A historic settlement on the northwest edge of Old Tampa Bay, Safety Harbor is celebrating its Centennial (or 100th Birthday). Although inhabited long before the 20th century, Safety Harbor officially incorporated in 1917 and began its tumultuous history as one of Tampa Bay’s quaint but growing cities.
Originally settled by the Tocobaga tribe, prehistoric Safety Harbor served as one of the largest settlements in their chiefdom. However, the introduction of Spanish explorers in 1528 gave way to folklore surrounding the local area and mineral springs—many of which is still commonly discussed today. One of the most enduring symbols of Safety Harbor remain our mineral springs. According to local folklore, they were named the Espiritu Santo Springs in 1539 by Hernando de Soto during his search for the famed Fountain of Youth. Ever since, the mineral springs have acted as one of the many attractions which lured residents and tourists alike to Safety Harbor.
Homesteaders, including some of our area’s most well-known founding families, followed the Spanish. In fact, one of Pinellas County’s most famous homesteaders, Odet Philippe, settled in the area around 1823 and established his homestead in what is present-day Philippe Park. Folklore quickly built up around Philippe, but he remains most well-known for his contributions to the local citrus industry—a booming industry throughout most of Florida’s modern history. Through his introduction of grapefruit, he joined other pioneer families such as the Booths and McMullens in establishing Safety Harbor and Pinellas County—the land of pines.
Officially incorporating in 1917, Safety Harbor met with a series of troublesome events including a fire that destroyed much of Main Street and the surrounding areas, a hurricane which floated portions of the pier into downtown, and the financial troubles that followed the Land Boom. Surviving both World War I and II, Safety Harbor grew into the town we know today—a quaint community of neighbors where history and heritage come alive.