A History of Tarpon Springs

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Florida Guide > Other Florida

A History of Tarpon Springs

We first visited Tarpon Springs about 12 years and the charm of this historic dock town has never palled.

The history of Tarpon Springs starts in the 1970s when a women called Mary Ormond named the town. However, what she thought were Tarpon playing in the bay were actually Mullet! Mullet Bay does not have the same ring about it, does it?

The weell regarded lanscape artist called George Innes wintered in Tarpon Springs and there are occasional exhibitions of his work held here.

We next move on to 1980, when a wealthy industrialist called Hamilton Disston bought 4 million acres of Central West Florida land.

Would you care to guess what he paid for all this acreage? Well, your jaw will drop when I tell you that it was just 25 cents an acre. However, this purchase was to save the county from going bankrupt.

Among the land purchased was Tarpon Springs. Seven years after this happened it was noted that 22 souls resided here; today, you can add 3 nought to that figure. This city also now has the largest group of Greek/Americans in the whole of the United States. The reason for this is explained next.

The first Greek immigrants arrived in Tarpon Springs in the late 19th century and they were brought in specifically to dive for sponges.

The sponge industry here took off as a diect result of the experience brought to bear by the Greek men and in its heyday the City turned over millions dollars in sponge trading; no small amount in those days.

At its peak, it is said that there were 500 divers using 50 boats to harvest the sponges and it was truly the natural sponge capital of the world.

Then is the 1940s a natural disaster struck that was to virtually wipe out all the sponges; this was a red tide of algae that was deadly to the sponge stocks.

Thereafter, the town had to turn to tourism and people have flocked to this pretty city. There is now a proliferation of shops and cafes and several places to visit that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

An unexpected sequel to the sponge trade has been that in the 1980s new sponge beds were discovered and Tarpon has reclaimed its place in the world of sponge trading.

There are still 2 sponge packing houses to be seen here and they are E. R. Meres Sponge Packing House and N. G. Arafas Sponge Packing House.

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