The Oaks of Thonotosassa
All-Age Manufactured Home Family Community
10321 Main Street
Thonotosassa, Florida 33592
Lake Thonotosasa is Hillsborough County's largest natural lake measuring two miles in length and one in width, with a surface of over 800 acres.. It teems with the most delicious quality of trout and other fish, and it is quite notorious that this lake affords one of the best fresh-water fisheries in South Florida. ‘It is the pride of the citizens of the community,....who feast upon the beauty of its waves and breathe the purity and vigor of its breezes.’vii
Prior to the establishment of the railroad, a person would travel many hours by covered wagon the 15 miles between Tampa and Thonotosassa. When Henry 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.
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.
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. The community’s 250 residents could purchase most of their supplies at A.W. Rigby’s general store. Seventeen 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. Thonotosassa reveled in the roaring twenties and Florida’s land boom. By 1925, the community’s population reached 300. Thonotosassa had become Hillsborough County’s premier fruit-growing region.
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