History of Tarpon Springs, Florida
TimelineThis page was last revised on Jan. 6, 2013.
1848. Lake Butler is named in honor of Col. Robert Butler, Florida’s first surveyor general. [The name was changed to Lake Tarpon in 1949 because of confusion 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 several days 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 formal establishment of the cemetery, according to a history of the cemetery.
1876. A. W. Ormond and his daughter Mary of South Carolina settle here.
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 the scenic beauties of Tarpon which he and his son, George, Junior, later depicted in their paintings.”
1880. Mary (Ormond) Boyer gives the town its name, Tarpon Springs, according to the recollection of her husband, Joshua C. Boyer (d. 1933). [However, Boyer’s obituary has: “In 1882, one year after A. W. Ormond built the first house 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 founding this city, moved to the east coast and founded Ormond Beach.”]
1880. Hamilton Disston purchases four million acres of the central west coast of Florida. The purchase includes Tarpon Springs.
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 becoming favorite winter resorts for Northern people.”
Dec. 16, 1883. An advertisement 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 Keys and steamer to Anclote. Now open. H. L. SCRANTON, Proprietor.
1884. 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 real estate office and the Sylvania Motel on West Tarpon Ave. A 1907 listing showed that John C. Beekman was postmaster and Miss Mary E. Craver was assistant postmaster.]
1884. The first Tarpon Springs newspaper reports several black dances, with Handy Williams playing the fiddle and John Hayes the tambourine [Tarpon Springs Florida: The Early Years]
Feb. 17, 1884. The New York Times carries the following advertisement: “TARPON SPRINGS HOTEL.—ENTIRELY new, Tarpon Springs, Hillsborough County, Florida; all rail by Pennsylvania Railroad to Cedar Keys, also by Mullory Steamers to 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 Herald of Tarpon Springs, is found in a bayou between Anclote and Tarpon Springs. He had been 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 at Grand 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 keeping house 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 1893 unseen newspaper mentioned the Tarpon Springs Truth, editor Trieux. An 1898 newspaper mentioned C. S. Polk, editor of the Tarpon Springs Truth.]
Mar. 10, 1886. The First Presbyterian Church of Tarpon Springs is organized, according to a 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, of Forestville, and G. Noblitt, of Warren, leave on the 5 o'clock train this morning for Tarpon 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 of Arizona, whose home is here. Here is a large, first-class hotel; likewise many handsome homes owned by wealthy Northern people. The Orange Belt Railroad is rapidly being 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 furnish choice 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 this bright flourishing little town can have sprung up in so short a time, where only three years before was a "forest primæval!" We have seen no prettier nor more promising young settlement in 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 has three or four stores, three hotels, saw-mills, a blacksmith’s shop, a town-hall and of course a schoolhouse—what American settlement can be found without its school? ... The “Tarpon Springs Hotel” is a handsome building, and in every way most comfortably appointed. In the evening walking on broad piazzas which surround the 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 but untrodden wilderness three short years ago. The situation of the town is nearly perfection as we can hope to find on this earth of ours. About a mile and a half to the west lies the Gulf of Mexico, whose waters run in winding creeks and inlets—called bayous—to the wharf of Tarpon Springs, within a stone’s throw from the hotel. At the wharf are always to be found sailing and rowing boats in plenty; and every day the steamer Mary Disston built expressly to navigate these shallow 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 mineral water claimed to be a panacea for many of the “ills that flesh is heir to.” The main venue leads from this bayou straight through the town and on to Lake Butler—a beautiful sheet of water six miles long, whose pine-covered shores afford many picturesque and convenient sites for building, 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. [The meeting was held in the recently opened school house and 33 of the 46 registered voters participated. Under the chairmanship of Edward Newton Knapp, they elected Wilber F. DeGolier, a retired businessman 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 was elected marshal. Merrick Whitcomb was chosen Town Clerk. Whitcomb was a young Harvard graduate who later spent many years as head of the history department of the University of Cincinnati and wrote stories based on his life in Tarpon Springs.]
