HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
History of Gulf Harbors, Florida
This page consists of a series articles published in four parts in 2018 in the monthly magazine Life on the Gulf.
By TONI VOSSELER
A Real Rocky Start
Last month in my article named “Triple Strikes” I covered a brief summary of years from 1929 to 1957. During these years developments along the Suncoast kept expanding, St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, and stopped because there was no Skyway Bridge. So, builders had to go North.
Finding a large parcel of land was no easy task. It took some of the best research minds to find this spot in Florida that met certain measures the investors were looking for. They had rigid stipulations and criteria.
1. Close to Florida’s most active growth areas.
2. Convenience to shopping and transportation yet far enough away from congestions of heavily populated towns and neighbors.
3. The Gulf of Mexico with clean water for excellent fishing, unlimited beaches, water sports and boating.
Devil’s Woodyard was discovered and purchased. This new acquisition would be named “Gulf Harbors.” It was evident in Burkland and Sollit’s thinking that their new neighborhood would become the next Gulf Beach City. Their vision was impressive and ambitious.
The first phase, Flor A Mar, was born but only the beginning of their dream. New ideas, new designs—but were they too far ahead of the times?
Unknown to these professionals, whose experience was with sandy soil canals, was rock. Devil’s Woodyard was not sand, it was a solid strata of rock.
Flor-A-Mar was costing more than their 5 other developments combined. That did not stop them. It was being transformed into a picturesque place to live. The name, flower of the sea, creates an image in your mind, a place of sheer beauty and harmony. The goal still remained to build a small city for 50,000 people.
Not to be deterred, within a couple of years, advertising went into print and a campaign to entice home buyers was in full swing. It was 1961. Much had been accomplished.
The North Chanel, over 2 miles long, had seawalls and a turning basin. Water systems, sewage systems, gas and electric lines were in.
An 18-hole golf course was ready to play. All home purchases with waterfront came complete with seawalls and all homes included landscaping and sodding. “Waterfronts,” in real estate, was the seduction to many home buyers. There are many kinds of waterfront: lakes, bays, rivers, etc. However, the platinum waterfront in Florida was owning property on the warm, serene Gulf of Mexico. That was the lure.
Flor-A-Mar was offering lots for almost one half the cost of St. Pete and Clearwater. Appreciation was bound to happen.
The first phase divided Flor-A-Mar’s master plan into 4 areas and by ’61 two of them were available.
The first area was closest to Rt. 19 and was named “Waterfront Estates.” The price started at $10,950.
The second was named “Country Club.” It included all homes along Top Sail and the portion of Floramar until it intersects with Top Sail. Many of these faced the golf course and started at $17,450.
The third area was not available but would be restricted to houses in the $18,000 to $50,000. This began at Galleon and was known as Gulf Isles.
Would we all agree that appreciation did happen? What area do you live in?
The fourth area was reserved for hi-rise apartments and hotels and beaches.
Already built was the Clubhouse with meeting, banquet, party space for socializing. It included shuffleboard courts and a putting green. The golf course club house was targeted for completion in 1962.
Mr. Sollit, a known yachtsman, was personally interested in developing yacht clubs in the future. Plans also included a small airport.
Everything had sounded wonderful but the timing could not be worse. For several years from 1957 there was a downturn in home buying along with astronomical unexpected overruns. In spite of all these amenities and low prices, Burkland was pouring his own money into the project to keep it afloat.
By 1963 the money ran out and it went into foreclosure. Fortunately for all of us who have the pleasure of living here, his dream was not bankrupt.
Flor-a-Mar Forecloses. Now What?
How unfortunate for Mr. Burkland and his investors to have to face failure. They accomplished so much in such a short period. As in all development the upfront costs are extensive.
What is Infrastructure?
The basic physical and organizational structure needed in order to function. Included in this is the concept, drawings, architecture, attorneys, engineers, government agencies, permits, codes, blueprints, electricity, water, sewage, paved roads, and added to this particular development, seawalls and canals. Money, money, money.
