From Gulf to Bay - The Old Clearwater Beach Hotel
by Donna Malloy
Photo Courtesy of Mike Sanders
If he built it; they would come. Thus, in 1916 the Clearwater Island Bridge Company, under the direction of prominent lumberman and visionary Edwin Timanus Roux, otherwise known as E.T., commenced construction of the first wooden bridge that would link mainland Clearwater to Clearwater Beach. Only a few residential dwellings existed on Clearwater Beach at this time, mainly serving as summer homes for mainland residents.
The following year, the Bridge Company began platting Clearwater Beach and E.T. did not have to stand in line to purchase three lots of Block 10. Construction of his eight-bedroom, two-story summer family home soon followed. Built on narrow ground, E.T.'s home abutted Clearwater Harbor with the Gulf of Mexico to the West. The island was so narrow, it was said that during extreme tides the waters of Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico would merge in the middle of Mandalay Avenue.
A man of social standing, E.T.'s friends soon flocked to his family home. It didn't take E.T. long to realize an opportunity in the making. As a result, in 1920, E.T. built a three-story wooden wing adjacent to his home and began taking reservations for his Clearwater Beach Hotel. From that year forward, the face of Clearwater Beach would be transformed forever from a day stop to a vacation destination.
Visitors arrived by two main trunk lines; the Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line, the latter owned by Henry Plant. Years earlier, in 1879 and 1880, the railroad tycoon purchased the Atlantic & Gulf Railroads as well as the Charleston & Savannah Railroads at foreclosure sales and was successful in eventually providing continuous service across the state of Florida.
Both railroad lines provided "through train and Pullman accommodations from all points in the north, east and west without change or inconvenience. There is a bus and taxi service from both stations to the hotel," boasted the Clearwater Beach Hotel's brochure. The hotel operated under the "American Plan and dual plan between seasons. Reservations for the season, month, week or day should be made at an early date. Terms on application."
After check-in, visitors could enjoy bathing and water sports at the hotel, which was described as "delightful. The beach is long and of the finest white sand, millions of colored shells, coral etc., delight all lovers of beach life. Sheltered from rough waters with such imperceptible slope that bathers and children may frolic in the water at considerable distance from the edge with perfect safety. There is absolutely no undertow. Being on the Gulf, the water is at all times clear and the temperature comfortable and refreshing."
But if swimming wasn't on your list of the top ten things to do while visiting Clearwater Beach, "within a mile's drive from Clearwater, the woods abound with quail, rabbit and numerous other game. Then again there is the finest fishing in the world at our doorstep. Right in the bay at the rear of the hotel are speckled sea trout, mackerel, flounder, bass, scallops, stone crabs and a host of other fish too numerous to mention. They are caught by line or spear from the bridge, shore or row boat. Boats, tackle and bait can be had for a few cents by the day." And if you didn't want to leave your room, you could always hang your fishing line out your east window and catch one of many numerous fish below.
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