June 20, 1887. A newspaper reports, “The Duke of Sutherland has decided to settle in Florida, having purchased a magnificent river front and forty acres of 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 daughters arrive 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 her ailing first husband, Charles P. Keeney. Not all unmindful of the living, Mrs. Beekman’s main concern was nevertheless that the dead of Tarpon Springs should rest in beauty. She cared for Cycadia Cemetery like a garden—it was 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 and her husband in bad financial shape. ... In 1930 they decided to leave Florida. The family home was given to the city of 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 neat two-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 over the Tarpon Springs Hotel [Tarpon Springs Florida: The Early Years].
1890. The L. D. Vinson Department Store is founded, according to later advertisements. [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 as taken from the Tarpon Springs Telegram.
1891. John Cheyney, backed by Disston, forms the Anclote and Rock Island Sponge Company, with offices in Philadelphia and Tarpon Springs, and thus becomes the founder of the sponge industry here.
April 24, 1891. A newspaper mentions that Mr. Henry U. Johnson owns a hotel in Tarpon Springs.
1892. John C. Beekman (b. 1864) arrives in Tarpon Springs. [He engaged in the drug 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” Stevenson and 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 watcher at the bedside of Bud Stevenson, who was still confined to his bed, having been wounded in the incident on July 4. Stevenson was 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 houses at this place were destroyed by fire. The loss will aggregate $20,000. Only one of the firms burned out had 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 fleet and 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 middle of January.” This refers to the Tarpon Springs Hotel.
1897. John Cheyney hires John Cocoris, a Greek sponge buyer who utilized a diving suit that allowed men to spend hours at a time 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 out his brains. He was a sufferer from a chronic affliction and the doctors said an 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 death he was “the oldest practicing physician in Pinellas County in years of service.”]
July 15, 1897. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that Tarpon Springs has a population of about 700 and that Willis Castaing is Mayor.
Jan. 13, 1898. The Tampa Weekly Tribune (unseen) has a Tarpon Springs directory:
[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 the first 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. Cok, Cheyney and Marvin, James A. Fulton.
Aug. 7, 1900. The Ocala Evening Star has: “The newspaper outfit of the Tarpon Springs Record, the property of my late son, W. M. Gore, will be sold at 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.—The body of W. H. Bigelow, a wealthy Winter resident from Vermont, was found in the bay to-day between the mainland and the island, where he had been drowned by the capsizing of his sailboat. One colored sailor was also drowned, but the body has not been found.”
May 1, 1901. The Indiana Democrat reports, “Charles M. Drexel, assistant postmaster at Tarpon Springs, Fla., has been arrested. He is $1,000 short in his accounts and is 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 a Florida newspaper chronology.]
1905. The first Greek immigrants arrive.
June 18, 1905. John Cocoris and his brothers accomplish the first 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 advertisement 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 School web 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 town who are freeholders will vote on the question of ratifying an agreement between the town and G. 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 for northern 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.
1908. The railroad station burns. It was rebuilt in 1909.
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 and George 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 Leader before founding the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel in 1910.]
Sept. 30, 1910. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “School opened Monday with about 130 pupils present. Professor Durance, Principal; Miss Osborn, for the 6th and 7th grades; Miss Pillans, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades; and Miss Wortmore as Primary teacher were all on hand and much interested.”
Nov. 11, 1911. The Tarpon Springs Leader says, “If there is any one thing which our city needs it is a modern up-to-date school building. The present structure, with the exception of two small wings which have been added more recently, was built about twenty-five years ago and has done good service, but it is now entirely inadequate for the needs of the present time. Tarpon Springs should have a fine stone or brick structure to cost not less than ten thousand dollars.”
1912. A list of hotels and boarding houses in Florida shows the Ferns Hotel (C. H. Lee, capacity 25) and the 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 health and engaged in the newspaper business in Tarpon Springs for a few years and later was widely identified in the nursery business at Oldsmar and Tampa with his brother F. J. Zimmerman.]
Jan. 2, 1912. The county commission for the newly formed Pinellas County meets for the first time. Representing Tarpon Springs is Levi Denton Vinson, who had moved to Tarpon Springs in 1890, joining his brother James Martin Vinson, who had moved here ten years earlier.
