After chiropractor Dr. Mark Lipkin moved from Philadelphia and got a job in Seminole, he rented a nearby apartment until he figured out the best place to live.
He asked his patients, his friends, all kinds of people what they thought.
"The most common response was Countryside," he said.
And then he found Boot Ranch, not far from Countryside, in Palm Harbor, which was relatively unknown at the time. It was a new development off then-two-lane East Lake Road that was being built on an old cattle ranch of the same name. So few people were buying houses (the economy was in a slump in the late '80s) that the builder told Lipkin he could get his custom-built house in 45 days — good news that scared him a bit.
He said he kept a close watch on the builder's progress to make sure he didn't get short shrift from a fast build.
But all went well, and he and his wife, Debbie, loved the split-plan one-story home, where they raised five children.
When Lipkin opened a practice in the Shoppes of Cloverplace on Tampa Road, the location became even more convenient.
He said he watched not only his own neighborhood grow around him, but the entire area as it changed from farmland to suburbia, as two-lane roads became four- or six-lane highways and shopping centers sprung up.
There are three neighborhoods in the 375-acre Boot Ranch: Eagle Ridge, where the Lipkins live, Eagle Trace and the gated Eagle Watch. Each village is walled and has a separate entrance to give it a sense of identity.
The ranch has quite a colorful history. According to palmharbormuseum.com, Al Boyd and father Jess acquired the entire East Lake area in the 1930s and 1940s, Eventually, his father owned 10,000 acres; he owned 6,000. Cattle grazed over land, some of which they leased to other farmers.
Boyd sold much of the land in the 1950s and 1960s, keeping about 1,200 acres — which he named Boot Ranch — to raise the cattle his father had given him.
Boot Ranch's prized cattle were shipped worldwide during its heyday. Through the mid-1960s, Boyd entertained cattle traders, merchants and celebrities — like Lana Turner — from all over the world in the party house on the property. They posed for pictures in front of a 17-foot-tall concrete boot, and scrawled notes about the magnificence of the ranch in the guest book.
The facility was also used, according to the museum, as a private meeting place for Pinellas County officials.
In 1972, Boyd sold everything but a 9-acre patch for himself off East Lake Road. He died in 1998, the only remainder of his former empire — the giant concrete boot — now sitting in the Shoppes of Boot Ranch parking lot after being moved from the ranch.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected]