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Tarpon Springs, Florida

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Tarpon Springs, Florida

Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tarpon Springs waterfront
Tarpon Springs waterfront
Motto: Where culture and fun collide
Location in Pinellas County and the state of Florida
Location in Pinellas County and the state of Florida
Country United States
State Florida
County Pinellas
Incorporated 1887[1]
 • 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)
Population (2010)
 • Total 23,484
 • Density 1,400/sq mi (540/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 34688-34689
Area code(s) 727
FIPS code 12-71150[2]
GNIS feature ID 0292048[3]
Website .us.ctsflwww

Tarpon Springs is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. The population was 23,484 at the 2010 census.[4] Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.[5] Downtown Tarpon has long been a focal point and is currently undergoing beautification.[1]


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, was first settled by white and black farmers and fishermen around 1876. Some of the newly arrived visitors spotted tarpon jumping out of the waters and so named the location Tarpon Springs. In the 1880s, it was developed as a wintering spot for wealthy northerners. During the same decade, John Cheyney founded the first local sponge business. The industry continued to grow in the 1890s, and many blacks and whites from Key West and the Bahamas settled in Tarpon Springs to harvest and process sponges. A few Greek immigrants arrived in this city during the 1890s to work in the sponge industry.
Old City Hall

In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs and recruited divers and crew members from Greece. The first divers came from the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina and Hydra, but they were soon outnumbered by those from the Dodecanese islands of Kalymnos, Symi and Halki. The sponge industry soon became one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and the most important business in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year. The 1953 film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, depicting the sponge industry, takes place and was filmed in Tarpon Springs.[6]

When a red tide algae bloom occurred in 1947, wiping out the sponge fields in the Gulf of Mexico, many of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood and others left the business. However, the sponges eventually recovered and there has remained a consistent but smaller sponge industry. In the 1980s, the sponge business experienced a boom due to a sponge disease that killed the Mediterranean sponges. Today there is still a small active sponge industry. Visitors can often view sponge fishermen working at the Sponge Docks on Dodecanese Boulevard. In addition, visitors can enjoy shops, restaurants, and museum exhibits that detail Tarpon Springs' Greek heritage.

In 2007 and 2008, the City of Tarpon Springs established Sister City relationships with Kalymnos, Halki, Symi, and Cyprus, honoring the close historical link with these Greek islands.

Historic sites

Sponge diving mural at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Exchange
Natural sponges in Tarpon Springs

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:

Tourist attractions

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, part 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.

Epiphany celebration

A double-headed eagle portrayed in a stained glass window inside Tarpon Springs' St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral

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.[7] 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[8] 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.


American and Greek flags flying in Tarpon Springs

As of the census[2] 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/km²). There were 10,759 housing units at an average density of 1,176.7 per square mile (454.5/km²). 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 [2].

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.

Notable people

References in Entertainment

Tarpon Springs is referenced by Cmdr. Tucker in Star Trek Enterprise Season 2 Episode 18 "The Crossing"

See also


  1. ^ "History" Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  4. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Tarpon Springs city, Florida". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ Greek ancestry by city - ePodunk
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 17, 1953). "Beneath the 12 Mile Reef".  
  7. ^ "First-timer grabs the Epiphany cross in Tarpon Springs". January 7, 2013. Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, blessed the waters, then dropped the coveted cross into Spring Bayou...Thousands gathered to watch the cross dive, the centerpiece of Tarpon's annual Jan. 6 Epiphany celebration, which is considered the largest in the western hemisphere. The event commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Bells tolled early Sunday to mark the beginning of Epiphany. At 8 a.m., local and national Greek Orthodox clergy led the orthos and divine liturgy at the overflowing St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral downtown. The services concluded with blessings and prayers for the 47 Greek boys ages 16 to 18 who would contend for the cross...The boy who retrieves the cross is said to receive a year of blessings. 
  8. ^ "100th Epiphany celebration comes to close". Patriarch Bartholomew venerates an icon of St. Nicholas Sunday before performing the Orthros and Patriarchal liturgy while visiting St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs. It was His All Holiness' last public event in Tarpon Springs, following the 100th Epiphany celebration 

External links

  • City of Tarpon Springs official website
  • History of Tarpon Springs
  • Fred Howard Park
  • Anclote Key Preserve State Park
  • Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs Merchant Association
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