Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zephyrhills, a 'Tin Can Tourist' town, oozes history

ZEPHYRHILLS — Driving through Zephyrhills today, it's easy to miss the ghosts of the past.

But Margaret Seppanen and her friends see ghosts everywhere — in the World War II-era barracks where she attended elementary school, in old records, even in the land itself.

Although they live in 2008, members of the Zephyrhills Historical Association are lost in Old Florida. And they like it that way.

"There is so much history in Zephyrhills," said Seppanen, the association's president. "You can know these people personally."

Association member Bill Kustes thinks sometimes about the pine stumps that covered the landscape in the early 20th century, after the lumber companies took much of the forests and left.

Even termites wouldn't eat the stumps, but the Hercules Powder Company found them valuable for perfumes and turpentine. So valuable in fact, that the company built 60 homes for their employees and even paid farmers for the stumps on their land.

The company's imprint on the town is visible in the land it gave the town, with stipulations that it be used for education and recreational purposes. Zephyrhills High School, Woodland Elementary and the Hercules Aquatic Center sit on that land today.

Kustes, a former teacher and businessman, recalled how the city grew from a tiny Tin Can Tourist town into the community it is today.

Tin Can Tourists were the first snowbirds who journeyed from the North in the early 1900s to enjoy the nice weather. The story goes that they brought their food in cans and heated it on their car engines, giving them their name.

Genevieve L. Smith, another member of the association, said two roads led from the north down to Florida, with many seeking Lake Zephyr as their destination. Eventually the "Tin Can Campers of America" was formed and visitors returned each year to sing songs, exchange stories and enjoy socializing with people from various states.

"The townsfolk were happy to have them," Smith said. "They sold eggs, fruit and vegetables to them."

Margie Partain, who also grew up in Zephyrhills, believes understanding and knowing about local history creates an appreciation for those who came before her.

"I think about the struggles that people went through to get us to where we are now," she said.

Members of the Zephyrhills Historical Association include those who lived and grew up in the region, as well as those who moved here later in life.

Zephyrhills Historical Association meetings and presentations are free and open to the public. The group, which has about 20 to 25 active members, is interested in sharing its knowledge and is seeking new members.

"There are people from four and five generations back," Kustes said. "So there is a rich history here."

On Saturday, Zephyrhills celebrates Founders' Day. During the event, the historical association is sponsoring the History Home Tour, a self-guided tour of 18 historical homes and buildings.

>>If you go

Zephyrhills History Home Tour

Maps can be picked up at the Zephyrhills Historical Association booth on Main Street during the Founders' Day Celebration.

Zephyrhills, a 'Tin Can Tourist' town, oozes history 03/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.