and energetic lady was Mrs. John Beekman, who had come in the primitive days of 1886 with herailing first husband, Charles P. Keeney. Not all unmindful of the living, Mrs. Beekman’s main concernwas nevertheless that the dead of Tarpon Springs should rest in beauty. She cared for Cycadia Cemetery like a garden—itwas named for the cycad palms planted there by Mother Meres. Mrs. Beekman founded the Cycadia Cemetery Association,which owned and managed the burial ground.

According to a history of the cemetery, the land was donated by Viola Keeney Beekman in 1887.Viola married John Beekman on Oct. 17, 1892.According to the genealogy page, “When the great depression hit Florida in 1929 it left Viola Priscilla Beekman andher husband in bad financial shape. ... In 1930 they decided to leave Florida. The family home was given to the cityof Tarpon Springs for a park and library, for which it is still used in the memory of Viola Beekman.”]

Jan. 13, 1888. The Orange Belt Railway reaches Tarpon Springs.

Jan. 26, 1888. The Ohio Democrat reports:

At the head of the bayou is the steamboat landing, and leading from this is Tarpon avenue, extending as far out as Lake Butler, over the gently rolling lands covered with stately pines whose balsamic odor float in upon the town. The greater portion of the business houses of the town are located on this avenue. The Lake Butler Villa Company’s land office and the Bank of Tarpon Springs occupy one building, a neat two-story building. There are stores of all kinds where you can purchase almost anything you want. There are two hotels, the Tarpon Springs Hotel, a massive square building surrounded with broad verandas, handsomely furnished, well kept, and as good as any in the state, the Tropical, a long, low building, vine-clad and pretty, more modest than the Tarpon, but in its way quite as popular. In addition to the hotels there are several pleasant boarding houses. Board and room can be had at from $20 to $35 per month. The people have neglected neither school nor church. The school-house is a very neattwo-story structure, erected through the efforts of the ladies. For the past two years the school has been under the supervision of a lady from Boston. At present it is conducted by Miss Minne Proctor, a very amiable and esteemed young lady from Hillsdale, Mich. There was a great effort made to have two teachers during the present winter, but owing to the yellow fever scare which prevented a great number of tourists, who were expected, from coming, and also the disappointment in financial matters, the plan was not successful. It is expected before another winter rolls around that the town will have a graded school. There are two church buildings, the Universalist Church, and Presbyterian Chapel. Rev. H. J. Walker, P. E., from the St. John’s River Conference, was here the 8th and 9th, and assisted in the organization of a Methodist Episcopal Church, which will be in charge of Rev. L. S. Rader. Mr. Rader was sent to this place by the East Ohio Conference to do mission work and establish a Methodist Church. He came her in November and seems to be very successful in his work and well esteemed by all who know him. As the society is now organized, measures will be taken at once for the erection of a church building. The colored people also have a church and school-house.

1889. A group of Philadelphia physicians form the Occidental Land Company,purchase a large acreage from the Lake Butler Villa Co., and take overthe Tarpon Springs Hotel [Tarpon SpringsFlorida: The Early Years].

1890. The L. D. Vinson Department Store is founded, according to lateradvertisem*nts.[According to his obituary, Levin Denton Vinson (d. 1926)settled in Tarpon Springs in 1890.]

Feb. 8, 1890. An Ohio newspaper carries a story about fishing and identifies the story astaken from the Tarpon Springs Telegram.

1891. John Cheyney, backed by Disston, forms theAnclote and Rock Island Sponge Company, with offices in Philadelphiaand Tarpon Springs, and thus becomes the founder of the sponge industryhere.

April 24, 1891. A newspaper mentions that Mr. Henry U. Johnson owns a hotelin Tarpon Springs.

1892. John C. Beekman (b. 1864) arrives in Tarpon Springs. [He engaged in thedrug and real-estate businesses, served as Mayor and postmaster.]

July 4, 1893. The town marshal of Tarpon Springs, William Erastus Whitehurst,attempting to arrest a drunken sponge fisherman named Robert Atwell, was shot and killed by Constantine “Bud” Stevensonand John McNeil. [Both men were convicted on May 25, 1894.The jury recommended mercy, saving the defendants from being hanged. See the Whitehurst-Whidden-Stevenson feud.]

July 26, 1893. Henry Osteen is killed at Tarpon Springs. [He was a watcherat the bedside of Bud Stevenson, who was still confined to his bed, having been wounded in the incident on July 4. Stevensonwas probably the intended victim.]

1894. The business section is destroyed by fire.[A report in a newspaper of April 11, 1894, reads: “Eight of the principal business housesat this place were destroyed by fire. The loss will aggregate $20,000. Only one of the firms burned outhad any insurance. The origin of the fire is unknown.”]

1894. Aaron McLaughlin Richey, who had established a post office named for him in Port Richey,becomes Mayor of Tarpon Springs.

June 27, 1894. The Salt Lake Herald reports:

The sponge industry along the west coast of Florida is assuming important proportions.The Anclote and Rock Island company, with headquarters at Tarpon Springs, have increased its fleetand number of men, and do an amount of business of nearly a million dollars a year. The “sponge”industry in political circles is even more formidable in its proportions.”

Jan. 9, 1895. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The hotel at Tarpon Springs, managed by H. G. Marvin &Co., of Isle of Shoals, N. H., has a large number of guests, and more arriving daily. It will be well filled by the middleof January.” This refers to the Tarpon Springs Hotel.

1897. John Cheyney hires John Cocoris, a Greek spongebuyer who utilized a diving suit that allowed men to spend hours at atime underwater to harvest greater quantities of sponge.

Feb. 16, 1897. The San Antonio Daily Light has: “Tarpon Springs, Fla.,Feb. 16.—While in bed by the side of his wife and baby, W. J. Phillips blew outhis brains. He was a sufferer from a chronic affliction and the doctors saidan operation was necessary. Rather than undergo this he killed himself.”

June 1897. Dr. Andrew P. Albaugh (b., Jun. 23, 1862; d., Mar. 16, 1939) arrives in Tarpon Springs.[According to his obituary, at the time of his deathhe was “the oldest practicing physician in Pinellas County in years of service.”]

July 15, 1897. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that Tarpon Springs has apopulation of about 700 and that Willis Castaing is Mayor.

Jan. 13, 1898. The Tampa Weekly Tribune (unseen) has a Tarpon Springs directory:

  • Tarpon Springs Hotel, James A. Fuller, manager
  • G. L. Knowles, grocery
  • J. F. Cogham, contractor
  • W. W. K. Decker, sponge dealer
  • Bank of Tarpon Springs, J. T. Safford, cashier
  • C. D. Webster, Tarpon Springs
  • G. W. Fernald & Son, General Manager
  • G. I. Loucks, general merchandise
  • George McArey, druggist
  • H. M. Longstreet, dry goods
  • Charles E. Norton, contractor
  • W. B. Brown, city drayage
  • F. E. Peace, blacksmith
  • Tarpon Springs Livery Stable, G. E. Noblit
  • Willis Castaing, contractor

[Willis Castaing served several terms as Mayor of Tarpon Springs. He died at age 85 in 1939.]

Nov. 30, 1898. The Tarpon Springs Hotel is destroyed by fire. It was “practically thefirst building of importance in Tarpon Springs,” according to a newspaper account.Harry G. Marvin was the owner. It was built in 1883. Damages were $20,000. Past managers were: Dr. Safford,Fernaldo Brenger, Mr. Mann, Mrs. Mahon, Mr. Jones, Hawkin brothers, H. B. co*k, Cheyney and Marvin, James A. Fulton.

Aug. 7, 1900. The Ocala Evening Star has: “The newspaper outfit of theTarpon Springs Record, the property of my late son, W. M. Gore, will be soldat a great bargain. Write for particulars. (State exchanges will please mention.) J. Ira Gore.”

Dec. 24, 1900. The New York Times has: “TARPON SPRINGS, Fla., Dec. 23.—Thebody of W. H. Bigelow, a wealthy Winter resident from Vermont, was found in the bay to-daybetween the mainland and the island, where he had been drowned by the capsizing ofhis sailboat. One colored sailor was also drowned, but the body has not been found.”

