Ruskin History

Dr. George McAnelly Miller is credited with the founding of Ruskin, Florida. Miller, a follower of the English writer and social critic John Ruskin, had previously founded colleges in Missouri and Illinois based on the belief that a college education should be available to the masses. These colleges provided agricultural or industrial jobs for students to assist with tuition and board costs, but required that even those who could afford the education work alongside those who could not. After a fire swept through the Ruskin College in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Miller moved his wife and five children to Hillsborough County in search of a new campus in 1906. With considerable assistance from his brother-in-law, Albert Peter Dickman, Miller acquired land for his new Ruskin College in 1907. Altogether, Miller and Dickman purchased 13,000 acres between the Little Manatee River and Apollo Beach.

Miller’s wife, Adeline, established the first post office at Ruskin on August 7, 1908. The Ruskin Commongood Society platted Ruskin in 1910. Every person who bought a piece of Ruskin also bought a membership in the cooperative Ruskin Commongood Society. Nearly seven thousand acres sold within the first year. White men and women who bought land in Ruskin were prohibited from swearing, smoking cigarettes, and drinking. The Ruskin plat included the land for the college and two parks, which were owned in common by all members of the Ruskin Commongood Society, as was the cooperative general store. Ruskin was isolated in its early years; Tampa could only be reached by boat, and travelling to the Wimauma train depot could take a full day. Ruskin became largely self-sufficient, and even printed its own local community scrip to be used at the general store.

Ten percent of all land sales went to fund the new Ruskin College, which opened in 1910. Dr. Miller served as the college president, and Adeline Miller served as the vice-president. The college buildings were constructed of local lumber, as were the homes of the founding families. Ruskin College offered a liberal arts education. The college grew in popularity until the start of World War I, when most of the students left to enlist in the armed services or to support the wartime efforts by working in cities. Ruskin College closed in 1917, due to the lack of enrollment. In 1918, a fire destroyed all the buildings on campus except for the Arts Building. Dr. Miller died in 1919.

Ruskin grew slowly but steadily through the Land Boom years of the early 1920s. Ruskin continued as a strong agricultural community, weathering the Great Depression with its growing family farms. Paul Dickman, a son of A.P. Dickman, was a particularly prolific farmer and inventor of farm equipment. He is credited with innovations in tomato harvesting and packaging. In 1941, Paul Dickman became one of the founding members of the Ruskin Vegetable Corporation, a packing cooperative of Ruskin farmers, and the Ruskin Vegetable Distributors, a sales organization.

The annual springtime Ruskin Tomato Festival began in 1935. This agricultural fair celebrated the variety of crops that kept Ruskin a prosperous community, but it place due emphasis on the tomato, even crowning an annual Ruskin Tomato Queen. Today this festival has been revived as the Ruskin Tomato and Heritage Festival.

Despite the fire that destroyed most of the Ruskin College campus, several notable historic buildings remain in use in Ruskin. The 1914 George McA. Miller House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Adeline Miller designed the house, which is now owned by the Ruskin Woman’s Club, with influences from Swiss chalets and American bungalows. The 1910 A.P. Dickman House, a Hillsborough County Landmark, is a private residence.

The Ruskin Centennial celebration was kicked off on August 7, 2008, to commemorate the founding of the first post office. This day was marked with speakers at the Ruskin Woman’s Club and a tour of the National Register-listed building. The Ruskin Historical Society put together a self-guided walking tour of Ruskin’s historic buildings, including the Miller House, the A.P. Dickman House, and the L.L. Dickman House. From September 15 – October 11, 2008, Ruskin will be participating in The Big Draw, a month-long series of arts events to celebrate Ruskin’s history.

Information about Ruskin Centennial events, including a map of the Ruskin Historical Society’s walking tour, can be found online at http://www.ruskinhistory.org/.