Overruns can be destructive and ruinous. These capital expenditures are seldom seen by the general public and sometimes misunderstood and not taken into account. The cash that is needed to accomplish these necessities can defeat many best-laid plans. We have all seen it. You may have seen a vast land with a beautiful entrance, maybe a gate, and a road that led to nowhere. Nothing seemed to be happening. This is the misfortune of many, the project was just plain broke.
The threat of foreclosure was imminent. This was sad because they were so close to being able to see some return and the most major expenses were behind them. However, in 1963, only 2 houses were sold. That did it.
Sadly, it was over. Now what?
It’s been said that when one door shuts, another one opens. And that door did open wide in 1964. Any residents familiar with Chicago or Illinois will know this name. It is the Henry Crown family. Robert Crown, the oldest son of Henry, took over the foreclosure under the name of Empire Properties, Inc. (At this period of purchase, they owned the Empire State Building). Empire was only one of many owned and operated companies by the family of Henry, the industrialist and philanthropist. The Crowns were and are one of the wealthiest and generous families in America.
Because of the stigma of foreclosure attached to Flor-A-Mar, one of Robert’s first order of business was to change the name. Our neighborhood became “the Gulf Harbors.” Mr. Crown brought with him the necessary capital to accomplish and finish what was started. Hopefully this may have brought some solace to Mr. Burkland knowing that all his labor and efforts (and money) were not in vain. The concept remained the same, he kept the exclusive builder, Watsworth, and their sale team at the beginning of his acquisition. Progress continued in developing the lots but home sales were weak. In 1964, only 7 homes were sold.
At the beginning of 1965 Robert Crown created a new entity, the Lindrick Corporation, which was formed to take over the continuing development of Gulf Harbors. He named it after his two children, Lindsey and Rickie. (Note: the Lindrick Service Corporation maintained the water and sewage through an agreement with the city of New Port Richey. This was separately owned and sold.)
He brings in John H. Evans to serve as President and Roland McCreary as Public Relations. Experienced and professional, they saw the need to change.
Watch the growth of single family home sales:
In May of 1967, modifying their marketing and home construction strategy, Gulf Harbors opened their door for the first time to all reputable realtors and home builders. Why? Public demand. Not one builder alone could satisfy this accelerated growth. Buyers could now hire their own architects and choose any builder approved by the GH Improvement Board. Watsworth continued on as one of the major builders. With this new corporation devoting their full attentions to GH, sales increased dramatically.
Sadly in 1969, Robert Crown died unexpectedly at the age of 48. That did not deter his family and his company from completing the second and third phase, the Country Club and Gulf Isle residential areas. The last tagged area was going to be hi rise apartments and hotels but in the early 1970’s, Lindrick announced there would be no building along the beach and it would become the exclusive private beach of the residents and invited guests.
“Fact Sheet” Summer of 1967
Waterways: 5 miles.
This is how our Gulf Harbors began. Because of the expertise of Evans and McCreary, Gulf Harbors was going to be completed in a manner that could bring contentment to the original investors, and of course, to us, the beneficiaries. We should all take pride not only in ourselves but for each other. Every one of us has a responsibility to be good citizens. We must work towards keeping our properties in excellent condition and to take time out to enjoy the beauty of nature and the peace that surrounds us.
Around Our Neighborhood in 1969 and the Early 70’s
There were lots of changes taking place in the area. The Holiday Inn construction was beginning, the Pappas Brothers bought the land adjacent and Southgate Shopping Center was in its early stages. And...of course, McDonalds.
Lindrick’s President Evans was concerned, at this time, about Pasco County’s haphazard zoning. The need for planning and zoning and codes to adhere to were badly needed. Inexpensive homes were springing up all around New Port Richey because the land was cheap and there was an absence of building codes. The average sale price of all houses in our area was $11,000.... but Gulf Harbors average was $26,000.
(Aerial view photograph)
Note how quickly you can get your boat out to the Gulf of Mexico, be on the beach, or shopping. As much as people gripe about Rt. 19, it takes you almost everywhere and most of the places we have to go is only minutes away. Most residents never hear the traffic.
