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Oak-covered streets
 


Ballast Point History

Louise Lykes Ferguson, who is in her 90's, wrote this article for the Ballast Point Newletter.

When my family moved to Ballast Point in 1928, the whole area between the two bays - Old Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay - was a vastly different place than it is today. There were a few homes, primarily on the bay. Small farms dealing with a few head of cattle, chickens, hogs and vegetable patches were scattered here and there over the land.

This was all outside the city limits, so there were few amenities. Water was drawn or pumped from a well. For use in the home the water had to be treated with salts, etc., to make it suitable and potable. I can remember so well my mother measuring the ingredients for this procedure. Even then the plumbing fixtures were always rusty looking.

Fortunately, Tampa Electric supplied power for the home and also for the wonderful street car, which for many years had run from the city down Bayshore Boulevard, following what is now Interbay Boulevard to Port Tampa City. That mode of transportation provided many a pleasant opportunity for a date, romance and natural air conditioning. My mother's and father's generation made good use of it.

Roads were few, if any, and more often than not just sandy ruts. The only school in the area was the Ballast Point Elementary School, obviously dictated by population. Madison, Monroe and Robinson schools followed as needed in the '50's.

The year 1924 saw the opening of Gandy Bridge, billed as the longest automobile toll bridge in the world, spanning six miles across Old Tampa Bay, linking Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. It was a major achievement, cutting off 50 miles around the bay through Oldsmar. The link between the two counties accounted for the rapid development that followed in both areas. The 50-year dream of George Gandy occasioned a gathering of 24 governors and a huge crowd on onlookers. Cars paid a 50-cent toll to cross. Can you believe my cousin and I rode horseback across the bridge for the big sum of a 10-cent toll? The horses were afraid of the rails, so we rode right in the middle of the bridge. Traffic was different then!

In the 1953 the area was annexed by the city. About the same time, with war threatening in Europe, Tampa was chosen for a major air base. So began MacDill Field, one of the most important economic and strategic developments to benefit the city.

During my teen years, that expanse of land had made a wondrous place for horseback rides. Jumping over fallen pine trees and dodging palmetto clumps provided great entertainment. It was also rattlesnake heaven, which kept both horse and rider alert.

Perhaps the adequate supply of snakes and a clever merchandiser were the reasons for the miniscule U.S. Post Office named Rattlesnake, Florida, and the adjunct rattlesnake canning business. Tourists flocked to both, located near the east end of the Gandy Bridge. Many were the postcards sent from there by visitors.

Florida's famous real estate boom began in the '20's and brought prosperity to many, even to the Ballast Point community, only to be followed by the bust an the failure of many banks. The Great Depression actually began in Florida before the rest of the nation suffered the same fate.

The Interbay area developed fairly slowly after World War II until recent years. With the great influx of people to Florida and the West Coast of Florida in particular, it is evident now how much building is taking place, both commercially and residentially. It behooves us all to be vigilant that it develops in the best way.

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