Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 Tarpon Springs (10/8-10/2010)

Friday, October 8, 2010
A pleasant drive across the state of Florida, from east coast to west coast. Arrived in Tarpon Springs and parked at Meres Square.
Amelia Petzold “Mother” Meres was one of the first non-native settlers who arrived in the Tarpon Springs area in the 1880s. Of German heritage, she and her husband ran a hotel, and Mother Meres was an avid gardener. Upon her death in 1923, she bequeathed her garden to the city and it became a park. In the 1950s, the city made it a parking lot. The local garden club has reclaimed a corner of the lot, and the "Garden Fairies" created a mural to allow Mother Meres to watch over the site of her gardens.
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas has a prominent spot in the center of town. A 1941 church replaced the original 1907-8 building. It was consecrated during the Epiphany festivities of 1943. The church is a replica of the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople.
Stained glass and numerous icons (religious images usually painted on wood with some gold and/or silver elements) decorated the interior of the church. We searched for the "weeping" icon of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of the Greek sponge fishing community in Tarpon Springs. A woman cleaning the church was the first to notice the tears on December 5, 1970. There were drops of moisture around the eyes on the icon which is tightly enclosed in glass. Several parishioners also noted "crystal" droplets, and Father Elias witnessed the phenomenon on December 14th. The glass case was deemed airtight, and exposure to the sun did not dry out the "tears". The Archbishop of the Americas, Iakovos, requested that qualified persons examine the icon, but no explanation was ever determined. The icon was last seen to weep on December 8, 1973.
The marble in the church is from Greece, and was used at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. The marble was obtained just for the cost of shipping from Athens (to NY) to Tarpon Springs.
In a plaza next to the church stands a statue of a young boy holding up a cross. He represents the annual Tarpon Springs tradition of diving for the  cross on Epiphany Day (January 6).
On this day the bishop blesses the boats and the sea, divining protection for the livelihood of the Greeks in Tarpon Springs. The blessings conclude with the ceremonial throwing of a wooden cross into the city's Spring Bayou, and boys ages 16–18 dive in to retrieve it: whoever recovers the cross is said to be blessed for a full year.
Craig Park is partially surrounded by Spring Bayou and is the site of the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum.
We had 15 minutes to peruse the small building, which housed the accoutrements of the sponge diving industry, vintage photography, and a native American display. Half the museum was devoted to the large-scale murals of Florida that hang in the chambers of the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee. Giclee reproductions of the murals done by Christopher M. Still tell the story of the state's history from the 16th century European discovery to modern times. Filled with hundreds of details, it would take hours to adequately appreciate these paintings. There are 8 panels, each 4' x 10.5', and they were completed 1999-2002 ( 
A view across Spring Bayou at the dock where the Epiphany Day ceremony takes place.
A marker commemorating the visit of Archbishop Barthlomew of Constantinople on Epiphany Day in 2006.
Victorian homes surround Craig Park.
The Epiphany Ceremonial dock.
Spring Bayou:
World War II Memorial:
Spanish moss-laden live oak limbs:
The Safford House Museum is an 1883 home in Florida vernacular architecture restored to its original Victorian splendor.
Anson P. K. Safford was one of the founding fathers of Tarpon Springs who enlarged the house when he moved in with a wife, three children and a governess.  Later his sister joined them. Dr. Mary Jane Safford was the first practicing female physician in Florida. The house was apparently on Spring Bayou, but Safford's widow sold the valuable land and moved the house 100 yards inland.
The Shrine of St. Michael of Taxiarchis has a long story (
In June 1937, Maria Tsalichi returned to her birthplace in Symi, Greece, to deliver an offering from her husband to the Abbot Prior of the Holy Abbey of the Taxiarchis Michael of Panormitis. In gratitude, the Abbot gave her a small silver icon of St. Michael. Back at home in Tarpon Springs, Maria placed the icon in a special place. In November a year later, she and relatives heard the sound of a bell, which sounded like a bell at the Abbey in Symi, sounding from the icon. This happened again on the same day the following two years.
In December 1939, Maria's son Steve became ill with fever which worsened until he had to be admitted to the hospital. His condition continued to worsen. Three months passed, and Steve went into a coma. All of a sudden Steve called out to his mother to bring him the icon of the Taxiarchis. He held the icon to his breast and then stated that Taxiarchis wanted his mother to build a shrine. Despite not knowing how she would pay to have a shrine built, Maria agreed. The next day Steve woke up and delared he was cured. (He went on to grow up and become a math teacher at Tarpon Springs High School. He died at the age of 78 years in 2007.)
Maria tried to get permission to build a shrine form the Archbishop, who was afraid it would overshadow the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. He wanted the icon to be housed at the cathedral. Steve reminded his mother about building the shrine, and then the Taxiarchis came to Maria in a dream and showed her where to put the shrine. Even without permission, the shrine was built. Initially, the Archbishop would not allow Mass to be said at the shrine, but eventually a Bishop congratulated her on her faith and allowed Mass to be said.
Many people make pilgrimages to the shrine and many miracles of healing have been documented.

