See Rock City

See Rock City

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Clearwater, FL

Clearwater is a city located in Pinellas County, Florida, USA, nearly due west of Tampa and northwest of St. Petersburg. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 108,787; however, according to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau's estimates, the city's population fell slightly to 108,687. It is the county seat of Pinellas County. Clearwater is the smallest of the three principal cities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, most commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area.


Clearwater at daybreak, as seen from Clearwater Beach

Present-day Clearwater was originally the home of the Tocobaga people. Around 1835, the United States Army began construction of Fort Harrison as an outpost during the Seminole wars. The fort was located on a bluff overlooking Clearwater Harbor in an area known today as Harbor Oaks. University of South Florida archeologists excavated the site in 1977 after Alfred C. Wyllie discovered an underground ammunition bunker while digging a swimming pool on his estate.

The area's population grew in 1842, because after the Federal Armed Occupation Act of 1842 offered 160 acres (0.65 km2) to anyone who would bear arms and cultivate the land. Early settlers included the Stevens, Stevenson and McMullen families, who claimed and farmed large tracts of land. Prior to 1906, the area was known as Clear Water Harbor. The name "Clear Water" is thought to have come from a fresh water spring flowing from near where the City Hall building is located today. There were many other freshwater springs that dotted the bayfront, many in the bay itself, which were the reason for the crystal clear water found there.

Originally part of Hillsborough County, the first road joining Clearwater and Tampa was built in 1849, which dramatically reduced the prior day-long commute between the cities. The first US Post Office for Pinellas County was built on the site of the present Turner Street Dock Park, circa 1859.

During the American Civil War, Union gunboats repeatedly raided the city's supplies as most of the able-bodied men were away fighting for the Confederate States of America army. The city began booming in late nineteenth century, prompted by Peter Demens building the first passenger railroad line into the city 1888. Clearwater was incorporated as a town in 1891 and James E. Crane became the town's first mayor. The town's reputation as a tourist destination grew in popularity when Plant built the Belleview Biltmore in 1897.

Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater

By the early 1900s, Clearwater's population had grown to around 400, ballooning to nearly 1,000 in the winter. Clearwater was reincorporated, this time as a city, on May 27, 1915, and made the county seat for Pinellas County, which broke from Hillsborough County in 1912. Also in 1915, a bridge was built across Clearwater Harbor, joining the city with modern-day Clearwater Beach. Remnants of the original bridge still remain as boating hazards in the harbor's shallows.

During World War II, Clearwater became a major training base for U.S. troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. Virtually every hotel in the area, including the historic Belleview Biltmore and Fort Harrison Hotel, became luxury barracks for new recruits. Vehicle traffic regularly stopped for companies of soldiers marching through downtown, and nighttime blackouts to confuse potential enemy bombers were common practice. The remote and isolated Dan's Island, now Sand Key, was used as a target for US Army Air Corps fighter-bombers for strafing and bombing practice.

Annual events

Clearwater Beach sunset

Imagine International Film Festival
Fun N Sun Festival (April - May)
Clearwater Celebrates America (July 4)
Clearwater Jazz Holiday (October)
Hispanic Heritage Festival (October)
Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 (November 2006-2010)

File:SR 580 at Summerdale Drive.jpg

View east along SR 580 approaching Summerdale Drive


Tampa International Airport serves Clearwater and the rest of the Tampa Bay Area as the primary means of air travel. St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, however, has seen an increase in usage recently with 747,369 passengers accounted for in 2007.

Public transportation

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus service is currently Clearwater's only form of public transit. The service offers 35 local routes, two express routes, and an exclusive beach trolley that runs north and south along Pinellas County's barrier islands. An abundance of these routes can be found passing through or ending in Clearwater. Fares are presently $2.00 per bus trip, and $3.00 for a single one-way trip on an express bus.

One of PSTA's major transfer centers, Park Street Terminal, is located in Downtown Clearwater at the corner of Park Street and South Garden Avenue.

Major roads

The major street arterial system in Clearwater is essentially an east-west, north-south oriented grid pattern. Gulf to Bay Boulevard is the east-west backbone of the city, ending at Clearwater Beach on its west end and progressing over the Courtney Campbell Causeway on its east end en route to Tampa. SR 580, Sunset Point Road, Drew Street, Lakeview Road, and Belleair Road are the other heavily traveled east-west arterials in Clearwater. Major north-south routes include U.S. Route 19 Alternate, Myrtle Avenue, Missouri Avenue, Highland Avenue, Keene Road, Hercules Avenue, Belcher Road, and McMullen-Booth Road.

U.S. Route 19 is by far the city's most heavily traveled route, some parts of it carrying nearly 100,000 vehicles per day. It is a limited-access freeway for a majority of its length in Clearwater, with an exception being the portion between Druid Road and Haines Bayshore Road. Plans are being developed to upgrade this piece to freeway standards, however.

