CLEARWATER — Commemorated with a centennial celebration this past spring, it only seems appropriate that the city's oldest neighborhood be celebrated through a book.
The newest installment of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series is “Clearwater's Harbor Oaks,” which features 200 vintage images and was made possible by many locals sharing photographs, photo albums, scrapbooks, maps, brochures and recollections.
Illustrated accounts of homes and the history of Harbor Oaks were captured by the book's authors: Tom Adamich, a Seminole resident and a librarian, archivist and historian specializing in the history of transportation and Florida; and Gary Dworkin, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and a Harbor Oaks resident since 1992 who owns the former home of John “Jack” Mohler Studebaker III at 415 Magnolia Drive.
During a book release reception in late September at the iconic former Webb's Gentlemen's Apparel building that now houses Reflections of St. Luke's, Adamich said his writings about the Tampa Bay area caught the attention of Dworkin, who contacted him a year ago to collaborate on the history of the city's signature historic district.
To allow the primary writer to gain an appreciation for Harbor Oaks, Dworkin suggested Adamich stay in the surgeon's guest house while the book was being written.
“It gave me a peaceful insight and a reflective vision of the community,” said Adamich, an avid runner who also captured the essence of the neighborhood through his daily jogs.
“The book was completed in eight months, a quick turn-around in that most books like this can take up to a year,” the co-author said.
Located on the highest point of the bluff in Clearwater and overlooking the harbor, the first planned subdivision in the state was developed by Dean and Donald Alvord of New York.
Many of the historical photographs, artifacts and other elements were contributed by residents who were acknowledged in the book, including Pinellas County Historical Society past president Jim Schnur, Nancy Orth, Kenneth Weiss, Gyneth Stanley, Lamar MacNutt, Sandy Jamieson, Allan Dadetto, Bill Wallace, Frank and Teresa Hibbard, Cedio and Melba Saltarelli, Brenda and Ken Brown, Bill and Gail Guffie, John and Trudy Cooper, Sophia Vasilaros, Lynn Flaster, Ernest Upmeyer and F. David Hemerick, DDS.
In addition, historical photographs were provided courtesy of Heritage Village, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library System and the Harold Wallace Estate.
Clearwater historian Michael Sanders and photographer and photo editor Karl Scheblien also contributed to the effort. Special recognition was given to the late Jan MacNutt, who led the major campaign to designate Harbor Oaks as a national landmark in 1988.
According to the state's Division of Historical Resources, the neighborhood consisted of 109 buildings — 87 with historical interest.
The book references the many famous and influential residents like inventor Donald Roebling, who created an amphibious landing vehicle used by Marines in World War II; family members of industrialist Robert Ingersoll; Brooklyn Dodgers owner Charles Ebbets, who wintered at 301 Druid Road; champion Formula One and Indy Car driver Nigel Mansell; author Rex Beach; and members of the Studebaker, Bucknell and Procter families.
The book also praises the Alvords, who “introduced the state of Florida to visionary land-planning techniques and the concept of deed restrictions.”
Dean Alvord built the Mediterranean-style mansion at 802 Druid Road. He eventually sold his estate to Robert S. Brown, Detroit industrialist, and constructed another waterfront home one mile south of the Belleview Hotel. Brother Donald's former home overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway at 205 Magnolia Drive.
A 2005 Clearwater Gazette article, “History Lives Under the Oaks,” appropriately summarized the district: “Choose a spring day when gardens are in bloom and the westerly breeze is blowing off the waterway. Enjoy the diverse architectural styles while strolling under the century old oaks. This is Harbor Oaks where history lives.”
“Clearwater's Harbor Oaks,” $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 1-(888) 313-2665.