Apr. 29, 1912. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Recently a corporation was 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 will begin this week upon the construction of the new 35 room Commercial Hotel on east Tarpon avenue for Mrs. Draughon.”
Nov. 7, 1913. A post card with this postmark date which depicts the Tarpon Inn has the message, “This hotel is just being completed. They hope to open the 15th of Jan.”
Dec. 12, 1914. An advertisement for the Tarpon Inn in the Washington Post reads: “Tarpon Inn, Tarpon Springs, Fla. The Venice of the South. Climate unsurpassed. All amusements. An excellent 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.
June 29, 1916. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Mrs. Mary A. Pond, who came here thirty-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 advertisement for the Greek-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 The Leader this morning that the celebration of the colored population in Kelson’s hall last night was 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, decorated with stars. The second prize went to Mary Cherry, who was dressed in man’s attire. The third prize was carried 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 Chattanooga was 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 for introduction into the legislature to create a new county consisting of northern Pinellas and western Pasco counties. The new county would be named Wilson County, for President Wilson.
Apr. 16, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that I. B. Read, who was one 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 returned Sunday afternoon from Tallahassee where he went to make arrangements for introducing a bill relative to the sponge industry of Tarpon Springs.”
Apr. 23, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “The Evening Leader is now owned by L. L. Lucas and B. C. Mayo. All the stock owned by John K. Cheyney has been purchased, leaving him not one dollar’s worth of stock.”
Sept. 20, 1917. The Progressive (vol. 6, no. 19) reports, “It is probable that in the near future the city council will take steps having in view the establishment in Tarpon Springs of a commission form of government with a manager, displacing the present aldermanic form of government, which is cumbersome and not in line with the great progress made in recent years in city government.” Editor of the newspaper is B. L. Zimmerman.
Oct. 22, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Orin Cadwallader (b. 1837), a Civil War 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 daily newspaper 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 bridge will open next week.
May 18, 1918. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that the fourth annual commencement of the Tarpon Springs High school took place last night, with ten graduates.
Oct. 3, 1918. The St. Cloud Tribune reports: “On Friday night of last week a terrific storm struck the west coast of Florida in the neighborhood of Tarpon Springs, sweeping toward St. Petersburg and across Tampa bay to Manatee river points and doing considerable damage in its path. For several hours Tarpon Springs and Clearwater were cut off from communication lines to the outside world, and it was early this week before an estimate of the damage done could be approximately known. While the property loss is heavy at several points, there have been no storm deaths reported.”
Nov. 11, 1918. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports: “At 3 o’clock this morning the first news [that the armistice was signed, ending the world war] reached Tarpon Springs, coming over the telephone from Mrs. H. B. Lenfesty, of Tampa, to her father, Dr. A. P. Albaugh. A few minutes later The Leader received the news, with more detail, from the Associated Press representative in Tampa, by telephone. It had been previously arranged by The Leader that, as soon as the news came, the electric plant 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 Leader reports that seven graduates of Tarpon Springs High School received their diplomas last evening. The Principal at 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 in Tarpon Springs. It reported, “The Tarpon Inn and the Hotel Stratford both suffered considerable damage from water. The high school building was pretty badly damaged, though the class rooms are all in condition for use. The cupola and part of the roof were torn away and the ceiling in the auditorium was broken through. ... The Odd Fellows hall, at the corner of Ring avenue and Lemon street, was blown off its foundation and practically demolished. The boat house of E. M Smith and E. Z. Griggs were wrecked and the handsome pleasure yacht owned by Mr. Griggs was badly damaged and sunk.” More information is here.
Feb. 9, 1922. The New Port Richey Press reports: “Major Hennig, of the Brooksville Star, has taken over the Tarpon Springs Leader, after that paper has passed through many changes and vicissitudes. ... One of the immediate changes is the publication of 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 the city of Tarpon Springs on Saturday last by the closing of the Sponge Exchange Bank for business. The president and directors announced that they had been compelled to take that course in view to the amount of liabilities the bank had incurred by reason of the dullness of trade during the summer and the difficulty experienced in recovering loans on note of hand, etc. Financially it is stated the bank is in good condition, and it is averred the depositors will be paid in full, but of course the stoppage of payment by the institution can only have a deterrent effect on Tarpon Springs trade. The Tarpon Springs Leader announces the formation of a new banking company under the title of the First National Bank of Tarpon Springs. Already $20,000 towards the $30,000 capital stock agreed upon has been subscribed, and the new charter will be applied for forthwith. Those associated with the new concern comprise many of the leading business men of the city. Meanwhile the Sponge Exchange Bank is in the hands of a receiver, whose report is somewhat anxiously awaited.
Dec. 28, 1923. The New Port Richey Press reports: “Sunday night, about nine o'clock, Merrick Farnald, fifteen years of age, was instantly killed, and six other occupants of the automobile in which they were returning from church, were injured, at the Orange street crossing of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, when south-bound passenger train No. 39 struck the car which attempted 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 killed shortly after midnight Tuesday, while he was taking lunch in Elliott’s Cafe in Tarpon Springs.” [The killing was not 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'clock Friday night, at the Butler Heights Sanitarium, twelve hours after they were blown up by a gas explosion on the sponge diving boat, Efimia.”
Oct. 3, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The post office at Tarpon Springs was robbed early Tuesday morning and $300 in cash and 20 registered letters, contents unknown, were taken. Thieves pried a front door to the office and deliberately set about cracking a small safe in which current cash was kept. After securing $300 from the safe, which was left a wreck, the yeggs turned their attention to the post office vault, but were evidently scared away before an effective entrance could be made. Combination on the vault was knocked off and left in such condition that a Tampa locksmith was called to go to Tarpon Springs to open it.”
Nov. 21, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The old Vinson home at the corner of Tarpon avenue and Lewis street in Tarpon Springs has been remodeled into a new and modern funeral home.”
Aug. 16, 1926. Officer Everett Elwin Blewfield is killed while attempting to stop thieves from robbing 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 known resort hotels on the west coast of Florida, was destroyed by fire today 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 frame structure 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, chief of staff of the new city institution this morning, with Miss N. M. Wilson, a nurse of this city as head nurse. Miss Della McVickers, of St. Petersburg, a former resident of Tarpon Springs, was appointed nurse, the appointments being made by the members of the Tarpon Springs Medical board yesterday afternoon at 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 inspection hours 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 copy of the first edition of the Tarpon Springs News, edited by E. M. Smith, a resident of Tarpon Springs for the past quarter of a century, and an extensive property owner in that city and Tampa. Mr. Smith is a former newspaper man and knows the game. The paper is an eight page, five column affair and is taken up entirely with the local happenings of Tarpon Springs. It is well filled with advertising for the first issue 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 McCallister was murdered at Tarpon Springs municipal hospital on Sunday night by an unknown assassin.
May 9, 1931. The Key West Citizen reports, “Webb Hill, chief of police of Tarpon Springs, was arrested today on three indictments, charging extortion, returned by a county grand jury. He is held in the sheriff’s office [in Clearwater], pending posting of $5,000 bond on each charge.”
Oct. 27, 1933. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that Charles I. Dwiggens has been appointed receiver to settle the affairs of First National Bank of Commerce, which was closed by executive order on March 4 and since that time has been operating on a restricted basis. [A bank with the same name opened on Jan. 29, 1934. The city was 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-cooled motion picture theater in the Taylor Arcade Building.
Mar. 4, 1939. The St. Petersburg Times reports: “The Tarpon Springs high school basketball team reached the semi-finals of the seventh district Class B high school cage tournament here last night when they ran up the unbelievable score of 102 to 14 over hapless Zephyr Hills.”
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 dynamite which Police Chief E. E. Gnann said was planted under the floorboard of his car. The bombing came on the eve 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 Florida traded 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 for development into a municipal beach. The article reported that the Mayor of Tarpon Springs said 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 around 4:45 p.m., killing one person and injuring five others. The collapse was believed to have been caused by a large sinkhole. The person killed was Jane Tompkins Stinson of Tarpon Springs. She was killed when a truck dumped a load of cement blocks on her car as 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 Tarpon Springs Municipal Hospital. In 2012 it was renamed Florida Hospital North Pinellas.)
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