The city is located about 30 miles north of St. Petersburg, along the western Florida coastline. The area began to attract settlers shortly after the Civil War. In the mid 1860's, the first landholder, Samuel E. Hope acquired land along the Spring Bayou river. And, then slowly the word got out about the beautiful area of Tarpon Springs and it grew into the community it is today with approximately 21,000 citizens.
Tarpon Springs, Florida is considered the sponge capital of the United States. In fact, if you ask local residents they will tell you they ARE the sponge capital of the world! Regardless of Tarpon Springs' impact on the sponge industry worldwide, it still remains one of the reasons that Tarpon Springs has developed into a successful community. The sponge industry began in Tarpon Springs when John K. Cheney started a commercial sponge business called the Anclote and Rock Island Sponge Company, near the mouth of the Anclote River. He hired a native of Greece, John M. Cocoris, which had tremendous knowledge of sponges and the sponge industry. John Cocoris then brought his brothers and an experienced diving crew from Greece to assist with the sponge harvest. Their success in the sponge industry attracted many other Greeks to the Tarpon Springs area, with hopes of being successful also. This began the transformation of Tarpon Springs into a replica of a Mediterranean port city.
The sponge industry was very productive in the Tarpon Springs during the 1930's, resulting in millions of dollars of sponges being sold every year. But, then the Tarpon Springs sponge industry suffered a setback when the sponge beds were destroyed by bacteria in the 1940's. But, the industry revived in the 1980's when healthy sponge beds were discovered off the Tarpon Springs coastline. This returned Tarpon Springs to the top of the list of natural sponge markets. Tarpon Springs's sponge industry now handles all aspects of the industry from harvesting the sponge to hosting auctions weekly at the Sponge Docks for wholesalers.
Tarpon Springs is a very diverse collection of cultures and races. However, the largest and most visible culture found around the sponge docks is that of the local Greek residents. The Greek population accounts for approximately 13 percent (2,800 residents) of the local residents.
Because, sponge diving in Tarpon Springs was influenced by the great sponge divers of Greece (See our Sponge Industry Page), there are many Greek residents found with the community.
The large Greek population of Tarpon Springs allows for many of the communities interesting shopping districts and community events. Tarpon Springs host an Epiphany ceremony in January each year. This event allows adolescent, teenage, Greek boys to participate in an event that is said to bring good luck to the boy's family for the entire year. Also, there are many Greek restaurants and bakeries located throughout the sponge district. Finally, the Sponge Docks are always a source of activity with the large sponge boats coming into dock and prepare their sponges for sale.
In addition to the attributes indicated above, Tarpon Springs also has many of the conveniences of larger communities, but with a small-town feel.
Tarpon Springs does not contain in natural water springs like many other Florida communities. So, just how did its name originate? RuTarpon Springsmor has it that in the 1800's a landowner's daughter was looking out from the shoreline and noticed the Tarpon (fish) jumping out of the water. She stated, “look at those Tarpon spring”. And, from that the name was born, Tarpon Springs.