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Then & Now with Hampton Dunn

Aaaah! What a cheery reminder of carefree boyhood days: the times we kids splashed around in the cool Palma Ceia Springs Swimming Pool back in the 1920s. It was the first real pool this writer knew because he was reared in rural Citrus County, where our swimming was in the numerous lakes and rivers. Only when visiting a cousin in Tampa were we introduced to pools. (Citrus County didn't get a real swimming pool until the 1930s when the WPA built one in Inverness.)

Palma Ceia, on Tampa's west side, was developed early this century by the Tampa Bay Land Co., headed by James F. Taylor and Earle G. Moore. The subdivision was named after the spring on the north side of Bayshore Boulevard at W Rubideaux Avenue, next to the Tampa Garden Center. Today, the spring lies abandoned to its past. A reminder of it is an old stone on the side of a concrete retaining wall inscribed "Palma Ceia Spring, 1906."

After World War II, a half-acre minipark was put together on the site. It was named Fred Ball Park, honoring the longtime County Commission chairman who represented the area and led the fight for the county to buy the spring in 1942 for $15,000. In 1955, the city of Tampa acquired the rundown property. Eventually the pool was shut down and covered over.

Hampton Dunn is a journalist, author, lecturer and, perhaps, Florida's best-known historian. The Tampa resident has spent much of his life chronicling the state and has written 18 books on such places as Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Citrus County.