Article by Elaine Lund

American Bungalow features Tampa

In the spring of 2007, the prestigious architectural publication, American Bungalow, sent their chief photographer, Alex Vertikoff to Seminole Heights to photograph their beautiful bungalows for inclusion in the magazine. Alex, who has photographed hundreds of houses all over the country, was amazed by the wide variety of bungalow styles he found, and thrilled to play a part in revealing the charm of the neighborhood to the magazine’s vast, international audience.

The story of Seminole Heights early years as a trolley car suburb, its heartbreaking decline and vibrant renaissance will appear in the winter issue, to be distributed in November. Future editions will feature Hyde Park and Ybor City. Purchase your copy from Sherry’s YesterDaze Vintage Clothing & Antiques at 5207 N. Florida Ave., in Seminole Heights at a discounted price.

Temple Terrace: A Brief History

In the early 1900s, the land that is now Temple Terrace was acquired by renowned Chicago socialite Mrs. Bertha Honore’ Potter-Palmer (founder of Sarasota) as part of her exclusive 16,000-acre hunting preserve that she called “Riverhills Ranch”. Busch Gardens and USF were also originally part of this extensive preserve. The Woodmont Clubhouse in Temple Terrace is the last of Mrs. Potter-Palmer’s preserve buildings to survive, built in 1910.

Mrs. Potter-Palmer’s vision for her property was that it be developed into a golf course community surrounded by extensive citrus groves but her death in 1918 prevented her from realizing that vision. At her death, trustee of her estate and brother Adrian Honore’ sold her local land holdings to Burks Hamner, Vance Helm, Maude Fowler (mother of Tampa Attorney Cody Fowler), and D. Collins Gillette. Mr. Honore’ retained a seat on the Board and fostered the realization of Mrs. Potter-Palmer’s citrus and golf course community vision. They formed two development corporations—Temple Terrace Estates, Inc., who developed the golf course and residential areas; and Temple Terraces, Inc., who developed 5,000 acres of orange groves that originally surrounded the City to the west and north, the largest orange grove in the world in the 1920s. Temple Terrace was also the first location in the United States that the new and expensive hybrid Temple orange was grown at scale. D. Collins Gillette oversaw Temple Terraces, Inc. and owned the first and largest citrus nursery in Florida, Buckeye Nurseries, and was also instrumental in bringing the Temple orange into the U.S. from Jamaica.

The name “Temple Terrace” was derived from the Temple orange. “Terrace” referred in part to the rolling terrain of the area and in part from the terraces found in the yards of the first homes.

Temple Terrace was designed as a golf course community targeted exclusively towards wealthy, retired Northerners. The concept was that each homeowner would live in a villa in the residential area during “The Season” (from the end of December to the annual Washington’s Ball held at the Country Club on February 22). Each homeowner would also have the option of owning a citrus grove tract in the community’s extensive citrus groves. The new community was planned with a Mediterranean Revival theme; in fact Temple Terrace is one of the first planned golf course communities in the country (1921).

The original town fathers of Temple Terrace used remarkable skill and knowledge in putting together the planning, design, and construction team for their new town, reading like a who’s-who of 1920s design and building professionals the group included:

  • Golf course architect Tom Bendelow, who designed the golf course (as well as world famous Medinah #3 in Chicago, and Palma Ceia)
  • Tampa architect M. Leo Elliott, who designed the original Clubhouse, the Club Morocco Casino, Real Estate office and the first ten houses. Locally, M. Leo designed Tampa’s Old City Hall and the Centro Asturiano.
  • New York architect Dwight James Baum, who designed the remainder of the 1920s residences in Temple Terrace. Mr. Baum was the architect of the Ringling’s Ca d’ Zan mansion in Sarasota.
  • The town planner who united the works of these masters was the foremost American planner of the 1920s, John Nolen, who also planned Sarasota and Venice, Florida.
Construction occurred at a rapid pace from 1921 to 1926 but the vision of Temple Terrace’s founders was not to be entirely realized. The Depression came early to Florida and by the end of 1926 the Florida Boom was over. In 1927 Temple Terrace consisted of the golf course and residential areas laid out with about 85 Mediterranean Revival structures built, of which 70 still remain. The name sake of the town, the Temple orange grove, was largely wiped out in a hard freeze in the late 1920s and neglect claimed the rest.

