CARROLLWOOD — Some 50 years ago, home designer Betty O'Neal had to hurry up and name streets on the map of the new Carrollwood subdivision, so that the U.S. Postal Service could set up routes.
She picked whatever popped in her head, including three varieties of plywood — namesakes for Nokora Drive, Samara Drive and Korina Lane.
So writes Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez in his book about the history of the area. In Tampa's Carrollwood, he also tells about how in 1907 workers used mules and rolling logs to move Lake Magdalene United Brethren Church in Christ 5 miles to a spot closer to town. The journey took 11 weeks. Workers stopped wherever they were on Sundays to hold church services.
Despite such nuggets in the text, it's the old photographs that catch the eye. They depict desolate intersections that are now busy thoroughfares, pioneer families in high collars and long dresses, and buildings of the era. Hundreds of pictures fill the pages. One showing a lakeshore picnic scene from 1927 adorns the sepia-colored cover, the hook that makes browsers pick it up and take a look.
That's the formula for the "Images of America'' series from Arcadia Publishing, a 20-year-old Charleston, S.C., company that has produced more than 8,500 volumes on communities throughout the country. Others featuring the Tampa Bay area include Tampa Bay's Gulf Beaches; Tampa's Hyde Park; Zephyrhills; Plant City; Tampa's Historic Cemeteries; and Vintage Tampa Signs and Scenes.
It's the nation's leading publisher of regional and local history books, said Leigh Scott, sales manager for the company.
"We've cornered the market on pictorial histories," she said.
The books typically begin with a short historical synopsis, the themes carried forth in extended captions for the photos. Authors routinely turn up historical tidbits that might surprise present-day residents.
Temple Terrace, for example, sets the scene on Feb. 4, 1926, when world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey fought in a demonstration bout in front of a huge outdoor crowd — some in trees for a better view — along the Hillsborough River. According to writers Lana Burroughs, Tim Lancaster and Grant Rimbey of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, Dempsey was hired by Temple Terrace developer Burks L. Hamner.
Plant City, by the East Hillsborough Historical Society, quotes a sign at Wavers Filling Station, one of the early gas stations in town: "If You SPIT On the Floor at Home, Then We Want You to SPIT On It Here, Cause We Want You to Feel At Home."
Zephyrhills, by Madonna Jervis Wise, reveals that the city got its name from a Pennsylvania Civil War veteran, Capt. Howard B. Jeffries, who bought land in 1909 as a settlement for Union veterans. Jeffries is said to have stopped at one of the more scenic spots, LeHeup Hill, where he gazed down on rolling hills and felt "zephyr-like'' breezes.
Morrow-Hernandez launched the project on Carrollwood in the Arcadia books section at the Tampa Bay History Center gift shop. He didn't see one on the Carrollwood community, so he put together a proposal and sent it to the publisher.
"They loved the idea," he said.
Arcadia editors also initiate their projects, reaching out to communities that have a bit of history. "We seek out local historians, sometimes newspaper journalists, sometimes people with passion for history of their town,'' said Scott.
The publisher contacted the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce to look for someone to write the city's story and was referred to the Temple Terrace Preservation Society. Burroughs, Lancaster and Rimbey, now a City Council member, took on the task as a preservation society project.
All royalties go to the preservation society, but that doesn't amount to much. The publisher pays the writers 8 percent of the cover price, or about $1.75 per sale at the listed cover price of $21.99.
''You kind of have to do it because you want to do it,'' said Lancaster.
That's what motivated McMorrow-Hernandez, the 32-year-old writer for an online marketing firm. He grew up mostly in northwest Hillsborough County and wanted to tell the story of the neighborhood's progress, in part, he said, to instill in residents a sense of appreciation.
He breaks the book into eight chapters, the topics covering pioneer families (Bearss and Stall), Lake Magdalene Church; Lake Carroll and the original 1959 Carrollwood development; citrus groves; roads; the extended area; churches, schools and community spirit; and longtime businesses.
His breakthrough, McMorrow-Hernandez said, was meeting local historian Lois Abbott Yost, who introduced him to members of the pioneer Bearss family. He got photos from families, Lake Magdalene church, businesses in the area and library archives.
It took him about nine months to gather the photos, conduct the interviews and write the book, spending about 20 hours a week at night and on weekends. He spent many Friday nights, he said, searching the archives of the University of South Florida library.
"It was a labor of love all the way.''
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.