Tarpon Springs Enjoying Reign of Peace and Plenty - 1914

Tourists Arriving, Sponge Business Lively and General Conditions Great

The opening of the tourist season finds Tarpon Springs better prepared in every way than ever before for taking care of the throngs of people who are now coming in on every train from the North. 

The Tarpon Inn, the handsome tourist hotel, which was completed and opened in January, is now open for the season under new management, and is filling rapidly with visitors who expect to remain throughout the season. A large proportion of these are people who have usually spent the winter season in Europe and are coming to Florida for the first time having engaged rooms in the early fall.  The Ferns, the Homeworth Inn, with a number of apartment houses, will take care of the large tourist business which has already assumed gratifying proportions.

Tarpon Springs satisfies a unique position among tourist resorts, in that its charms were not exploited to attract tourists, but were discovered by them.

About thirty years ago discriminating people who wanted winter homes in the most in the most delightful section of Florida came to Tarpon Springs, and finding conditions here ideal, built handsome winter homes. The number increased annually until at the present time the winter colony, composed of people from all parts of the United States, has become a large and important part of the social and business life of the town.

The attraction of Tarpon Springs were told to these people, to their friends at their different homes, with the result that many wanted to come and see for themselves. The demand for suitable hotel accommodations resulted in the building of the Tarpon Inn, a tourist hotel, not so large as some in the State, but second to none in its appointments.  This hotel was built almost entirely from home capital, and to Col. I. B. Read, is due the credit for organizing the company and putting the proposition on its feet. In this he was ably and harmoniously aided by the enterprising business men of the town.

With the opening of the Tarpon Inn the town seemed to take on new life in the way of building, and in the past year more than fifty elegant residences have been erected. These are principally of the bungalow type, and vary in cost of construction from two to eighteen thousand dollars a piece. During the year the handsome Meres block of business houses has been completed, this block including the new Royal Theater and a number of elegant store buildings with office rooms above. Large plate-glass windows have been placed in other stores and various improvements added to them.

Municipal Bond Issue

The town has issued and sold $80,000 bonds for municipal improvements. This money is to be spent in street paving, additional apparatus for the Fire Department, improvements on the city jail, etc. Contracts have been let for material and work, a portion of the material is on hand, and in a short time the improvements will be completed. During the year many miles of fine concrete sidewalks have been laid.

The number of subdivisions of tracts of land and their improvement and conversion into building lots is a fair indication of a development of a town. During the past year the Welsh-Beckman Subdivision has been reclaimed from a marshy front on Whitcomb Bayou. Streets have been laid out and paved, lights and water provided and several fine homes have been erected on this subdivision. The work is being continued, and when it is finished, hundreds of waterfront lots will be added to the town, close in. The Welsh-Cheney Subdivision, the Fernald Addition, the Mayo Addition, the Cuppit Addition, the Van Winkle Addition, and the Watkins Addition, have all been improved and homes built in these localities for different people.

Tarpon Springs’ great sponge industry has made this a commercial center far in advance of any town of its size in the State.

How a Big Industry Started

Some years ago John K. Cheyney, one of Tarpon Springs’ most successful and enterprising citizens, became interested in the buying and selling of sponges. Realizing the fact that sponge beds in the shallower waters of the Gulf would not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand, and finding that the deep waters contained sponges of the highest commercial class and in practically in exhaustively quantities, Mr. Cheyney sent to Greece for experienced divers with equipment for gathering sponges in waters many fathoms deep. The experiment proved a success, and the result has been a building up of an enormous trade in these products and the forming in Tarpon Springs of a colony of about twenty-five hundred Greek citizens. These are desirable, law abiding, enterprising citizens. While many of them speak English, many of them can converse only in their native tongue. They have built a fine Greek Catholic Church and have a resident priest in charge. While many of the Greeks are engaged in the sponge business, others are engaged in merchandising, and have some of the most attractive stores in the town.

The Greek Citizens

Their religious customs are particularly interesting. Their Christmas and Easter holidays come about six weeks after the American holidays and their observance of Cross Day belongs to their church alone. Each year the observance of these occasions is looked forward to with interest by all the citizens, and large numbers of tourists come to witness the ceremonies of Cross Day, which take place in the open air at Spring Bayou, nearly in the heart of the town. Bayou, or little bay, is about the only designation applicable to the beautiful waters of Spring, Whitcomb and Cramer Bayous, but to those accustomed to the sluggish water in the bayous of Louisiana and other States in the Mississippi Valley, the term is misleading. The bayous at Tarpon Springs are surrounded by bluffs and the clear water rises and falls daily with the Gulf tides. They are full of fish, and in the Tarpon season these beautiful fish can be seen at any hour jumping above the waters.