May 1, 1901. The Indiana Democrat reports, “Charles M. Drexel, assistantpostmaster at Tarpon Springs, Fla., has been arrested. He is $1,000 short in his accounts andis accused of dynamiting the office safe to over his guilt.”

Feb. 6, 1902. The Tampa Weekly Tribune (unseen) lists the Tarpon Springs school trustees:A. P. Albaugh, T. D. Vinson, G. E. Noblit.

1903. The Tarpon Springs Herald is founded, with I. C. Conover, editor and publisher (or 1900).

1903. The Tarpon Springs News is founded. [It operated until 1918, according to aFlorida newspaper chronology.]

1905. The first Greek immigrants arrive.

June 18, 1905. John Cocoris and his brothers accomplish thefirst mechanized sponge dive, using a hand-operated compressor[1980 article in the Suncoast News by Bill Lappin].

Sept. 23, 1905. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “G. M. Morrish, of Anclote,has taken the mail route between Tarpon, Anclote and Security, G. E. Noblit, contractor.”

1906. The Sponge Exchange Bank is established. [An advertisem*nt for the Sponge Exchange Bank in the Tarpon Springs News on June 30, 1906,shows George Jessup, President; L. P. Fernald, Vice President; A. M. Lowe, Cashier.]

1906. The first graduating class of Tarpon Springs High School consists of three students,according to the Tarpon Springs High Schoolweb site.

Oct. 12, 1906. The St. Lucie County Tribune reports, “On October 8, 1906,a special election will be held in Tarpon Springs at which the qualified electors of the townwho are freeholders will vote on the question of ratifying an agreement between the town andG. F. Fernald, his associates, etc., to furnish the town with electric lights.”

1907. Cheyney and Ernest R. Meres found the Tarpon Springs Sponge Exchange.[Meres came to Tarpon Springs with his parents in 1883. He died in 1936.]

1907. A post card dated Jan. 23, 1907, shows the Miramar, “a winter home fornorthern people - Mrs. M. W. Thompson, Mgr. - Tarpon Springs, Florida - The Hunters' Paradise.”

Nov. 28, 1907. The Tampa Weekly Tribune (unseen) includes a history of Tarpon Springs.

Jan. 28, 1908. A fire destroys 16 buildings, including theAtlantic Coast Line depot, the Angelousi Restaurant, the Karl Doerlersaloon, the Universalist Church, and the R. E. McNeese saloon. [A secondfire occurred on Feb. 10, 1908, and destroyed a block of businessbuildings. The two fires together destroyed much of the Greek section ofTarpon Springs.]

Oct. 10, 1909. The foundationstone of the Greek church is laid.

Sept. 30, 1910. The Tarpon Springs Leader, vol. 1, no. 37, shows G. G. Mathews as editor andGeorge N. Truax as business manager and local editor. The paper is owned by Tarpon Springs Publishing Co. and is published every Friday.[According to a genealogy web site, George Green Mathews (1855-1944) owned and published the Tarpon Springs Leaderbefore founding the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel in 1910.]

Sept. 30, 1910. The Tarpon Springs Leaderreports, “School opened Monday with about 130pupils present. Professor Durance, Principal; Miss Osborn,for the 6th and 7th grades; Miss Pillans, 3rd, 4thand 5th grades; and Miss Wortmore as Primaryteacher were all on hand and much interested.”

Nov. 11, 1911. The Tarpon Springs Leadersays, “If there is any one thing which ourcity needs it is a modern up-to-date school building.The present structure, with the exception of two smallwings which have been added more recently, was builtabout twenty-five years ago and has done goodservice, but it is now entirely inadequate for theneeds of the present time. Tarpon Springs shouldhave a fine stone or brick structure to cost not less thanten thousand dollars.”

1912. A list of hotels and boarding houses in Florida shows the Ferns Hotel (C. H. Lee, capacity 25) andthe Homeworth Inn (Theo. J. Petzold, capacity 15).

