|Tarpon Springs, Florida|
Tarpon Springs waterfront
|Motto: Where culture and fun collide|
Location in Pinellas County and the state of Florida
|Total||16.8 sq mi (43.8 km2)|
|Land||9.1 sq mi (23.7 km2)|
|Water||7.7 sq mi (20.1 km2)|
|Elevation||23 ft (7 m)|
|Density||1,400/sq mi (540/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0292048|
Tarpon Springs is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. The population was 23,484 at the 2010 census. Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. Downtown Tarpon has long been a focal point and is currently undergoing beautification.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city of Tarpon Springs has a total area of 16.9 square miles (44 km2). 9.1 square miles (24 km2) of it is land and 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of it (45.83%) is water.
The region, with a series of bayous feeding into the Gulf of Mexico, first attracted attention as a place for winter homes about 1876. Some of the newly arrived visitors spotted tarpon jumping out of the waters and so named the location Tarpon Springs. The first Greek immigrants arrived in this city during the 1880s, when they were hired to work as divers in the growing sponge harvesting industry.
In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs. Cocoris recruited Greek sponge divers from the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, in particular Kalymnos, Symi and Halki leading, by the 1930s, to a very productive sponge industry in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year. The 1953 film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, depicting sponge diving, takes place and was filmed in Tarpon Springs.
When a red tide algae bloom occurred in 1947, wiping out the sponge fields in that region of the Gulf of Mexico, most of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood. The city then converted most of its sponge-related activities, especially the warehouses where they were sold, into tourist attractions. The Sponge Docks are now mostly shops, restaurants, and museums dedicated to the memory of Tarpon Springs' earlier industry. Most sponges sold on the docks are now imports; relatively few sponges are harvested from the area, although attempts have been made in recent years to restart local sponge harvesting. Led by local businessman George Billiris, in the late 1980s the sponge industry made a comeback, and in the fall of 2007 a record harvest of sponges by a single boat was made.
There are several locations in Tarpon Springs which have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
Remnants of the once thriving sponge industry have also been recognized. They include two packing houses:
And five boats:
The shops along Dodecanese Avenue in the Sponge Docks District of Tarpon Springs are still thriving as both a historic and a current tourist destination. The street winds its way from the bayou towards the Tarpon Springs Aquarium at the far end. Along the way it passes the marina and Sponge Boats docked along the north side of the street and the Historic Sponge Exchange on the south. There are many restaurants serving traditional Greek cuisine and fresh seafood that dot the street as well as quaint boutiques that sell everything from real sponges to imported goods. The street is narrow and reminiscent of a seaside village in Greece, with delivery trucks parked in the right of way and locals that greet each other in Greek and stop to chat without regard to the traffic.
The nearby beaches at several of the Pinellas County parks are popular for swimming, windsurfing, picnics, boating, and other water sports. People also come to the beaches to watch the beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Sandy barrier islands off shore shift position over time with the waves and storms. They are accessible by boat and are especially ideal for shell spotting and watching bottlenose dolphins at play. One permanent island, Anclote Key, is a State Park Preserve with a historic lighthouse, bird nesting colonies and pristine beaches.
Tarpon Springs is known for elaborate religious ceremonies hosted by the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, part of the Greek Orthodox Church, including the January 6 Epiphany, celebration that includes youths diving for a cross and the blessing of the waters and the boats. Since the livelihood of the initial Greek immigrants hinged around the sea and their boats, their attachment to a religious service centered on requesting divine protection for what used to be a highly risky job can be easily explained.
The celebration attracts Greek Americans from across the country, and the city's population is known to triple in size for that day. The Metropolitan of Atlanta usually presides over the blessings, sometimes joined by the Archbishop of America. The blessings conclude with the ceremonial throwing of a wooden cross into the city's Spring Bayou, and boys ages 16 to 18 dive in to retrieve it: whoever recovers the cross is said to be blessed for a full year. Following the blessings, the celebration moves to the Sponge Docks where food and music are made part of the festivities.
On January 6, 2006, the 100th anniversary celebration of the Epiphany services in Tarpon Springs was the occasion for a visit by Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered "first among equals" of all hierarchs of the Orthodox Church. He presided over the Epiphany services in one of the few visits to America by an Ecumenical Patriarch.
As of the census of 2000, there were 21,003 people, 9,067 households, and 5,947 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,297.1 per square mile (887.2/km ). There were 10,759 housing units at an average density of 1,176.7 per square mile (454.5/km ). The racial makeup of the city was 90.07% White, 6.15% African American, 0.29% Native American, 1.04% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.81% from other races, and 1.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.33% of the population. 11.8% of the total population reported their ancestry as Greek, which is included in the 90.07% White statistic. 8.87% reported speaking Greek at home, while 3.46% speak Spanish, and 1.09% French .
There were 9,067 households out of which 22.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.2% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.78.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.2% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 24.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $38,251, and the median income for a family was $46,316. Males had a median income of $36,356 versus $25,252 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,504. About 7.7% of families and 9.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.1% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
Tarpon Springs Boy Scouts wearing fustanellas (1960)
Tarpon Springs is referenced by Cmdr. Tucker in Star Trek Enterprise Season 2 Episode 18 "The Crossing"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tarpon Springs, Florida.|