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History

Brief History of Oldsmar

At The Top of Tampa Bay

Oldsmar sits on land which was created millions of years ago. Native Americans
and Spaniards have been documented to have been in the area.

On April 12, 1916, Ransom Eli Olds, automobile tycoon and creator of the Oldsmobile and the
automobile assembly line, purchased 37,541 acres of land from the estate of Richard
G. Peters for $400,000. This land was ideally located partly in Hillsborough County and partly in
Pinellas County, Florida. R.E. Olds decided to establish a town on the Pinellas side on the
northern most point of Tampa Bay. It was situated fifteen miles west from the heart of Tampa in an
ideal location where the highway leading to the Pinellas County cities met the Seaboard Air Line
Railroad, the progressive railroad of the South.

The town was first named R.E. Olds-On-The-Bay before it was changed to Oldsmar, in honor of its
founder. June 2, 1927, the town was incorporated as Tampa Shores. On May 20, 1937 Tampa Shores
was abolished and reincorporated as Oldsmar.

The Vision

R.E. Olds wanted to develop an agricultural, industrial, and residential community that would draw
the working people and their families to Florida’s warmer climate. He organized the Reolds
Farms Company, capitalized at a million dollars, which offered a cooperative plan of living to the
farmer. A large demonstration farm was put into operation and a number of experienced Florida
farmers were added to his staff. R.E. Olds brought in government experts. Also, Lue Gim Gong from
Deland, Florida was able to provide advice on citrus growing and truck farming.

R.E. Olds had the wisdom to hire expert town planner and architect, Wayne E. Stiles, to map out his
planned community. The plat of Oldsmar was modeled like Washington D.C. The town was laid out in
the shape of a fan, with the main streets coming to a point at the bay shoreline.

R.E. Olds’ marketing plan would have rivaled marketing experts of today. He was his own Chamber of
Commerce. The Community was to have four main activities: tourism, manufacturing, farming, and
citrus. He established a Board of Trade to coordinate a flourishing activity of commerce
andagriculture. In 1918 newspapers, Oldsmar was called the “Wonder Town of Pinellas.” Mr. Olds had
pamphlets sent up north advertising the available farm land and property in the ” land of golden
opportunities for health, wealth, and happiness.”

In 1920, 121 families were living in 109 dwellings or on farms. Oldsmar had industries such as:
electric and light, saw mill, planing mill, dry kiln, foundry, tractor factory, palmetto brush and
fiber, turpentine, furniture, telephone, waterworks system, ice, casino, and a horse race track.
The town contained stores that specialized in groceries, medicine, hardware, and general
merchandise; a bank, a post office, The Wayside Inn Hotel, a Methodist church, a public library and
a first class school. Service organizations and associations included the Woman’s Club, Farmer’s
Club, Boy Scouts, the Oldsmar Band, the Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodges, a Board of Trade, Oldsmar Growers Association and The Grape Growers Association.

In 1921, Oldsmar was hit by a devastating hurricane with a 14 foot storm surge that reached Tampa
Road. Some homes that survived were put on barges and taken to St. Petersburg. The town wasn’t
growing like R.E. Olds wanted so he started selling off land. R.E. Olds had other investors take
over the responsibility of keeping the Florida development alive. When he left the population was
200.

After 1926, the land values throughout the state collapsed. People left during the Great Depression
of 1929 and the town was dormant. It wasn’t until five decades later that Oldsmar began to see more
growth. The population in 1980 was 2,608. Today it is nearly 14,000.

Entertainment during the past century was homegrown, including Little League, dances, church
suppers, horse racing and riding, fishing, crabbing, swimming, and school programs. An annual
parade and festival is still celebrated today, and is now called Oldsmar Days & Nights. In the past
35 years, the leaders of Oldsmar have promoted R.E. Olds’ vision, providing leadership, innovation,
and environmental stewardship. Oldsmar is home to nearly 1,500 businesses with 30% of its area
devoted to parks and preserves. It is a great place to live, work, and play.

Permanent link to this article: http://oldsmarhistoricalsociety.org/history/