1912. A new brick school for grades 1-12 is built, with seven classrooms,a library, a chemistry lab, and an auditorium.

1912. Edward Lewis Zimmerman (d., Apr. 17, 1924) arrives in Tarpon Springs.[According to his obituary, he came here from Minnesota for his healthand engaged in the newspaper business in Tarpon Springs for a few yearsand later was widely identified in the nursery business at Oldsmarand Tampa with his brother F. J. Zimmerman.]

Jan. 2, 1912. The county commission for the newly formedPinellas County meets for the first time. Representing Tarpon Springsis Levi Denton Vinson, who had moved to Tarpon Springs in 1890,joining his brother James Martin Vinson, who had moved here ten yearsearlier.

Apr. 29, 1912. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Recently a corporationwas formed known as the Tarpon Springs Hotel Company, which is to erect a sixty room hotel within the very near future.”

Jan. 15, 1913. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Work willbegin this week upon the construction of the new 35 room Commercial Hotel on east Tarpon avenue forMrs. Draughon.”

Nov. 7, 1913. A post card with this postmark date which depicts the Tarpon Inn has the message, “This hotelis just being completed. They hope to open the 15th of Jan.”

Jan. 15, 1914. The Tampa Weekly Tribune reports, “The Tarpon SpringsDaily Leader has made its initial appearance and is a highly creditable newspaper for a townof this size. Willis T. Pierson is its owner and business manager, E. T. Byington is the editorand Miss Lulu Coachman society editor.”

Dec. 12, 1914. An advertisem*nt for the Tarpon Inn in the Washington Postreads: “Tarpon Inn, Tarpon Springs, Fla.The Venice of the South. Climate unsurpassed. All amusem*nts. Anexcellent golf course. Fine salt and fresh water fishing, hunting,boating,bathing, dancing, and tennis. Bookers and Rates. F. (?) W. Boyce Mgr.”

1915. The new city hall opens.

1915. A primary shool is built.

Nov. 27, 1915. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “J. A. Grubbs has been awarded the contract for plumbing, including steam heat, in the new hotel of A. Madole at Tarpon Springs.”The Hotel Madole, presumably this hotel, later became the Hotel Stratford.

June 29, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Mrs. Mary A. Pond, who came herethirty-odd years ago from Jamestown, N. Y., died this morning at age 84. She was the widow of A. C.Pond.

July 1, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader carries an advertisem*nt for theGreek-American Bank in Tarpon Springs, showing directors N. A. Van Winkle, J. R. West, Jr.,and Duncan Morrison, and cashier T. G. Mixson. Resources and liabilities totaled $201,832.01.

Nov. 1, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “W. M. Sykes reported to TheLeader this morning that the celebration of the colored population in Kelson’s hall last nightwas a big success. There was no disorder and a grand evening was enjoyed. The music was the very best.The first prize was awarded to Ezekiel Sanders, who was dressed in red, white and blue, decoratedwith stars. The second prize went to Mary Cherry, who was dressed in man’s attire. The third prize wascarried away by Matta Henry who was also adorned in man’s clothing.”

Nov. 6, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader lists hotel arrivals at the Madole and the Ferns.

Nov. 22, 1916. The Evening Independent reports that the Converse Bridge and Steel Co. of Chattanoogawas awarded the contract by the county commission to erect drawbridges over the Anclote River at Tarpon Springs and Stephen’s Creek at Clearwater.

Dec. 22, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader shows L. L. Lucas as editor.

Jan. 1917. The Tarpon Springs Progressive(unseen) reports that a bill has been prepared forintroduction into the legislature to create a new countyconsisting of northern Pinellas and western Pasco counties.The new county would be named Wilson County, for PresidentWilson.

Apr. 16, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that I. B. Read, who wasone of the leading spirits in building the Tarpon Inn and was heavily interested in it,died on Saturday and was buried in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Apr. 17, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “Mayor A. C. Brooks returnedSunday afternoon from Tallahassee where he went to make arrangements for introducinga bill relative to the sponge industry of Tarpon Springs.”