Once Lindrick Corporation announced there would be no hotels, etc., facing the gulf, Lindrick and New Port Richey considered annexing Gulf Harbors. However, New Port Richey officials wanted to include in the agreement opening the white sanded beach to the public. President Evans stated that if the city insists there will not be a deal, “the beach has and will remain private property, we definitely plan to protect our residents in Gulf Harbors.” So, a good guess is the annexation never happened.
Gulf Harbors was hustling and running full steam ahead in 1969. If you were house hunting, driving through the different areas, many homes were still being built in all three areas discussed previously, especially the newest area known as Gulf Isles.
Heading due west towards the beach, you would have observed huge mechanical monsters gouging and piling the earth into a network of new boat channels, new roads, a new system of all underground utilities, creating more of the finest waterfront homesites. The canals would be 150 to 300 feet wide.
If you had the foresight to purchase two years earlier, your property value appreciated as much as 40% or more. In fact, several owners who had purchased the smaller homes sold theirs and bought a larger home.
Puerto de Pasco
The area east of the lake was in the early stage of development. This area was named Puerto de Pasco, signifying how the Pasco County harbors and inlets constituted a familiar port-of-call for coastal yachtsman and fishing all over. This area originally was reserved for high rises, hotels and restaurants. It will take many years to get this area ready for construction.
All gulf harbors channels had a minimum width of 100 feet and the minimum depth of 5 feet mean low water. (5.8 feet mean sea level) This was in preparation for large yachts. (Smart thinking because there sure are many) It took several years to accomplish all this. 1976 was the first time lots right on the gulf, adjoining the private beach, were available for purchase. Some lots flanked the beach while others adjoined the Gulf. The introductory prices for a lot here began at $30K and up. Actual home construction was not available until 1977.
Gulf Harbors Explodes in Value
Lots in Gulf Harbors continued to soar in value and availability was shrinking. The booming areas were the North and South channels. How much was the appreciation? If you bought a lot in 1977 on South Shore for 40K and by 1985 it was worth $125K. South Chanel views were $95,000 and North Channel views were $90,000.
Lindrick gifted the club house and the surrounding areas to the Civic Association in 1975. He announced he would no longer be responsible for the expenses in the neighborhood. Evans urged all property owners to join and participate for the continued success of the neighborhood. There is a direct correlation between resident participation and the success of a neighborhood.
By 1983, Lindrick sold his last 25 acres along the Gulf to Garcia of Wysocki Enterprises for $2.4 million. This area is the west side of the lake, West Shore, and is known as South Beach. Here introductory offer for Lots there were selling for $77K to $115K.
Even though plans were to create additional canals and lots over by Rudder Way, their dredging had not begun before certain conservation laws, no permit was obtained.
What about the Ambassador?
At this time period, there were plans to construct a high-rise condominium at the entrance to Gulf Harbors. Many residents protested sighting traffic problems and claimed it was out of character for family residents. However, that did not stop it and construction began in 1973 and it would be called the Ambassador. Again, unexpected costs shut it down. In 1975, new owners changed the name to Sea Castle. They felt it tells people it is a tall building on the water. One-bedroom units on the first 3 floors sold from $18,500 and up and the higher you went it was over $46,000 for a 3-bedroom. Once it was built, the residents accepted it and it was the highest building in Pasco at the time, maybe it still is.
Fortunate and Generous
To be able to live here, we have a loaf of bread under each arm and 3 chickens in every pot.
Here is a tidbit from 1970 called Helping Hands. One of our member’s major projects was helping Head Start children locally. The Hobby Club, that still exists today, contributed so much to this worthwhile program that a new room for 3-year olds was named the Gulf Harbors Room at the Head Start School in Elfers. Our residents, men and women alike, furnished the classroom, and volunteered their time to the children in reading stories, acting as a substitute mother or grandfather or to just simply sit and love some lonely child. This was almost 50 years ago but it is timely.
