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About:  The beauty and the rich natural resources of the area attracted the first settlers to Tarpon Springs just after the Civil War.  These settlers established homes along the banks of the Anclote River and around the inland bayous.  Samuel E. Hope became the first landholder here when he acquired property along the north bank of the river in the mid 1860’s.  He was soon followed by the Thompson and Meyers families.

In 1876, A. W. Ormand and his daughter Mary, from South Carolina, built a cabin near the banks of the “boiling spring” now known as Spring Bayou.  The following year, Joshua Boyer sailed into the Anclote River and decided to stay.  He soon married Mary Ormand.  Most sources credit Mary Ormond Boyer with the naming of Tarpon Springs for the abundance of tarpon in the bayou waters.

Hamilton Disston made his tremendous land deal with the state of Florida in 1881, including a large portion of Tarpon Springs and the surrounding area.  By 1882, Disston and his business associates arrived to lay out a city, much to the surprise of the earlier settlers.  Major Mathew P. Marks, a civil engineer and his surveyor Jonathan B. Walton, laid out much of the city in a rectilinear pattern, but the scenic bayous produced irregular and curving lot sizes.  Wealthy northerners soon were attracted to the natural beauty of Tarpon Springs and built exquisite Victorian homes on the bayous in the late 1880’s and 1890’s.

Among Disston’s associates was Anson P. K. Safford, the ex-governor of the Arizona Territory.  Safford and his family, including his sister, Dr. Mary J. Safford, arrived to conduct land sales for the newly formed Lake Butler Villa Company, a real estate enterprise.  Dr. Safford opened her practice in their home and was the first woman physician in Florida.  Safford’s two-story Florida vernacular home has been restored and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

In 1887, three major events occurred:  the railroad arrived in Tarpon Springs; the City of Tarpon Springs was incorporated; and, the Anclote Key lighthouse was built.  Yachts, steamers, sailboats, and fishing vessels plied the waters of the city.  Tradesmen, laborers and merchants were enticed to come to the city with cheap land and a rosy future.  Tarpon Springs was cosmopolitan with grand hotels, opera, band concerts, famous artists and plays.  The downtown buildings and surrounding historic homes were declared a National Historic district in 1990.

John K. Cheyney, another enterprising Disston business associate, started a commercial sponge venture called the Anclote and Rock Island Sponge Company on Bailey’s Bluff near the mouth of the Anclote River.  He hired John M. Cocoris, a native of Greece, whose knowledge of sponges and their procurement and treatment led to the success and development of the Tarpon Springs sponge industry.

By 1905, Cocoris had brought his brothers and an experienced diving crew from his island homeland to improve the sponge harvest.  Their methods were very successful and before long, the Greek population in Tarpon Springs grew rapidly.  This gave the city a new identity as the sponge docks were transformed into a replica of a Mediterranean port city.  The Greek culture flourished in Tarpon Springs and today remains a unique local cultural historic area including a beautiful Byzantine Cathedral.

Tourism has always been, and remains a major factor in the local economy of the city.  The preservation of Tarpon Springs’ diverse historical identities plays an important role in the future of this thriving community.


Historical information courtesy of The City of Tarpon Springs




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