The History 0f Tarpon Springs is Rich
The oldest town in Pinellas County, Tarpon Springs was once known as “The Venice of the South” due to the number of serene waterways that flow in and around the city. This beautiful treasure-trove of nature, art, culture, and commerce is steeped in history!
Nestled along the banks of the Anclote River and the Gulf of Mexico, the earliest inhabitants were attracted to the area because of the rich and diverse environment. Historical records indicate they buried their dead in earthen mounds along with ornate pottery and other goods. One such mound was discovered in the late 1800s, east of Pinellas Avenue. The “Safford Mound,” contained more than 600 skeletons and a variety of original pottery and other artifacts, many of which can be seen in local museums.
The first settlers of Tarpon Springs, A.W. Ormond and his daughter, Mary, built a cabin near Spring Bayou. One of their regular guests, Joshua Boyer, of Nassau, fell in love with Mary, built a second cabin on the bayou, and the two were married. It was Mary that determined their small, two-cabin settlement should be named “Tarpon Springs” because of the large Tarpon that frolicked in the waters of the bayou.
Fish are still plentiful in the waters throughout Tarpon Springs. Residents and visitors alike can experience the great outdoors in some of the most wonderful woodlands in Florida. Tarpon Springs hosts a large segment of the Pinellas Trail to walk, jog or bike; four nature parks; Anclote Key State Park; two public beaches — Fred Howard Park and Sunset Beach — several bayous, and the World Famous Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks on the Anclote River. There are more than a few ways to entertain yourself, family and friends in this exciting community!
Greek immigrants settled in Tarpon Springs due to its location near the Gulf. Original sponge fisherman determined that sponge population was plentiful here, and they began setting up shops and restaurants to sell their catches and share their stories. The Greek sponge industry thrived, and families stayed to raise their children and develop the community building homes, churches and schools.
The Sponge Docks is still a quaint little shopping village that has maintained its historical integrity, while evolving into so much more! Museums showcase the history of sponge diving, original art and photography. Deep sea fishing, boat tours and excursions are available to venture off the mainland and experience a peaceful time on the water. Beautiful shops which house everything from clothing and apparel, to fashionable jewelry, to unique gifts, wine and spices align the corridors of the Docks. Talented chefs prepare delectable edibles of fresh caught seafood or Greek family favorites at some of the area’s most acclaimed restaurants and bakeries.
In the early 1900s, downtown Tarpon Springs was a major shopping district in this region of Florida. Today, the architectural Victorian design has the feeling and flare that reflect the town’s magnificent history. Vintage buildings feature art galleries, specialty shops, restaurants, cafés, and what has been named the best antique district in Tampa Bay!
Discover the treasure that is Tarpon Springs. This beautiful, waterfront community offers something for everyone, and truly is a picture of paradise on the West Coast of Tampa Bay!
Many thanks to the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to the content of this story.