Apr. 23, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “The Evening Leader is now ownedby L. L. Lucas and B. C. Mayo. All the stock owned by John K. Cheyney has been purchased, leavinghim not one dollar’s worth of stock.”

Sept. 20, 1917. The Progressive (vol. 6, no. 19) reports, “It is probablethat in the near future the city council will take steps having in view the establishmentin Tarpon Springs of a commission form of government with a manager, displacing the present aldermanicform of government, which is cumbersome and not in line with the great progress made in recent yearsin city government.” Editor of the newspaper is B. L. Zimmerman.

Oct. 22, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Orin Cadwallader (b. 1837), a CivilWar veteran who had been a resident of Tarpon Springs for 30 years, died last Thursday.

Jan. 21, 1918. The Daily News, “succeeding the Progressive,” begins as a dailynewspaper in Tarpon Springs. Milton Tiddy is managing editor and (illegible) James is editor.

Mar. 2, 1918. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that the Anclote River bridgewill open next week.

May 18, 1918. The Tarpon Springs Leaderreports that the fourth annual commencementof the Tarpon Springs High school took place lastnight, with ten graduates.

Oct. 3, 1918. The St. Cloud Tribune reports:“On Friday night of last week a terrific storm struckthe west coast of Florida in the neighborhood of TarponSprings, sweeping toward St. Petersburg and acrossTampa bay to Manatee river points and doing considerabledamage in its path. For several hours Tarpon Springs and Clearwaterwere cut off from communication lines to the outside world, and itwas early this week before an estimate of the damagedone could be approximately known. While the propertyloss is heavy at several points, there have been no stormdeaths reported.”

Nov. 11, 1918. The Tarpon Springs Leaderreports: “At 3 o’clock this morningthe first news [that the armistice was signed, endingthe world war] reached Tarpon Springs, coming overthe telephone from Mrs. H. B. Lenfesty, of Tampa,to her father, Dr. A. P. Albaugh. A few minutes laterThe Leader received the news, with more detail,from the Associated Press representative in Tampa,by telephone. It had been previously arranged byThe Leader that, as soon as the news came, the electricplant should be notified and the siren should be blown.The plan was carried out.”

Jan. 7, 1919. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that The Tarpon Inn is open and guests are arriving on every train. The question of who owns the hotel has been settled by Judge Reeves. The deed to the property has been settled and delivered to the West Coast Hotel company, of which Frank W. Swift is president and general manager.

Mar. 25, 1919. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that the large residence owned by Rev. T. W. Tomkies at the corner of Pinellas Ave. and Lime St. will be converted into a hospital. It stated, “A first-class hospital is something that has been needed in Tarpon Springs for a long time....”

May 9, 1919. High school graduation takes place. The graduates were Helen Wooten, Rae Wiltrout, Pauline Ferguson, Raymond Boyer,Dorothy Craig, Roscoe Northrop, C. C. Barnum, Doris Gerock, Lyman Headley, and John Davis.

June 3, 1921. The Tarpon Springs Leaderreports that seven graduates of Tarpon Springs High Schoolreceived their diplomas last evening. The Principalat this time was G. V. Fuguitt.

Oct. 25, 1921. A hurricane, later estimated as category 3, makes landfall near Tarpon Springs.According to the Tarpon Springs Leader, there was considerable property damage but no loss of life inTarpon Springs. It reported, “The Tarpon Inn and the Hotel Stratford both suffered considerabledamage from water. The high school building was pretty badly damaged, though theclass rooms are all in condition for use. The cupola and part of the roof were torn awayand the ceiling in the auditorium was broken through. ... The Odd Fellows hall, at the cornerof Ring avenue and Lemon street, was blown off its foundation and practically demolished. Theboat house of E. M Smith and E. Z. Griggs were wrecked and the handsome pleasureyacht owned by Mr. Griggs was badly damaged and sunk.” More information ishere.

Feb. 9, 1922. The New Port Richey Press reports: “MajorHennig, of the Brooksville Star, has taken over the Tarpon SpringsLeader, after that paper has passed through many changesand vicissitudes. ... One of the immediate changes is the publicationof a bi-weekly instead of a tri-weekly issue as during the past two years.”

