Knowing Who We Were Helps Us Define Who We Want to Become
Scott Anderson is a man on a mission. As the curator of the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center, Scott works long hours giving his time to efforts such as the Historical Marker Project and teaching summer camp classes. But the thing that elicits his devotion to his work is a project that’s near and dear to his heart…capturing the history of the growth of our small town, both in the distant past and the changes we’ve been experiencing in recent years.
Scott has been working to recreate the story of what our little hamlet looked like in its earlier renditions. Since Safety Harbor didn’t have street addresses or postal delivery until 1961, letters that arrived in the post office in those days had to be picked up and were simply marked with a name followed by the town and state. The museum has stacks of old letters donated from residents whose family location was denoted by name alone. In a time when instant texting allows us to send a message across the world in the blink of an eye, it seems strange to realize it wasn’t so long ago when a letter would arrive safely to a resident after weeks of traveling by courier with it simply marked with a name followed by Safety Harbor, FL.
With no early maps available and no official street numbers, old buildings, businesses and storefronts mentioned in newspapers prior to the 1960s can’t always be accurately placed on recreated maps today. Scott is out to change that.
Photographs of downtown taken before 1960 are extremely helpful in trying to piece together where merchants were located in Safety Harbor during earlier days. Even photos from later decades such as the 1980s are historically valuable because they create a concrete record for future generations showing exactly what the town looked like and which stores and businesses were still operating through certain dates.
For instance, the old WWII monument that so many of us remember that sat on Main Street across from the post office was removed. When? No one seems sure. Why? No explanation has been found in historical archives. Photographs of downtown from recent decades could help solve this mystery. Scott has put up signage at the museum asking for information that anyone can recall about the monument along with photographs, particularly if they’re dated. The same goes for the old grocery further up on Main Street, and other long-standing storefronts that are no longer in business.
Though we’re seeing some wonderful progress in recent years that’s helping to insure that Safety Harbor will remain a wonderful community, keeping historical records on how our town has changed and is still changing is important for future generations to understand the significant aspects of the community we want to protect as we move forward. If you’ve got photographs, maps, documents detailing the layout of the town, or other items of historical importance that could help Scott create the timeline for the growth of our downtown over the last century, please contact the museum. Scott is on a mission to help us remember who we were, in hopes that respect for the past will play a part in decisions being made about our future. Go Scott!
~written by Barbara Ulmer, Safety Harbor resident blogger
I am so glad Jarett Trezzo noted the corrections in regards to the mail.
My new home was built @ 220 12 Ave So in the spring of 1959 and Mr Ready was our mailman.
Mr. Scott Anderson may contact me at anytime. My trips back home are usually on the weekends and I will make time to meet with him then.
I would love to talk to you about early Safety Harbor. we could meet at the museum.
Thanks for the information, Jarrett, I’ll be sure to pass this along!
I’d also like to note that July 11, 1959 was the first date for postal delivery in Safety Harbor. A St. Petersburg Times article from that day details the first day in which Safety Harbor received mail delivered to their doors (https://goo.gl/60zQ96).
This is not entirely accurate. Looking at Clearwater city directories (Polk’s), which listed a Safety Harbor directory within it, full street addresses can be seen starting at least by 1950. Prior to that, you could get a good sense of where something is located by the abbreviations used. For example, in the 1924 Polk city directory you will see something such as “h 4th Av” meaning home located on 4th Avenue. By the 1937 city directory these are a bit more descriptive and you can see something like “h 4th Av N bet Main and 2d” meaning home located on 4th Avenue N between Main and 2nd Street. By 1950, you would see an address listed like “h152 N 4th Av” meaning 152 4th Avenue N. Of course, the addresses do change over time, but you can get a pretty good overall sense of many locations. These directories are all accessible on Ancestry, which can be used for free within the Safety Harbor Public Library.
you are correct on the descriptions that were used on houses before address numbers were assigned. This helps but as you go back in years fewer businesses had phones. Also for an address on their ads, calendars etc. they only list Safety Harbor. This also makes it hard to date an item.
The post office is an interesting story. We have a St Pete times photograph, at the museum. It is marked 1959 and has the caption for the story on the back. It states that mail delivery will start in S. H. when there is 2500 residents. The 1960 census lists 1787 residents. I also know that in 1958 extra PO boxes were added and in the 60s there was a protest about the proposed closing of the post office. I will do further research to confirm the date mail actually started to be delivered. Scott