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The West Coast of Florida

Florida: The March of Progress

Circa 1930s

Entering the West Coast Section from the north, one drives down Route 5 from Lake City and High Springs, or down Route 23 from Ocala to Plant City. Side roads lead to the Gulf Coast and to Cedar Keys, Yankeetown, Crystal River and Homosassa. The first three towns offer excellent sport in hunting and fishing and have good hotels. Homosassa is a rapidly developing resort town, home of the famous orange of that name. Nearby is a historic sugarmill ruin. Besides the hunting, fishing, boating and motoring, there is a good golf course.

Inverness, Brooksville and Dade City are inland towns of these coast counties offering good accommodations to travelers. Much citrus fruit is raised in this section, Japanese persimmons, grapes and others. Truck gardening is one of the principal occupations. The water of this region is exceptionally fine. The land is mostly rolling.

Tarpon Springs is known for its extensive sponge fisheries, mostly operated by Greeks. Their quaint religious festival attracts large crowds at the time of the blessing of the waters. Quite a Mediterranean air is imparted by these gaily-colored boats and their owners.

Horseshoe courts, tennis courts, checker tables, baseball games by the St. Louis Browns, golf courses, swimming, fishing, boating and hunting arc some of the entertainments provided. The Tourist Club holds weekly programs.

On the Gulf Coast, with its beautiful springs and bayous and lagoons, Tarpon Springs is a most charming place to spend a vacation.

No description of this city would be complete without references to the paintings of the great landscape artist, George Inness, which are on display in the Church of the Good Shepherd. Those who love art will be repaid for a journey here.

Clearwater, on Clearwater Bay, is known to all radio fans as WFLA. It is known to all visitors as a most delightful place to stay "where it's springtime all the time."

Beautiful landscape, with groves of citrus and pine woods, sparkling waters of bay and Gulf, fringed with inlets, the glorious sun smiling a benediction over all-this is indeed a favorite section.

With an average annual temperature of 72°, with golf, boating, fishing, with a splendid million-dollar causeway to delightful Clearwater Beach, where are playgrounds, boardwalks and amusement park, with all sorts of games and amusements provided, Clearwater proves its welcoming spirit by its unsurpassed offering.

The Brooklyn National League team has spring training quarters here and is a major attraction to visitors. Daily concerts are held in the park.

St. Petersburg, mecca of tourists from the northern states and Canada, has a welcome and a place for many more. Its wide sidewalks, with "green benches" in profusion, lend an air of homey comfort and ease, which is carried out in the cordial spirit of the citizens of St. Petersburg.

The Sunshine City is worthy of its name. The waterfront and recreation pier, yacht anchorage, tree-lined boulevard, golf courses, all are caressed by the warm, yet invigorating, sun-washed air. Boating and bathing, every day, baseball, in training season, by the New York Yankees and Boston Braves, excellent fishing and every form of tourist entertainment, toque, shuffleboard, etc., are provided.

The sun shines an average of 360 days each year-play is the spirit of the pla e. There is plenty of commercial activity, but this is carried on with the zest of a game in this marvelous climate.

Hotel accommodations are ample and satisfying. Radio WSUN broadcasts from St. Petersburg and sunny faces broadcast the spirit of the community.

TAMPA was first visited by white men in 152-8, when Narvaez sailed into the bay. It was at that time an Indian village and bore the same name as now. DeSoto came in 1539 and held conference with the native chiefs under the Desoto Oak, still standing.

Tampa Bay was the rendezvous of many pirate hordes, of whom Jose Gasparilla was the most picturesque. Modern Tampa has each year its colorful Gasparilla Festival, based on these romantic traditions.

The real modern settlement was begun in 182.3 by an American military force from Pensacola. Growth was slow or spasmodic until 1880-1890, when railroad and cigar industry development gave Tampa the impetus it has never lost. Today it is the metropolis of the West Coast and occupies an important place in world commerce. Its excellent harbor sees the ships of every nation. It leads the world in the manufacture of Havana cigars and the annual commercial exports and imports run into impressive figures. Besides all this, it has for the tourist many attractive features.

Here one may indulge the desire to luxuriate in golden sunshine while the wintry north is freezing. A continuous round of activity for the visitor has been planned for both social and sporting worlds.

A new golf course to try each day of the week, a bay front just made for thrilling water sports, bathing or real fishing. Marine speedway, old-world canals with drifting gondolas, yacht basins at each hotel on Davis Islands, Tampa's tailor-made tropical fairyland in the bay, tennis, riding, dancing, beautiful winding boulevards, bordered with palms and oleanders-these are some of the advantages Tampa offers you.

Hotels are plentiful and the rates are reasonable. Band concerts and the quieter games are at hand daily.