Sept. 14, 1922. The New Port Richey Press reports:

Some consternation was caused in thecity of Tarpon Springs on Saturday last by the closingof the Sponge Exchange Bank for business. The presidentand directors announced that they had been compelled totake that course in view to the amount ofliabilities the bank had incurred by reason of thedullness of trade during the summer and thedifficulty experienced in recovering loans on noteof hand, etc. Financially it is stated the bankis in good condition, and it is averred thedepositors will be paid in full, but of coursethe stoppage of payment by the institution can onlyhave a deterrent effect on Tarpon Springs trade.The Tarpon Springs Leader announces theformation of a new banking company under the titleof the First National Bank of Tarpon Springs. Already$20,000 towards the $30,000 capital stock agreedupon has been subscribed, and the new charter will beapplied for forthwith. Those associated with the newconcern comprise many of the leading business menof the city. Meanwhile the Sponge Exchange Bankis in the hands of a receiver, whose reportis somewhat anxiously awaited.

Dec. 28, 1923. The New Port Richey Press reports: “Sundaynight, about nine o'clock, Merrick Farnald, fifteen years of age,was instantly killed, and six other occupants of the automobilein which they were returning from church, were injured, at theOrange street crossing of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad,when south-bound passenger train No. 39 struck the car whichattempted to cross in front of it.”

1924. Marie Liles Tipping becomes the first woman postmaster of Tarpon Springs.[She served until 1932.]

Mar. 21, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports,“J. Wilbur Cooper, deputy sheriff of Pinellas County,living at Tarpon Springs, was shot and instantly killedshortly after midnight Tuesday, while he was taking lunchin Elliott’s Cafe in Tarpon Springs.” [The killing wasnot related to Cooper’s employment as a deputy sheriff.]

May 7, 1924. William Jennings Bryan speaks in Tarpon Springs.

June 13, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports, “Michael Constantino, 55,and Alexander Filaretou, 28, a cousin of Constantino, both died shortly before ten o'clockFriday night, at the Butler Heights Sanitarium, twelve hours after they wereblown up by a gas explosion on the sponge diving boat, Efimia.”

Oct. 3, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The post officeat Tarpon Springs was robbed early Tuesday morning and $300 in cash and 20 registeredletters, contents unknown, were taken. Thieves pried a front door to theoffice and deliberately set about cracking a small safe in which current cashwas kept. After securing $300 from the safe, which was left a wreck,the yeggs turned their attention to the post office vault, but were evidentlyscared away before an effective entrance could be made. Combination on thevault was knocked off and left in such condition that a Tampa locksmith wascalled to go to Tarpon Springs to open it.”

Nov. 21, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The old Vinsonhome at the corner of Tarpon avenue and Lewis street in Tarpon Springs has beenremodeled into a new and modern funeral home.”

Aug. 16, 1926. OfficerEverett Elwin Blewfield is killed while attempting to stop thieves fromrobbing a grocery store.

1927. A new school is opened at the intersection of Pine, Ring, and Orange Streets.

March 4, 1927. The Tarpon Inn is destroyed by fire.The Associated Press reported, “Tarpon Inn, on of the best knownresort hotels on the west coast of Florida, was destroyed by firetoday with an estimated loss of $150,000. Although the hotel,containing 105 rooms, was practically filled with guests at the time,there was no loss of life or injuries. The Tarpon Inn was a framestructure six stories high. It was built 15 years ago.”

July 27, 1927. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports:

The Tarpon Springs hospital will open for business Thursday morning, said Dr. E. W. Burnette, chiefof staff of the new city institution this morning, with Miss N. M. Wilson, a nurse of this city ashead nurse. Miss Della McVickers, of St. Petersburg, a former resident of Tarpon Springs, was appointednurse, the appointments being made by the members of the Tarpon Springs Medical board yesterday afternoonat a meeting held in the city hall. This board also fixed the hospital charges as follows:Room with bath, $8 a day or $45 a week; other rooms, $6 a day of $35 a week;wards, $5 a day of $30 a week; operating room use, $10;anesthetic, $10. Hundreds of persons visited the hospital during the inspectionhours Monday night and on Tuesday, and were delighted with the building and its appointments.

