History of Temple Terrace, Florida
Temple Terrace, Florida was originally inhabited by a Native American group known as the Tocobaga until about 1760. The group lived in the Tampa area during both prehistoric and historic times until their numbers began to decline in the seventeenth century due, in part, to diseases brought by European settlers to the New World. Sadly, the Tocobaga disappeared from historic recordings within a decade.
In 1757, the Spanish Royal Fleet made traveled up the Hillsborough River to Riverhills Park. Don Francisco Maria Celi, leader of the Spanish Royal Fleet, erected a cross in the pine forest from which they harvested pine trees to use as masts in their ships. A replica of the cross, and historic marker, can now be found in Riverhills Park today.
By 1910, the area of Temple Terrace, Florida was part of a private 19,000 acre estate owned by Mrs. Bertha Potter-Palmer. The grounds were known as the most attractive hunting grounds in the state. A single building from the preserve still remains on the grounds, surrounded by some of the largest longleaf pine and live oak in the city. Ultimately, Mrs Potter-Palmer envisioned her property becoming a massive golf course community encapsulated by citrus groves. After her death, trustee’s sold the land to the founders of two developmental corporations: Temple Terrace Estates, Inc. and Temple Terraces Inc.
Temple Terrace Estates worked to develop the golf course and residential facilities while Temple Terraces developed over 5,000 acres of orange grove, the largest of the 1920’s, that surrounded the city. Originally the founders intended for the area to be a retirement village for wealthy northerners. They expected the guests to purchase a lot on Temple Terrace and build a seasonal home while maintaining upkeep of the surrounding grove as extra income. However, in 1924, the residential area was developed into what is presently known as Temple Crest.
Busch Gardens was also built on land that was originally part of Mrs. Potter-Palmer’s 19,000 acres.
The Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club hosted the Florida Open in 1925 and 1926. Advertised as the most historic collection of golfers to ever play in Florida, the event did not disappoint. Nearly every major golfer of the day competed but Leo Diego came out on top, winning the tournament. Temple Terrace was designed by George F. Young, who also designed Davis Island and McClellend Park as well as others. Two architects designed the majority of the homes in the area: M Leo Elliot and Dwight James Baum.
Of the structures he designed, there are now only 15 homes and building created by Elliot remaining in the city. This remains the largest collection of his work anywhere. Of Baum, there are 35 houses still in the city. This is thought to be the single largest collection of his work across the southeast.
Famous architect Frank Albert DePasquale designed at least 2 homes in the area, as well.
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