Clearwater, Florida like many of its surrounding towns, has a storied history. Present day Clearwater sits on the west coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico.
Hundreds of years ago Clearwater was the home of the Tocobaga Indians. When Spanish explorers discovered the area the Tocobaga were a well established in the area.
Fort Harrison constructed
Around 1835 Fort Harrison, which was named after William Henry Harrison, was constructed to be used as an outpost during the Seminole Wars. The fort was located in a spot that was overlooking Clearwater Harbor, where today Harbor Oaks is located. Archaeologists from the University of South Florida uncovered an underground ammunition bunker on the spot.
The Federal Occupation Act of 1842 caused a population growth. The Act offered 160 acres to anyone who would farm the land and also bear arms. Early settlers included the Stevens, Stevenson and McMullen families. Each claimed and farmed large tracts of land.
Clear Water Harbor
Initially the area was known as Clear Water Harbor, the “Clear Water” is believed to have come from a fresh water spring found near the location of the current City Hall building.
During the Civil War, most of the residents fought for the Confederacy. Union gunboats repeatedly raided the community’s supplies since it was largely unprotected.
Development really took off after Peter Demens completed the first passenger railroad line to Clearwater. It became a popular vacation destination and it’s reputation grew after railroad magnate Henry Plant built the Belleview Biltmore in 1897.
During World War II, Clearwater was a major training base for US troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. All of the hotels in the area, including the Belleview Biltmore and the Fort Harrison Hotel, were used as barracks for new recruits. Sand Key, then known as Dan’s Island, was used by the Army Air Corps for strafing and bombing practice.
Today, Clearwater is still a beacon for vacationers, but also a great place to live and soak up the history.