Tarpon Springs, Florida the Start of the Sponge Industry

I had the chance to stop over in Tarpon Springs, Florida to see about what is this fascination about the Sponge Industry.  Alot of us use sponges for washing and painting but we never knew how it travels on to the store shelves let alone the history of it.  Here is what I found while visiting Tarpon Springs, Florida about the start of the Sponge Industry.  (This information below was obtained from the HELLAS Restaurant and Wikipedia).

The early sponge-fishermen for more than a half-century had been bringing their sponge catches to the Anclote Keys and Bailey’s Bluff, beaches to start the curing process.   Almost all of the spongers were from Cuba, the Bahamas or Key West, and they returned to those places to sell their sponges.

From small boats in shallow waters, they speared the sponges on the Gulf floor or used long poles with hooks at the end to pull them up after sighting the sponges through glass bottom buckets.

The first Greek immigrants arrived to this city during the 1880s, when they were hired to work as divers in the growing sponge harvesting industry.    In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs. Cocoris recruited Greek sponge divers from the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, in particular Kalymnos, Symi and Halki leading, by the 1930s, to a very productive sponge industry in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year.

When a red tide algae bloom occurred in 1947, wiping out the sponge fields in that region of the Gulf of Mexico, most of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood. The city then converted most of its sponge-related activities, especially the warehouses where they were sold, into tourist attractions. The Sponge Docks are now mostly shops, restaurants, and museums dedicated to the memory of Tarpon Springs’ earlier industry. Most sponges sold on the docks are now imports; relatively few sponges are harvested from the area, although attempts have been made in recent years to restart local sponge harvesting. Led by local businessman George Billiris, in the late 1980s the sponge industry made a comeback, and in the fall of 2007 a record harvest of sponges by a single boat was made.

In 2007 and 2008, Tarpon Springs’ mayor, Beverley Billiris, established Sister City relationships with Kalymnos, Halki, Symi, and Cyprus, honoring the close historical link with these Greek islands.

Mostly Greeks came to Tarpon Springs to open restaurants, candy stores, coffee houses, taverns and grocery stores.  I had a chance to eat at one of those famous Greek restaurant called HELLAS.  The food was fresh, delicious and light tasting.  I had a chance to visit this restaurant with my family and boy it was fun.  My husband order the Hellas Gyro called the Largest & Best Gyro in Town with a combo of broiled beef and lamb served wrapped in a pita with sliced onions.   tomatoes and a delicious tzatiki sauce.    Check pinterest to see what I ordered.

I learned alot during my trip to Florida such as gardening, cultures, artistic view points and pure beauty.  Check out my next coming blogs about my wonderful time at the sunshine state – Florida.

To learn more about the impact of cultures in our global economy, check out Living Healthy Educational Classes  on The Impact of Micro and Macro Cultures in a Global Economy .


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