The fishing at Tarpon Springs cannot be surpassed in any of the waters along the coast of Florida. Many varieties are to be found, and so sheltered are the fishing grounds by the high hills and bluffs that the weather is never too rough for this pastime. Even in the Gulf, the protection afforded by the continuous line of small islands makes it possible to enjoy deep-sea fishing almost every day of the year. Oysters, rock crab and a variety of other shellfish are to be had in abundance.

Contiguous to town are good hunting grounds, where a variety of game can be obtained.

The country surrounding Tarpon Springs is beautiful, with high, rolling lands, interspersed with charming lakes and crowned with forest trees in great variety. The red, white, water and live oaks, pine, hickory, magnolia and bay are found in handsome specimens; and, at intervals, citrus groves and attractive country homes break the monotony of the scene. While there were, of course, country estates scattered here and there in this section, the real development of the country around Tarpon Springs was begun with organization of the Tampa and Tarpon Springs Land Company, of which Major D. F. Conoley, of Tampa, is president and the moving spirit. Through the efforts of Major Conoley and his associates, many tracts of farming and citrus lands have been sold within the past few years to a desirable class of people. New groves have been planted and general farming operations put underway, as well as the establishment of many attractive country homes.

Lake Butler

About a mile and a half from town is beautiful Lake Butler, which is owned by this company, and on its shores is being developed Lake Butler Villa, one of the most desirable properties for general purposes in the entire country.

During the past year a system of brick roads has been built into the town from each point of the compass. One of these roads leads from Whitcomb Bayou to the Gulf, and when the proposed bridge over this bayou is built, Tarpon Springs will be in pleasant walking distance of the Gulf.

In addition to its purely local attractions, Tarpon Springs is within easy access to a number of other points of interest. Just beyond the city limits is the Golf Club house and grounds, which are said by prominent golfers to be among the best in the entire country. Many match games are played on the course in the season. Three miles from Tarpon Springs, on a paved roadway, is the famous Wall Spring, where hundreds of people o weekly to drink the mineral waters and to bathe in the pool. About a mile further is Crystal Beach, where sea bathing is available throughout the year. Six miles from Tarpon Springs is Sutherland, the seat of Southern College. In another direction from Tarpon Springs is the Anclote Key, with its lighthouse and fine bathing beach. Boating is largely indulged in, and a trip up the Anclote as far as Pindar’s Landing is a joy to be long remembered. No more beautiful scenery can be found anywhere than up the Anclote River.

The climate in this vicinity is all that can be desired, being delightful, both in the winter and summer seasons.

The people are cultured, warm-hearted and hospitable. The schools are of the highest class, and eight religious denominations have handsome church edifices, good pastors and large congregations. Tarpon Springs has a public library, a civic society, and other women’s organizations, which do an excellent community work along their several lines of endeavor. Fraternal organizations are well represented here, and strangers find a cordial welcome to the organizations and to the homes and hearts of the people.

Tarpon Springs has adequate public utilities. The water plant is owned and operated by the city, while the electric light and ice plants are owned and operated by the Southern Utilities Company. Two strong banks, the Sponge Exchange and the Greek-American, afford every accommodation possiblt to their customers. The Sponge Exchange is always a place of interest for its visitors. There the sponge catches are sold at auction, and when a sale is announced crowds are always in attendance. Tarpon Springs has two excellent newspapers---the Daily Leader and the Semi-Weekly Progressive. The local board of trade is well organized and well officered and is doing its part in forwarding the progress of the town and section. Railroad facilities are adequate, the town being situated on the main line of the A. C. L., between Jacksonville and St. Petersburg, and being the terminus in the direction of the Tampa and Gulf Coast Railroad.

Port Business

As a port, the sponge industry makes Tarpon Springs of some importance. The sponge schooners come up the Anclote to their docks, but the water is not yet sufficiently deep at the bar to make feasible the coming in of vessels of deep draft. If, however, the appropriation recommended by the United States Governmental engineers becomes available, it will be an easy matter to deepen the channel to accommodate large ships.

It is doubtful if any other section of this or any other State can show such varied attractions, such wonderful possibilities for securing delightful homes, for profitable investment in town, suburban or country property, for growing citrus and other fruits, or for general farming, as at Tarpon Springs in the country contiguous, while as a tourist or health resort, its advantages need only to be seen to prove their superiority. 

Aurthor: Mrs. E. T. Byington

Source: Tampa Morning Tribune: 12-13-1914

Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers

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