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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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
information courtesy of The City of Tarpon Springs
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