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Oldsmar centennial: Leaders hold tight to founder's vision

An agricultural agent and R. E. Olds (right) take stock of an Oldsmar sugar beet field in 1921.

Burgert Brothers Photography (1921)

An agricultural agent and R. E. Olds (right) take stock of an Oldsmar sugar beet field in 1921.

It was 1916 when Ransom Eli Olds, creator of the Oldsmobile, purchased 37,541 acres at the top of Tampa Bay for $400,000.

He laid out wide roads made of crushed shell like the spokes of a wheel, with Tampa Bay as the hub. He planned Oldsmar to be a "working man's" community with industries of tourism, manufacturing, farming and citrus. Olds advertised the development to folks up North as the "land of golden opportunities for health, wealth and happiness."

By 1920, 121 families were living in the Oldsmar area. The town had basic industries including utilities, mills, foundry and furniture. Stores sold groceries and hardware and general merchandise. There was an inn, a post office, a church, a school and a library.

Then in 1921, a hurricane with a 14-foot storm surge devastated the town. The town struggled and Olds left, suffering a financial loss of close to $3 million.

The Great Depression would take its toll and force most of the remaining populace to leave. It wasn't until decades later that Oldsmar experienced a revival.

Today the population is roughly 14,000.

City leaders are focused on rebuilding and revitalizing downtown. They've expressed interest in a Major League Baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and commuter rail system on the current CSX railroad tracks.

Dan Saracki, Oldsmar 100 committee chairperson and City Council member, said the goal of the planning committee was the same as R.E. Olds had when he bought the land: "To bring people and families together."

"If he (Olds) saw Oldsmar today, he'd be one happy man."

Terri Bryce Reeves, Times correspondent

Oldsmar centennial: Leaders hold tight to founder's vision 04/27/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 3:48pm]
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