South Shore: An agricultural area once ruled by pirates?

By CHRISTINE CASSEN

South Shore lies on the west coast of Florida, just southeast of Tampa and north of Bradenton. The area, located in Hillsborough County, is made up of Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Sun City Center, and several other small communities.

South Shore is popular for its fishing, boating and beaches. It is also a great place to go for its wildlife; the manatees, turtles and birds are wonderful to see.

South Shore is the perfect vacation spot; it is beautiful and has much to do.

Additionally, it is close enough to Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Sarasota to offer guests and residents the ability to enjoy all of the nearby attractions. These locations are within an hour of South Shore, and they offer many beaches, shops and places to dine.

South Shore is perfect for those who like to have many options on what to do but aren’t too keen on the idea of being in a big city like Tampa. The South Shore area has received steady population growth in recent years, and it is a great destination for travelers and residents alike.

However, the area didn’t start off so popular. Apollo Beach and Ruskin have certainly grown throughout the years, and they have taken time to grow into the places they are today.

Apollo Beach: From Trees to Tourism

Apollo Beach is wonderful for its white sand and beautiful blue water.

Back in 1938, Paul Dickman purchased almost 4,000 acres of land there after living in the area for three decades. At this point, the area was primarily used for farming, for animals to graze. Mangroves took up a large portion of the area. Dickman desired more growth and wanted to turn the land into a spot for tourism so that would be able to enjoy the location. He called the spot Tampa Beach, hoping to catch the interest of tourists.

Nineteen years later, he sold that land to Francis J. Corr, who had great success developing shopping centers in Michigan. The area was renamed La Vida Beach, which translates to “lifetime beach.” With the assistance of contractor Robert E. Lee, the area underwent the construction of canals to connect present-day Fairway Boulevard to Tampa Bay. In 1958, the area now known as Apollo Beach was named to reflect the area’s bright sunshine (Apollo, after the Roman god of the sun). Further construction occurred, adding a golf course and airstrip to Apollo Beach.

Since then, many businesses have moved in as well as the development of subdivisions. Lining the shore are houses, as well as areas for visitors to stay. The construction of Apollo Beach Boulevard greatly helped the area grow, as people could now travel much more easily.

Tampa Electric Co.’s Manatee Viewing Center, adjacent to the iconic smokestacks of the utility’s Big Bend Power Station, also serves as an important visitors’ attraction.

As the 21st century began, the area experienced much population growth. The population nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, growing from 7,444 to 14,055. In recent years, the population has remained steady, with numbers around 16,500. The density is quite high, about 832 people per square mile, and the area is about 22 square miles, 19.8 square miles of which are land.

Ruskin: Plentiful Pirates and Parks

Many visit Ruskin for its nature. From E.G. Simmons Regional Park to Little Manatee River State Park and the beaches around, Ruskin is wonderful for nature-lovers. Fishing, camping, and bird-watching are perfect activities for those wanting to experience Ruskin and its beauty.

It’s also a wonderful place to live, with the convenience of living in an urban area while offering many outdoor sights that can allow for an escape from the chaos of big cities. There is much growth. In 1960, the population sat at 1,864. Today, that number is around 22,162. The economy has also grown similarly.

In the 16th century, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto encountered the Uzita tribe living in what is now known as Ruskin. The Uzitas made the area a spot of worship, with temples and structures made of wood and palm. Centuries ago, Ruskin housed many tribes and chiefdoms. Additionally, Ruskin was once home to pirates. In the 18th century, many pirates flooded into Tampa Bay. These pirates attempted to invade the area, but had little success, most likely due to the Native Americans living in the area.

Modern-day Ruskin was named in the early 20th century after the writer John Ruskin, known for his leadership of social reforms. Dr. George McAnelly Miller took the area and turned it into the place it is today. He purchased land and established houses, a school and a sawmill. The area was further expanded with a post office and college. Throughout the years, stores, an electric plant and a factory were added. The addition of roads led to further growth.

The area also developed with its focus on agriculture. This served as the primary source of income for Ruskin residents. In the late 20th century, the area was transformed into an area for housing. This brought more people to Ruskin and helped the economy and population grow.

Today, visitors and residents can celebrate the history of Ruskin in several ways. The annual Big Draw, based on the eponymous international festival, serves as a way to celebrate John Ruskin’s belief in art as a tool for understanding and knowledge. Cockroach Key is a great place to visit for the nature and history within. There are several centers of history to visit as well.

The South Shore area has drastically changed from agricultural, rural land to more suburban land. It has risen from essentially nothing. The beaches, parks, and water make for a beautiful place. It’s almost hard to imagine how such a prosperous spot was once home to pirates, overtaken by mangroves, and served as a center of agriculture.

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2 Replies to “South Shore: An agricultural area once ruled by pirates?”

  1. Loved reading this history!!! Very informative and interesting even to the pirates!!!!!❤️❤️❤️

  2. Great article. Interesting reading. I love history and can’t get enough of information regarding the South Shore area of the Gulf Coast. Thanks for posting.

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