Temple Terrace struggled through the 1930s like the rest of Florida. Florida Bible Institute, now Florida College, a four year liberal arts college, bought the old Country Club Clubhouse and Club Morocco Casino in the late 1930s from the city for back taxes and both buildings remain part of the college. Billy Graham attended the college in the late 1930s and in his autobiography he writes he received his calling “on the 18th green of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club”.

Building activity began to pick up again post World War II and we now have a fine collection of Mid-Century Modern homes and buildings, at least three having been designed by members of the renowned “Sarasota School”.

The Temple Terrace Preservation Society will host a Historic Homes Tour featuring both Mediterranean Revival and Mid Century Modern homes on December 6, 2008; all preservation minded Bay area folks are invited to attend!

If you have questions, photos or information on early Temple Terrace please contact Grant Rimbey, Temple Terrace Preservation Society, 411 Island Road, Temple Terrace, Florida, 813-914-9037, grimbey@ij.net. For more information on the home tour, please go to http://www.templeterracepreservation.com/ (please note that this website is under construction but will be up shortly).

Hillsborough County African-American Landmarks


Of the 28 Landmarked historic resources in unincorporated Hillsborough County, three are representative of African-American community history. These Landmarks were celebrated this April during the University of South Florida Institute on Black Life’s Spring Symposium. The Symposium is an annual event that honors local African-American life and history.

The Beal-Holloman House and the Glover School are located in Bealsville, which is southeast of Plant City, just north of SR 60 near the Polk County line. Bealsville was founded by former slaves from the plantations around Springhead after the Civil War. The founders were able to acquire land through the Southern Homestead Act of 1866. To retain title, the claimants had to construct homes, clear the land, and procure farming implements.

The community was originally named after Howell’s Creek, and for a while it was called Antioch. In 1923 the name was changed to Bealsville after Alfred Beal, son of one of the community’s founders, Ms. Mary Reddick. Mr. Beal was savvy in real estate and owned a large amount of land in this area. When property owners in the area had defaulted on mortgage or tax payments, Mr. Beal bought the property and resold smaller lots back to Bealsville residents. This began the pattern, which continues today, of keeping the Bealsville property in the hands of local families. Mr. Beal donated acreage for a community school, church, and cemetery. He also gave his daughter, Beulah Estelle Beal Holloman, the land for her house. Ms. Holloman was a prominent midwife in Bealsville. The Beal-Holloman House was continuously lived in by Mr. Beal’s descendents until about 15 years ago, when it was boarded up. However, the property remains in the family. The great-granddaughter of Alfred Beal is the current property owner.

In 1873 the community built a one room log cabin school that educated the children of Bealsville for the next seventy years. This school originally was named Antioch School, but it was later renamed Jameson School. The Glover School was built in 1933, on land donated by William Glover. The original Glover School was a three-room wood frame school house. The residents of Bealsville fought for several years to get a larger school, since education, along with religion, was one of the most important principles to the community founders. Once Mr. Glover donated the land and the community had raised $1,000, the school district agreed to construct the new three-room school house.

In the mid-1940s, several of the County’s smaller schools were consolidated. The schools for African-American children in nearby Keysville, Hopewell, Coronet, and Trapnell were closed, and the Glover School was expanded with the concrete block buildings you see in the center and left of the photo. There are an additional three other buildings at the school site, added over the years. Glover School remained segregated until 1972. The school was closed in 1980, and Bealsville, Inc. was formed and took over the property to use for the benefit of the community. In addition to being a Hillsborough County Landmark, the Glover School is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.

The Citrus Park Colored School was one of the early one-room school houses to not survive consolidation. The first school for African-American children in this part of Hillsborough County was located further north along Gunn Highway, in a Methodist church on property owned by Mr. Tony Lewis, a former slave from Mt. Dora. The original school building was struck by lightning and burned. In 1921, Ms. Barbara Allen donated the land for a new school, and with considerable help from Reverend Charlie Walker who persistently petitioned the school board to establish the school, the Citrus Park Colored School was opened by 1925. This building was also used for services by a Baptist church and the Mt. Pleasant AME Church through the early 1950s. The school was closed in 1948 and deeded to the church at that time, and the students were sent to school in Sulphur Springs.

