Seniors Visit World’s Sponge Capital


So how did I come across Tarpon Springs, Florida?  Well actually Mike Rowe did it with his TV show, ‘Dirty Jobs’.  He was on a boat marked Tarpon Springs and they were gathering sponges. It did not look like all that dirty a job to me, but then again, this senior was not on the boat.

Just 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg and found along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Tarpon Springs was named for the fish found in abundance in nearby waters. But it also is known as the “sponge capital of the world,” and for its 51 miles of waterfront allure.


“At one time, the sponge industry was the largest industry in Florida,” said George Billiris, an international sponge distributor who has been a part of the Tarpon scene for most of his 72 years. “It was larger than citrus.” The sponge industry is at its lowest ebb since 1946, a condition caused by a lack of divers.

Today it’s impossible to picture Tarpon Springs without its Greek heritage. From St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to the baklava-laden bakeries that line the docks, this is a true Greek community. Dedicated in 1942, after the sponge boom had largely ended, the Orthodox Church has presented a lasting edifice of Greek influence in this town for the past 70 years.

Senior Visitors Meet Greek Americans


Tarpon Springs, a city in Pinellas County, Florida with a population of 25,000, has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.

One visitor writes…”I spent a Saturday afternoon browsing shops full of Greek souvenirs, Greek bakeries, Greek Lace shop, and of course Greek restaurants. Had a great meal at Hella’s of a Gyro and Greek Sangria! Finished off with cheesecake Bakalava which was to die for! Hellas has a bakery attached to the restaurant so get some to take home. When I was there about noon, the sponge divers who had just come in and their catches were an awesome site. Fun place to spend a few hours.”

I was impressed that there were six historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Arcade Hotel, Old Tarpon Springs City Hall, Old Tarpon Springs High School, Safford House, Tarpon Springs Historic District and the Tarpon Springs Greektown District. Wow. That is impressive!

Spongedock District and Greektown…


The first place I would want to check out is Greektown and the entire Sponge Dock District. Senior visitors will want to stroll through Greek Village at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks loaded with over 100 businesses. It is said that in Tarpon Springs, you will find some of the finest Greek Restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the entire country.

The Tarpon Springs Aquarium features a spectacular living reef, once the domain of divers only. Live coral, sponges, sharks and a variety of fish come together to form this truly unique undersea oasis that is one of Florida’s most exciting marine attractions. jeb

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