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Plant constructed the South Florida Railroad through Seffner in 1883, Thonotosassa residents could travel six miles to Seffner to board the train to Tampa. This left much to be desired, however. Eleven years later, Hazen enticed Plant to construct a line to the lake community by donating the land for a depot. In 1893, the Tampa and Thonotosassa Railroad was born. Farmers could get their citrus crop to market, and the mail arrived on a regular schedule. As produce flowed to Tampa, urbanites visited the beautiful lake during the weekends for picnics and boating excursions. The train also had a negative effect upon the community. Thonotosassa stagnated as people began relocating to Tampa. ix

Two years after the arrival of the train, Florida’s citrus industry suffered one of its most devastating setbacks ever. On December 27, 1894, Tampa’s temperature plummeted to 14. Oranges were frozen on the tree, but Thonotosassa’s trees survived. Lulled into a sense of security by rising temperatures, farmers replanted crops and prayed for new buds on their orange trees. Beginning on February 7 and through the 9th, the temperatures again dropped below freezing, destroying not just the new growth but the trees themselves. These freezes wiped out much of north Florida’s citrus industry and set Thonotosassa’s back several years. While stunting the growth of the citrus industry, the freeze caused farmers to diversify. Farmers turned to truck growing while waiting the five or more years for new citrus trees to mature.x

The citrus industry revived and so did Thonotosassa. The first three decades of the new century were the apex of Thonotosassa’s growth and prosperity. By 1908 citrus and sawmills were the main sources of employment for area residents. Hazen’s hotel was still operated by Mrs. E.E. Hazen, in 1911. The community’s 250 residents could purchase most of their supplies at A.W. Rigby’s general store. Sadly, Thonotosassa’s hotel closed its doors forever in 1912. Possibly because of this economic loss, 17 charter members established the Thonotosassa’s Board of Trade in 1913. Five years after the formation of the board, Thonotosassa’s citrus industry flourished with four packing houses. Oranges were the primary crop, but grapefruit and tangerines were also grown. Two general stores, two churches, an ice manufacturer, a saw mill, and a new hotel operated in the community. Thonotosassa reveled in the roaring twenties and Florida’s land boom, beginning with the platting of Thonotosassa Lake Side Development in 1924. By 1925, the community’s population reached 300. Thonotosassa had become Hillsborough County’s premier fruit-growing region. The local populace now supported four packing houses, three churches, three general stores, a hotel, and an ice manufacturer. xi

As Thonotosassa developed the lake suffered. With the cutting down of many of the oak trees and the draining of surrounding land, sediment runoff polluted the lake’s water and destroyed the once sugar white beaches. Coupled with the bust of the land boom and the Great Depression, Thonotosassa languished. Only two packing houses operated in Thonotosassa in 1935. During World War II, many of the area’s young men left Thonotosassa to enlist or to work in war industries. With the dwindling population, the Chamber of Commerce and the Methodist Church suspended operations. By 1978, even the rails for the railroad were pulled up by the Seaboard Coastline. xii

Citrus still dominated Lake Thonotosassa region during the early 1980s, but farmers could see suburban developments on the horizon. Between 1986 and 1995, the number of homes Thonotosassa’s post office delivered mail to grew from 3000 to 25,000. In 1990, 19,342 people


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