Sept. 30, 1927. The editor of the New Port Richey Press writes, “We have before us a copyof the first edition of the Tarpon Springs News, edited by E. M. Smith, a resident of TarponSprings for the past quarter of a century, and an extensive property owner in that city and Tampa. Mr. Smithis a former newspaper man and knows the game. The paper is an eight page, five column affair and is takenup entirely with the local happenings of Tarpon Springs. It is well filled with advertising for the firstissue and a successful future in the newspaper field is predicted for our neighbor.”

Jan. 10, 1930. Former President Calvin Coolidge visits Tarpon Springs.

Jan. 9, 1931. The New Port Richey Press reports that Dr. Archie McCallisterwas murdered at Tarpon Springs municipal hospital on Sunday night by an unknown assassin.

Feb. 10, 1931. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “‘Scarface’ Al Capone, calledking of the Chicago gangsters, barged into Tarpon Spings Monday morning, on a sight-seeing tour of Pinellas county andspent nearly an hour in the sponge exchange section. Al was in a great big open car, with five of his friends. He had motoredup from St. Petersburg, where it is stated he is spending several days.”

May 9, 1931. The Key West Citizen reports, “Webb Hill, chief of policeof Tarpon Springs, was arrested today on three indictments, charging extortion, returnedby a county grand jury. He is held in the sheriff’s office [in Clearwater], pendingposting of $5,000 bond on each charge.”

Oct. 27, 1933. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Charles I. Dwiggens has been appointed receiverto settle the affairs of First National Bank of Commerce, which was closed by executive order on March 4 and sincethat time has been operating on a restricted basis. [A bank with the same name opened on Jan. 29, 1934. The citywas without a bank for nearly eleven months.]

Jan. 1935. Scenes for the movie Obeah are filmed at the Anclote lighthouse.

1939. A blight infests the sponge beds and many of the sponges die.

Feb. 24, 1939. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that work is to begin at once on an 800-seat air-cooledmotion picture theater in the Taylor Arcade Building.

Mar. 4, 1939. The St. Petersburg Timesreports: “The Tarpon Springs high schoolbasketball team reached the semi-finals ofthe seventh district Class B high school cagetournament here last night when they ran up theunbelievable score of 102 to 14 over hapless ZephyrHills.”

June 26, 1939. The Eagle Street (U. S. 19) Anclote River bridge is closed for repairs when damage is discovered.

Jan. 11, 1942. City Commissioner Mike Smarkos is injured by an explosion of a charge of dynamitewhich Police Chief E. E. Gnann said was planted under the floorboard of his car. The bombing came on theeve of a municipal election.

1947. A red tide algae bloom wipes out the sponge fields in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.

Feb. 25, 1947. Tarpon Springs High School defeats Gulf High School in boys basketball, 113-13. The game apparently established a statewide record in high school basketball.

Nov. 1947. A chemical plant constructed by Victor Chemical Company to process phosphate begins operation. [The plant, located on the Anclote River near the Pasco county line, was later owned by the Stauffer Chemical Co.]

Apr. 4, 1950. The Panama City News-Herald reports that the state of Floridatraded 4500 acres of Gulf coast marshland to the federal government for Anclote Island,and that the island later will be ceded to the city of Tarpon Springs fordevelopment into a municipal beach. The article reported that the Mayor of Tarpon Springssaid the city planned to build a causeway to the island.

1962. The present Tarpon Springs High School is completed.

Dec. 17, 1968. The Anclote River bridge collapses around4:45 p.m., killing one person and injuring five others.The collapse was believed to have been caused by a large sinkhole. Theperson killed was Jane Tompkins Stinson of Tarpon Springs.She was killed when a truck dumped a load of cement blocks on her caras the bridge dipped.

Aug. 1987. East Lake High School opens.

1988. Tarpon Springs General Hospital is renamed in honor of Helen Ellis. (The hospital originally was named TarponSprings Municipal Hospital. In 2012 it was renamed Florida Hospital North Pinellas.)

