Vision for city harbor was met with criticism

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Date: May 28, 2003
Publisher: Times Publishing Company
Document Type: Article
Length: 784 words

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In 1904, C.A. Harvey had a dream that triggered a citywide clash.

"He saw a wonderful cruise port with cafes and tourist shops,'' said Jeanne Sullivan Tucker, 70, Harvey's granddaughter. "Not so much a commercial harbor like the Port of Tampa.''

For nearly a decade, Harvey labored over his vision. He christened his site Bayboro and developed the area. When he mentioned the word harbor, however, his critics and supporters drew lines in the sand.

"The Bayboro project was destined to be the cause of long years of factional warfare,'' historian Karl H. Grismer wrote about the dispute that delayed the port's creation. "(Harvey) did not live to see big ships come into the harbor.''

Born in 1868 in Jessup, Ga., Cary Albert Harvey later operated a hotel and owned a sawmill in his native state. He married Lucile Edmondson in 1894; they would have three children.

In August 1903, Harvey, 35, came to St. Petersburg. "He traveled for opportunity as far as the railroad went,'' Tucker said.

Harvey managed a hotel at Second Street and Central Avenue, the Harvey House.

In 1904, with F.A. Freeman and Dr. H.A. Murphy, Harvey purchased acreage surrounding and including "Fiddler's Paradise.'' The swamp where Salt and Booker creeks flowed into Tampa Bay was named for its huge fiddler crab population.

"His first big purchase was from Mrs. Sarah Armisted, formerly Mrs. John C. Williams,'' historian Walter P. Fuller wrote of Harvey's Bayboro holdings, which would grow to nearly 300 acres. "Part of the original tract, (founding father) Williams bought in 1876.''

In March 1906, Harvey helped establish the Board of Trade. Within two months he would establish the Bayboro Investment Co., a group backed by several influential residents.

Harvey's BIC created a Bayboro subdivision for housing and commercial enterprises including Weller Hardware Co. and the boat building Presstman-Caldwell Co. Next came the plans to fulfill Harvey's dream, the harbor.

"He felt we were the closest port to South America at the time,'' said Ruth Harvey Fleet Thurman, another granddaughter.

Peter Demens, owner of the Orange Belt Railroad that arrived here on June 8, 1888, had experienced a harbor vision years before. "The biggest ocean steamships can get to our wharves,'' Demens wrote. "The Gulf business will be coming to us.''

By 1906, however, critics believed Bayboro was too distant from the city's business section. Others wanted a harbor near the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad right of way and a third faction favored a freight pier at the city front.

"The result was a tussle which held up all improvements ... for several years,'' Grismer wrote.

Harvey and the BIC helped create the city's first golf course in 1907. Backers included W.L. Straub, Noel Mitchell and Roy Hanna; golf pro J.H. Mullen came from Boston to instruct.

Players, having to navigate Bayboro's deep sand or travel 2 miles by boat to reach the course, failed to show. Mullen became bored and gave his clubs to Harvey before leaving.

"The golf course grew up in weeds,'' Grismer wrote, "the clubhouse became decrepit, and that was the end.'

Between 1907 and 1910, Harvey built his home at 1719 Beach Drive SE. The 14-room structure decorated with antiques, wood-beam ceilings and original light fixtures is now the Bayboro House.

"It's like being sent back in time,'' said Sandy Kelly, 57, who purchased the bed and breakfast four years ago with her husband, Dave, 49.

Harvey, Straub and others eventually brought peace to the harbor issue. In December 1910, Straub's dredge Blanche - named after his daughter - began work on the city's waterfront.

By 1911, every Bayboro lot was sold. The federal government allocated $40,000 in 1912 for the creation of Bayboro Harbor. On May 24, 1913, the secretary of war approved joint city and federal port construction.

Tuberculosis killed Harvey in January 1914, leaving his dream unfulfilled. He was 44.

"Through scorn, through scoffs, through calumnies and other disheartening experiences, (Harvey) has built this south side to what it is today,'' the Evening Independent wrote.

Former Mayor A.C. Pheil began dredging Bayboro in May 1914. In August, a federal dredge arrived, Fuller wrote. A reported 400,000 cubic feet of sand was removed during the project.

In December 1914, Bayboro was annexed to the city, the first such expansion since the 1892 incorporation. By 1923, the city had its port.

"The most important thing to me about my great grandfather was the vision he had for the port,'' said Harvey's great-granddaughter, Shirley O'Sullivan. "Just imagine what else he would have done had he lived longer.''

- Scott Taylor Hartzell can be reached at


PHOTO, Photo courtesy of Sandra and Dave Kelly

City pioneer C.A. Harvey

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A102502593