Progress Village is not a Hillsborough County Landmark, but it is an example of a valuable historic resource from our recent past. Progress Village was first platted in 1958, which now falls within the standard 50 year time frame in which cultural resources can begin to be considered historic. In addition to being a historically African-American neighborhood, Progress Village is one of the oldest planned communities in the unincorporated County. Progress Village was constructed to provide homes for families dislocated from the Scrub neighborhood in Tampa during urban renewal and interstate construction. Less than a quarter of the planned 3,857 residences were constructed, but in 1960 the non-profit Progress Village, Inc., with its interracial board of trustees, was awarded the national Lane Bryant Service Award for outstanding contribution to community life. In addition to the houses, a school, shopping center, and two churches were constructed in Progress Village.

Historic Schools Tour

The Second Annual TPI Historic Schools Tour was held on Saturday, April 19th. This year’s tour included Plant High School, Roosevelt Elementary, Gorrie Elementary, Mitchell Elementary and Wilson Middle School. Everyone met at Plant and hopped on a yellow school bus for an “authentic” experience.

Each Principal greeted participants, took them on a tour and shared their facility’s unique history. Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Cathy Valdes informed the group that the Hillsborough County School District has the second largest inventory of historic schools in the state and is the largest steward of historic properties in the county. What a huge responsibility!

Tampa Preservation’s own Paula Meckley was a featured speaker at both Wilson and Mitchell where she has taken her knowledge and skills as a preservationist and put them to work. Whether procuring and installing salvaged wood floors or writing grants to fund a new lunchroom at Mitchell, Paula can’t be stopped! Everyone was inspired by her stories and enthusiasm. She is proof that preservation works.

As the yellow bus pulled into the Plant parking lot everyone received a Tampa Preservation Salutes Historic Schools poster. Old friends visited and new friends were made on the short outing. Something about “going back to school” is special for everyone. Don’t miss the Third Annual Historic Schools Tour next year!

TPI Awards 2008

The 2008 Awards Celebration was held on April 11 at the historic Italian Club in Ybor City. Sponsors of the event were L’Unione Italiana and Southern Spirits and Wine. The event was part of the AIA Heritage Committee ReNew Tampa Conference.

Serving on the Awards Jury were Roger Grunke, AIA, Bob Jefferies, AIA, Gus Paras, AIA along with TPI Board Members Becky Clarke, Beth Strong, and Nootchie Smith. Many thanks for their hard work!

Residential Restoration Achievement Awards were awarded to the following projects:
505 E. Amelia Ave.
1301 E. Columbus Dr.
919 W. Kentucky
813 S. Packwood

Commercial Restoration Achievement Awards were awarded to the following
The Arlington Building – 1209-1229 N. Franklin Street
The Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory – 1403 N. Howard Ave.
The Tampa Fire Fighters Museum – 720 E. Zack Street

The Silk Purse Award is given to a project that rescues a vacant neglected building through careful renovations affecting a positive visual and economic impact on the neighborhood and community. Silk Purse Awards were given to the following:

1202 N. Franklin Street – Fly Restaurant
3701 Henderson Blvd. – Square One Burger Restaurant

An Individual Achievement Award recognized Nancy Henderson for her artistic pen and ink drawings of Tampa’s historic buildings. Her renderings have promoted an awareness of and appreciation for Tampa’s architectural heritage.

An Organizational Achievement Award was presented to the Tampa Fire Fighters Museum Board of Directors’ commitment to the restoration of and sensitive expansion to Old Fire Station # 1. The members’ determination over came multiple difficulties that fired up during the ten year evolution.

Certificates of Appreciation were given to Elaine Lund for her contributions to the TPI newsletter Cornerstone and to Richard Clarke for countless years of his photographic documentation of TPI Events.