Hopefully by the time you read this article, the Harbor House donations for Habitat for Humanity has reached its financial goal of $85,000 or exceeded it. This first home should be under construction, so I know many of you have contributed and will continue your generous ways. Many of you have donated money, your time, your talents and skills to build the “Harbor House,” providing a new home to a worthy vet. As you are aware, this project is part of the Leisure Lane Revitalization Project and will consist of approximately 35 homes. We have so much, and some have so little. There comes a time to take a break from the exertions of swimming, fishing, boating. This gives us all a chance to spend some time helping others, but we end up the winners because it enriches our lives.
If you haven't yet, please give. You can make a payment to West Pasco Habitat for Humanity and please mark “Harbor House” so this donation will be credited to our commitment. The Civic Center is accepting your donations and creating a list of those who are willing to paint, pound nails, or do any other job that will make this house ready. If you can still lift a hammer you are needed, give some of your time and you will be surprised as to how good it will make you feel.
Compromise and Four Long Years
It took four long years. Lindrick was not only developing West Shore, they were dealing with over 37 governmental and conservation agencies with a lot of compromising. In 1973, the final permit was issued and marks the first time a Pasco developer had obtained a dredge and fill for coastal land since state agencies began tightening requirements. Now Gulf Harbors Woodlands was able to begin.
In the 70’s, the first Conservation Laws were ratified and prohibited any canals being built. If you had not started the dredging, you were out of luck.
The project for the original second phase (the Woodlands) had a 115 Million dollar price on it.
What were the compromises?
The plans for 13,000 feet of channels were reduced to 8,000 feet. To gain this permit Lindrick had to give away over half of his land and the project was reduced to 450 acres, not the original 900 acres intended. 390 acres were dedicated under the Federal Wilderness Area act. It would protect the Gulf’s ravages and this acreage was dedicated to Robert, and became known as the Robert Crown Wilderness Refuge. Another 20 were dedicated to the Boy Scouts and it too was named the Robert Crown Scout Camp. These were commemorated in memory of Henry Crown’s son, who was a principal in Lindrick until his early death. The family also gifted another acre of land to become the Gulf Harbors Yacht Club.
Another 80 acres went to the state as conservation preserves.
Mr. Evans and the Crown family commissioned two young men, one a photographer and the other an artist. What better photo could depict the times in the 70’s? In the forefront is Fred Leavitt (photo-journalist) and wife, behind is Harry
They may be young but their works already recognized would be viewed internationally over their lifetime. Leavitt had already done work for Life, Look, and National Geographic. Their work was to produce an art portfolio of original paintings, etching and photographs to be displayed and reproduced into a hard-bound book of the R. Crown Wilderness Area. Both men still reside in Florida. Adjacent to this wilderness was the development of the Gulf Harbors Woodlands. This collection was to unify the natural wonders of the Crown Wilderness with the Woodlands. The only way to be in the preserve was by water. Many kayakers today navigate and enjoy the beauty.
In the past, development was to raze, bulldoze. This project was a challenge which Evans took on heartily. “It is my conviction that land development, properly pursued and executed, is a form of art. We insist that the new community conform and blend with the wilderness.” A lover of nature and extensive experience, this wooded area was abundant with cedars, palms, cypress. Everything had to be done with the end result preserving nature’s wonders. The waterways followed the contour of the land and “rip-rap” (natural stone) would be used instead of the traditional concrete seawalls. All roads were to follow existing natural paths which wind through the neighborhood. Trees were preserved, not removed. Deed restrictions were extensive to protect the home buyers and to ensure aestheticism.
With the combination of Gulf Harbors and the Woodlands there were wide choices for future buyers depending on the lifestyle that met their needs. The Woodlands was a forerunner of future developments that recognized the ecological demands of preserving our environment The finished product proves the objectives were met.
Special thanks for the information in these articles which came from our local West Pasco Historical Society and the issues of Gulf Harbor Light, which was published for the residents by the Lindrick Company. That’s all folks. Hope you enjoyed it!