What is the Tarpon Springs Epiphany celebration?
Tarpon Springs History - The first settlers
in the area now known as Tarpon Springs were A.W. Ormond and his
daughter, Mary. They arrived in 1876. They built a cabin near Spring
Bayou. J.C. Boyer, an adventurer from Nassau, sailed into the Bayou. He
and Mary Ormond were soon married.
One year after the arrival
of the Ormonds, George Inness, an American landscape artist, discovered
the beauty in the Bayou. He and his son, George, Jr., painted the scenes
found in the area.
Mary was very pleased with her home. She
especially liked the great fish that inhabited the Bayou. They would
leap into the air and spray water. In 1879, she named the small
settlement Tarpon Springs. (Actually the fish were mullet, not
In 1880, Hamilton Disston, a wealthy saw manufacture,
bought four million acres of the central west coast of Florida from the
Governor for 25 cents an acre. This saved the state from bankruptcy.
Included in the purchase was Tarpon Springs.
In 1884, a post office was
established in Tarpon Springs. Soon the railroad arrived and a depot was
built to accommodate passengers and freight. Through the efforts and
investments of Disston, Tarpon Springs was fashioned into an exclusive
winter resort for wealthy Northerners.
In 1887, Tarpon Springs
was incorporated. It had a population of 52 residents. John Cheney, a
promoter associated with Disston, discovered money could be made by
harvesting the sponges growing in the waters of the Gulf. Although
Tarpon Springs was successful as a resort, it wasn’t long before the
sponge industry became the community’s most important
By 1890, the sponge industry was firmly established in
Tarpon Springs. The Cheney Sponge Company sold almost a million dollars
worth of sponges that year.
In the next few
years, experienced divers from Greece were brought to Tarpon Springs. By
using rubberized diving suits and helmets, they increased harvests. By
1905, over 500 Greek sponge divers were at work using 50 boats.
The early sponge
divers created a need at the docks for eating places for the boat crews.
Then as news of the industry grew, people began coming to the docks to
see the sponges. Shops opened so people could buy the sponges and other
Sponge buyers created the Sponge Exchange in 1907. A
building with a courtyard was erected in which each sponger could store
his catch while awaiting the auctions that took place twice a week.
With the perfection of deep-sea diving equipment, the dollar
amount of sponge harvests continued to increase. Divers were able to go
deeper into the sea for longer lengths of time. For 30 years, the sponge
industry was the largest industry in Florida—larger than citrus or
tourism. Tarpon Springs was known as the “Sponge Capital of the
In the 1940s, blight reduced the growth of sponges. By
the 1950s, sponging as a profitable industry was nearly wiped out.
However in the 1980s, new sponge beds were found. Now, Tarpon Springs is
back to being a leader in the world’s natural sponge market.
All aspects of the
sponge industry are available to view in Tarpon Springs, from the
harvesting of the sponges, all the way to the auctions that are now held
weekly at the Sponge Docks.
In addition to seeing the history of
sponge harvesting, visitors can experience the Greek influence. Greek
restaurants and shops are scattered throughout the area. Seafood, Greek
salads, and pastries are particularly popular. Many visitors attend
Greek Festivals. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral was modeled after
the great Byzantine cathedrals such as St. Sophia Cathedral in
Constantinople and is open daily to visitors.
Bayou, site of the first settlement, is still a delightful place.
Visitors can stroll along the winding streets and see houses that
reflect the grandeur of the wealthy who came to Tarpon Springs each year
to escape the harsh Northern winters. Tarpon Springs still has a
peacefulness and quaint charm.
Inness was an American landscape painter. He came to Tarpon
Springs in 1877. Inness made it his winter home. His studio
attracted people to the Bayou.
Inness was not formally
trained as an artist. At the age of sixteen, he began a two-year
apprenticeship as an engraver with a mapmaking firm in New York.
He and his painting were influenced by frequent visits to
He is best known for his later landscapes. Inness
stated that the purpose of the painter is “simply to reproduce in
other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him.” No
painter has better represented the aspects of nature in the
sponge is an aquatic animal. It clings to a hard object such as
rock or coral. Through a system of chambers it ingests the
plankton on which it lives.
Every two months the growing
sponge increases in diameter by half an inch. The sponge is coated
with a dark elastic skin. The skin has openings through which the
sponge breathes. Gurry, a gray, gelatinous substance, is found
between the outer and inner skins of the living
Divers gently squeeze out the gurry as they gather
their sponges. Then they pound them down and clean them. The
sponges are covered with wet burlap sacks on the ship’s deck. The
heat releases a gas that rots the sponges’ skins. The natural
sponges we use are actually the skeletons of aquatic