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
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
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.