Art and culture

Clearwater Beach, looking south from Pier 60.

Clearwater Public Art and Design Program

The Clearwater Public Art and Design Program, adopted by City Council in 2005, is funded through a 1% allocation on all City capital improvement projects valued at more than $500,000 and includes a similar, citywide requirement on all private development projects valued in excess of $5,000,000. Eligible private developers have two options to satisfy the Public Art Ordinance: dedicate 1% of the project's aggregate job value toward the installation of on-site public art; or contribute 0.75% of the project's aggregate job value to the City's Public Art Discretionary Fund, to be used to supplement and initiate public art projects throughout the city. The Public Art and Design Program is overseen by a seven-member Board, appointed by City Council and composed of local arts supporters and administrators, design professionals and private citizens. The Program seeks to “enhance Clearwater for those who visit and live within the city and to contribute to a legacy for generations to come” through the commission of unique, public artworks that enhance the City's diversity, character and heritage.

Sightseeing and fishing boats docked at the Clearwater Marina

Ruth Eckerd Hall
(Official Site)

The Capitol/Royalty Theatre

The Capitol Theatre was built by Senator-elect John S. Taylor (aka “Handsome Jack” Taylor or “Jack Taylor”), who also built the historical Rolyat Hotel in 1926 (currently part of Stetson University Law School). The contractor for the Capitol Theatre was a father and son team John and Ivan Phillipoff, who also built the Coachman Building (1916), the Roebling Estate in Bellaire (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979), the old Pinellas County Courthouse (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992),other historical homes which have been saved, and did work at the Belleview Hotel

Groundbreaking was Dec 6, 1920. The “New Capitol Theatre” was damaged in a storm on Oct 26, 1921 (so it had been completed). A Robert Morton Wicks Opus 415 Organ was installed in 1922.

Donald Roebling was a frequent patron, having his own double seat installed at the theatre.

The theatre was managed by various movie companies (EJ Sparks, Paramount, ABC-Southeastern Theatres, and Plitt Southern) where it played the most recent movies of the day. The theatre also offered vaudeville on Friday nights in the 1930's.

Headliners included Sally Rand, Fred Stone and his daughter, and Lum and Abner (of radio).

The theatre was renovated in 1962. The Robert Morton Wicks Opus 415 was most likely removed during this renovation.

When Plitt Southern did not renew their contact in 1979, Bill Neville and Jerry Strain tried to save the theatre with film classics and reduced prices. However, the theatre closed its doors on Oct 28, 1980.

Royalty Theater Company signed leases with the Taylor family in February 1981. From hereon, the theatre became known as the Royalty Theater. The building was renovated with Ron Winter of Winter Associates as the contractor and Scott Musheff as the architect.

During the renovations, Bill Neville’s murdered body was found in the balcony.
The theatre remained in the Taylor family estate until it was sold in 1996. In July 2008 the building went into foreclosure.

JANUARY 2009 - The City of Clearwater and Ruth Eckerd Hall join forces to renovate and revitalize the historic Capitol Theatre.

International Arts and Film Foundation
(Official Site)


Bright House Field in Clearwater is the spring training home of Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies.


Clearwater Christian College
St. Petersburg College
Everest University

Famous current and former residents:

Evel Knievel, Stunt King
Ricky Carmichael Retired supercross/motocross racer
Hulk Hogan maintains a large estate in neighboring Belleair and a beach house in Clearwater Beach.
Lisa Marie Presley and her family
Aaron Gillespie, Drummer and vocalist.
Ken Climo, 12 time World Disc Golf and 5 time United States Disc Golf Champion
Brooke Hogan, Daughter of Hulk Hogan
Beverly Mullins, WWE development diva.
Raquel Gibson, Playboy Playmate of the Month in November 2005.
Jim Morrison, Poet, musician, singer for The Doors.
Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut
Pinellas Technical Education Center

Clearwater In Pictures of The Past:

Cars cross the Clearwater Causeway bridge : Clearwater, Florida, 1960

Residents walk through the trailer park - Clearwater, Florida

Residents walk through the trailer park : Clearwater, Florida, 1955

View of the trailer at the park : Clearwater, Florida, 1955

Statues and fountains at Kapok Tree restaurant : Clearwater, Florida, 1981
Aerial view - Clearwater, Florida

Aerial view : Clearwater, Florida, 1979

Kapok Tree Inn : Clearwater, Florida, 1978
R. Brumby home near Clearwater Harbor

R. Brumby home near Clearwater Harbor, 1886

City hall : Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater fire department, 1922

Tampa-Clearwater line bus filled with passengers, 1919

Interior of the S.S. Coachman and Sons general store

Grant Motel

Fort Harrison Avenue looking south : Clearwater, Florida

External Link:

City of Clearwater