Perhaps the most unique section of Tampa is Ybor City, the Latin quarter. Spanish and Cuban cigarmakers inhabit this district and in entering it one steps from modern America to where Castilian stateliness combines with the life and color of Havana. The murmur of an alien tongue, the tinkle of a guitar, a beautiful face glimpsed at a latticed window-these things experienced at evening and under a tropic moon-waft the beholder out of every-day humdrum life into romance and old-world charm.

Here are theatres and clubs, with swirling crowds and vivid costumes. Here, also, are the restaurants, where trained chefs concoct Spanish foods and beverages that tickle the palate. Americans return again and again to enjoy arroz con poilu, filet mignon con herbes, pompano papile and to break bread in the hospitable Latin manner.

The carnival spirit of Ybor City is one of Tampa's and Florida's outstanding attractions.

Gandy Bridge, the world's longest bridge, connects Tampa with the west shore of Tampa Bay and furnishes a short route to St. Petersburg.

Crossing this five-mile span over old Tampa Bay is a most agreeable experience for the motorist. Many smaller communities in the vicinity of Tampa and St. Petersburg supply charming scenery and tourist accommodations to those who pass journeying on down the West Coast one follows Route 5, enjoying en route seductive glimpses of tropic beauty and shimmering waves. Entering Manatee County, we come to BRADENTON, its county seat.

Bradenton is quite a tourist resort for those seeking health, comfort and outdoor activity in warm winter sunshine. Beautiful and sporty golf courses, tennis; in fact, facilities for almost every known outdoor game and sport are available. Bradenton is the winter home of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The beautiful Green Bridge, crossing the Manatee River, the City Pier and Memorial Building (home of the Tourist Club) the Yacht Basin-these are some of the things that make Bradenton one of the most interesting and attractive cities in Florida.

Fishing is a year-round pastime. The Manatee River and many other waters near the city furnish excellent rod and reel fishing. Deep-sea fishing may be had by a few minutes' drive over splendid roads to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarasota, a resort town created by city planning experts, is built beside a sapphire bay with palm-fringed shores and key-isles of living green. A glorious climate and all the bounties of forest, stream and sea which nature has given this coast, are enhanced by the successful efforts of man to create a tourist paradise. Fishing, bathing, water sports, baseball, music, good hotels and many other attractions are here. Golf reigns, as it should in the place where the first golf course in America was laid out by J. Hamilton Gillispie, of Dumfrieshire, Scotland.

Sarasota is the winter headquarters of the famous Ringling Circus and the site of the Ringling Art Museum, with its marvelous collection of paintings and statuary.

Farther south, on the coast of Sarasota County, lies VENICE, another beautiful little tourist resort.

Punta Gorda, in Charlotte County, is on the south shore of Peace River, near Charlotte Harbor. Here is the mecca of tarpon fishermen. Many other -sorts of fish are found and the hunting is excellent. Tourists in search of these amusements will find ample satisfaction at Punta Gorda.

Fort Myers has grown from an army post in 1841 to a goodly city, with beautiful homes amidst swaying palms and flowers and ample facilities for the entertainment of visitors.

Golf, bathing at beach and pool, fishing, municipal casino and auditorium are among the attractions. The enchanting Caloosahatchee River flows by, wandering through magnificent orange groves to the Gulf of Mexico. More than fifty varieties of palms grow here and tropical flowers here attain perfection. Rightly is Fort Myers called the City of Palms. Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford established winter homes in this city.

Estero, south of Fort Myers, is a religious settlement founded some years ago by Dr. Cyrus R. Teed. The sect of Koreshan Unity was first established about 1893, one of its principles being the common ownership of property. Estero is one of its strongest centers.

Sannibel Island, in the Gulf off the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, is becoming quite a gathering place for tarpon fishermen and is also the site of many beautiful estates.

Naples, farther south, offers first-class hotel accommodations, pool and surf bathing, golf, fishing and hunting. Many tourists return year after year to Naples, with its wonderful setting of plant life and blue water.

South of Collier City, which is located on an island off the coast of Collier County, lie the Ten Thousand Islands, whose fin-filled waters and tropical jungles with their plentitude of game offer temptations to the yachting party.

Still farther south are the largest of the Seminole Indian reservations, whose interesting inhabitants come to the trading stations on the coast and on the highway which passes through their country. On past this coast we come again to Cape Sable, southernmost point of continental United States, and the end of the West Coast.

Tamiami Trail, across the Everglades, leading from Fort Myers south along the coast for some distance and then eastward through the great Everglades swamp to Miami. It is one of the most extraordinary roads in the world. The roadbed was created by excavating a canal through the swamp, the spoil bank, when graded and surfaced, becoming a splendid highway.

Excerpt from "Florida: The March of Progress" published circa 1930s by the Florida Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Immigration.


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