Jan. 6, 2020. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attends the Epiphany dive for the cross.

History of Tarpon Springs, Florida (2024)


What is the history of Tarpon Springs? ›

In 1884, a post office was established in Tarpon Springs. Soon the railroad arrived and a depot was built to accommodate passengers and freight. Through the efforts and investments of Disston, Tarpon Springs was fashioned into an exclusive winter resort for wealthy Northerners. In 1887, Tarpon Springs was incorporated.

Why do so many Greeks live in Tarpon Springs? ›

In the late 19th century the sponge trade was Florida's most lucrative maritime business. By 1905 Greeks brought diving crews to Tarpon Springs, and the city became the world center of the industry. For Greeks in Tarpon Springs, life was similar to their home islands.

What is a fun fact about Tarpon Springs Florida? ›

On February 12, 1887, Tarpon Springs became the first incorporated city in what is now Pinellas County. Less than a year later on January 13, 1888, the Orange Belt Railway, the first railroad line to be built in what is now Pinellas County, arrived in the city.

Why are Tarpon Springs known for sponges? ›

Sited a mere 30 minutes north of Clearwater, the coastal city of Tarpon Springs is famed for its Greek heritage. It was founded in the early 1900s by Greek sponge divers, eager to harvest the abundant, natural sea sponges that populate the Anclote River.

Is Tarpon Springs wealthy? ›

About. In 2022, Tarpon Springs, FL had a population of 25.4k people with a median age of 54.1 and a median household income of $63,836. Between 2021 and 2022 the population of Tarpon Springs, FL grew from 25,138 to 25,355, a 0.863% increase and its median household income grew from $58,328 to $63,836, a 9.44% increase.

Who were the Native Americans in Tarpon Springs? ›

Native American Roots

These indigenous peoples included the Tocobaga, Calusa, and Seminole tribes. The Tocobaga were one of the indigenous groups known to have lived in the Tampa Bay area, including what is now Tarpon Springs. They were part of the Timucua-speaking people and were primarily fishermen and gatherers.

Is Tarpon Springs Florida expensive to live? ›

Tarpon Springs's housing expenses are 17% lower than the national average and the utility prices are 3% lower than the national average. Transportation expenses like bus fares and gas prices are 0% higher than the national average. Tarpon Springs has grocery prices that are 8% higher than the national average.

Is tarpon spring still Greek? ›

Despite challenges, including a sponge disease in the 1940s that crippled the industry, the City's Greek heritage and sponge diving tradition remain steadfast. Today, Tarpon Springs boasts the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.

Where do the richest Greeks live? ›

After Palaio Psychico, the richest area identified is the northern Athens suburb of Ekali, where 2,883 taxpayers declared annual incomes of 122,879. A distant third is Kolonaki, in the center of the capital, where 1,454 taxpayers declared incomes averaging at 77,419 euros.

Do hurricanes hit Tarpon Springs? ›

Tarpon Springs has a extreme Wind Factor™ risk based on the projected likelihood and speed of hurricane, tornado, or severe storm winds impacting it. It is most at risk from hurricanes.

What is the crime rate in Tarpon Springs, Florida? ›

Tarpon Springs Annual Crimes
Number of Crimes77312
Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)2.9712.05

What is the ethnicity of Tarpon Springs? ›

Tarpon Springs Demographics

White: 83.03% Two or more races: 7.53% Black or African American: 6.28%

Who were the first settlers in Tarpon Springs? ›

In 1876, A. W. Ormond and his daughter, Mary, moved from North Carolina and became the first settlers to live in what are now the city limits of Tarpon Springs.

Do they still dive for sponges in Tarpon Springs? ›

The business of sponges skated into one of Florida's most profitable maritime industries, generating millions of dollars annually. While most sponges used today are synthetic, natural sea sponges are still being harvested in Tarpon Springs.

Is Tarpon Springs worth a visit? ›

Absolutely. I spent a half a day here recently and had lunch (at Mama's- nice lunch specials), walked around and saw the sponge docks, explored some shops, and bought dessert. It's not something to do every time you are in the area, but is still worth a visit.

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