108th Founder's Day & Heritage Festival
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109th Founder's Day & Heritage Festival

March 9, 2019

Historic Downtown Zephyrhills

 Planes, Trains & Automobiles

This year we celebrate the huge impact transportation has had on the growth and success of Zephyrhills.

PLANES -  Our earliest local airport was situated by Lake Zephyr near Winter’s Park with first airmail delivery in 1938. Later Zephyrhills Army Airfield was constructed as part of the New Deal’s WPA when the government had acquired the land that became the airfield by eminent domain, and the air training center transformed the town, with service men housed in barracks. In 1946, so enamored with aviation, the ZHS senior class purchased a BT-13 Vultee Trainer airplane from war surplus supply and hired an aeronautics teacher.

TRAINS - Originally named Abbott when Simon Temple purchased acreage in 1886 from Florida Railway & Navigation Corporation, the Seaboard Airline Depot was built, while the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot was built in 1927 which featured four passenger train stops daily. Closed in 1970, the depot was moved to the present site in 1987. Trains were significant to early industries, lumber and turpentine; and later revenues came from bringing vacationers and carrying produce to the north. Early locomotives were fired by wood until around the Civil War at which time many were converted to coal burners and later oil; by the 1940s, they were fueled by diesel. One could travel on the Seaboard Air Line with its corporate motto, “the route of courteous service,” in the first half of the twentieth century, along with its main competitor, Atlantic Coastline Railroad.

AUTOMOBILES - Zephyrhills’ constant was migration. Although travel was by cracker horse and frequently oxen which could better traverse deep sand paths, the horseless carriage catapulted change. Tin can tourists arrived around 1930 and although the phenomenon of campers and tourists visiting from the north impacted Florida, it took real root in Zephyrhills which became known for the numerous travel trailer camps that morphed into mobile home parks and spawned the Tourist Club. A taxi stand operated by hospitable Willette Phillips provided the first taxi service in the 1940s and 50s; her stand was by the drinking fountain at the corner of 5th Avenue and 7th Street that advertised “the city of Pure Water.”

Synonymous with Zephyrhills is the name Reutimann in regard to automobiles, and it began when Emil and Amalie Reutimann migrated to Zephyrhills from Switzerland in 1915. They operated two garages in Zephyrhills over time, the most well-known was on Highway 301 and became Reutimann Chevrolet.  

Last Year’s Event

108th Founder's Day & Heritage Festival

March 10, 2018

Tales from the Hills

TIMBER, TURPENTINE & MOONSHINE

A fierce pioneer spirit encompassed the land which would later become Zephyrhills in the 19th century; vast cypress and pine and an abundance of water covered the area. Settlers harvested the abundant woods and built their dreams on lumber, turpentine, farming and ranching. When times were difficult, the byproducts of charcoal kilns, moonshine stills and cash-crops provided sustenance and a worthy reprieve from a long-day’s work. The Great Depression took its toll on the industries when Greer’s Lumber Mill closed, and some turned to moon-shining to make ends meet during the Prohibition. The town began to flourish again in 1932 when I.A. Krusen opened the Krusen Land &Timber Company. The bootleg hooch slowly began to disappear when the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, although the zeal for making moonshine lingered. With tin-can tourists and thriving citrus, businesses we know today began to shape the now cohesive community.

Sit back, relax and enjoy local pioneering families regaling their family history on the Dwight Hopkins Family Front Porch at The Jeffries House.