REFLECTIONS OF BYGONE DAYS
R.E. Olds was one of the founding fathers of the American automobile industry, the inventor and manufacturer of the REO later known as the Oldsmobile. Having made a small fortune in the auto business, Olds purchased 37,000 acres of land at the northernmost tip of Tampa Bay in 1913, intent on building a city of 100,000 complete with luxury hotels, a thoroughbred horse racing track, golf courses, beaches, a shipyard, factories, oil wells and prestigious residential developments.
Olds was obviously a man ahead of his time if not a man with good timing! After spending eight years (and several million dollars) designing and developing the tree-lined boulevards which link the bayshore with downtown, then building a 60-room hotel, grocery, drug and hardware stores, a library and school, restaurants and cafes, dairy farms and plantations and even a waterside casino a powerful hurricane hit the city in 1921, devastating the Oldsmar area and the man who gave it his name.
By 1923 R.E. Olds "city by the bay" had a population of only 200, just one major factory had settled in the area, and Olds had sunk more than $4.5 million into his 10-year real estate experiment. Disenchanted and disappointed, Olds began liquidating his assets, trading the newly completed racetrack (now known as Tampa Bay Downs) for the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, and eventually leaving the area altogether after taking a $3 million bath.
When the Gandy Bridge was built in 1924 followed by the completion of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in 1934 traffic no longer had to travel through Oldsmar to go between Tampa and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. For the next 50 years, until the early 1980s, Oldsmar remained a sparsely populated backwater town, as the rest of the Tampa Bay area grew up around it.
Floridas population explosion finally reached the Oldsmar area in the 1980s, as Tampa approached build-out and Pinellas County blossomed into the most densely populated county in the state of Florida. Today, nearly 50,000 people live at the Top of the Bay, more than 12,000 within the Oldsmar city limits, and the others in unincorporated areas of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties primarily in the prestigious East Lake Woodlands and Westchase developments. And of the 152 zip code areas which comprise the Tampa Bay area, all four Top o the Bay zip codes rank amongst the 25 most affluent in the region.
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