The Sponge Docks along the Anclote River are lined with sponge boats,
With a statue of a traditionally-clad sponge diver:
The Greek people started to immigrate to Tarpon Springs in 1906-7 to work in the sponge industry. Most came from the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea.
The Sponge Exchange was across the street. It was the clearinghouse for the sponge industry, but is now full of trendy shops.
The Sponge Exchange courtyard:
The Sponge Exchange office:
Sponges for sale:

Fitz Blitz II:
After a successful Chofu mini-reunion in 2008, nicknamed Fitz Blitz, plans were made for Fitz Blitz II. Fitz and his wife, Judy, kindly opened their home for 30 plus raucous Chofu alumni/ae.
The house is located on the water in Tarpon Springs. View from their private dock:
View across the Gulf towards Howard Park:
Evening entertainment by a Chofu alumna spouse:
We met Mike and Donna here and followed them home to stay overnight.

Saturday, October 9, 2010
Went to breakfast with Mike and Donna at Costas, one of a multitude of Greek restaurants in town.
Explored the Sponge Exchange
and Sponge Docks again:
Sponges drying on the boat:
More sponge boats:
Back in town, we found a few historic buildings. The Arcade Hotel:
Built in 1926 in Mission/Spanish Revival style by Ricketts and Hayworth.
Old City Hall:
Built in 1947 in Classic Revival style by McCreary, JB Company. It is now the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
Tarpon Springs Depot:
Built in 1909 or 1915, now home to the Tarpon Springs Historical Society.
At 1:00 PM. we met at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club to take a spin on Fitz's new boat. This one is too large to dock at their house! We followed a canal to the Anclote River:
Traveled up river past the Sponge Docks, then turned around to follow the river out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Some large homes on the Anclote River:
On our way back from the Gulf going upriver, we were accompanied by one, then two, dolphins. They swam just under the bow of the boat, matching our speed. Once in a while they would speed up to get ahead of the boat to arch out of the water for a breath. Awesome! Of course, none of the photos turned out!
The historic St. Nicholas VII tourist boat:
Actually, this boat isn't historic, but it comes from a long line of St. Nicholases, some of whom have starred in film and on TV; movies include Beneath the 12 Mile Reef (20th Century Fox), 16 Fathoms Deep (United Artists), Harbor of Missing Men (Major Films, Inc.), 20 Fathoms Below (Warner Bros.), Sea Hunt (Ziv Productions), and TV includes On the Road (Walter Cronkite), Discovery (Jules Power), Today Show (NBC), and also National Geographic Magazine and Argosy Magazine.
Back at the Yacht Club:
(We were on the big boat in the back!)
Fountain at the Yacht Club:
Back at the Fitz Blitz:
Class of '67: Paul R, Terry H, Lorraine S, Kent S
Some photos from inside the Fitz house: 2nd floor:
2nd floor looking down on kitchen:
Master suite:
A visit from a Viking:
Kent receives his Chofu Alumni Association (CAA) pin:

Sunday, October 10, 2010
Headed home.