History Happened Here

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Pinellas County

Year Founded: 1916Founded by: Ransom Eli Olds Previously known as: Olds-on-the-Bay, Tampa Shores


The founder of Oldsmar, automotive pioneer Ransom Eli Olds, intended his city on Tampa Bay for the working class, retiring automotive workers especially. He envisioned the area not only as a retirement community, but also for farming and industrial manufacturing. He hired engineers and surveyors to lay out the streets of the city fanning like spokes of a wheel from the waterfront to the city’s downtown 5 blocks distant. He sought expert advice to develop citrus and vegetable farming, even manufacturing a small tractor in Oldsmar to aid in clearing land.

By 1917, Oldsmar had its own electrical generating power plant that sold power to nearby cities as well as, a hotel, a casino and 1000-foot pier over Tampa Bay for ships and cargo. Construction of streets and homes was in high gear. There was a chartered bank, homes were selling, a three-story hotel was started and a race track was nearly completed. Olds even planned to build the south’s grandest golf course in Oldsmar. The future looked rosy. However, everything came to a screeching halt in 1922 following devastation and loss from the 1921 hurricane that made direct landfall in Tampa Bay and literally nearly washed Oldsmar and Olds’ dream away. The financial losses were such that he liquidated his assets, relinquished land holdings and moved elsewhere. What remained of Oldsmar was a few hundred acres.

Not much changed in Oldsmar from the mid-1920′s until 1970. To grow to its present size of 10.5 square miles from just a few hundred acres, Oldsmar City officials opted to annex various large parcels of land over a period of years during the 1970′s, a hard won fight against Pinellas County.

Oldsmar remained a ‘sleepy town’ for many years. Although Tampa Road was the most direct natural land route connecting Tampa with the cities and beaches of Pinellas County, traffic was re-routed away from Oldsmar in the 1930′s with the construction of a causeway over Tampa Bay, connecting the mainland to the peninsula. By the 1990′s, however, Pinellas County was considered “built out.” Florida real estate had boomed and land was scarce and expensive. Businesses, investors and home owners re-focused attention on Oldsmar. Businesses scrambled to open, subdivisions sprang up, schools and roads were constructed and Tampa Road came to life – - -now a well-planned bustling corridor of commerce.

Story of City's Founding

It was the early 1900’s when entrepreneurial spirit and ambition drove the city’s founder, Ransom Eli Olds, to set his sights on an undeveloped area of land at the north shore of Tampa Bay. In Michigan, R.E. Olds had created a baseline for the future of America’s automobile industry. He built and sold the first ‘horseless carriage’ (and even invented an electric car!) and founded Oldsmobile, emerging with fame and fortune and a driving ambition to achieve success in real estate. Florida was a new frontier, ripe for speculation and development. At the time, much of the 38,000 acres that Olds purchased could have been described as desolate and uninhabitable, worthy only of hardened pioneers undeterred by knee-deep mud, ravaging floods, insatiable mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, stealth-like alligators and no one within shouting distance. Did I forget to mention one dirt road officially a wagon trail? The ‘wagon trail’, however, was the only land route connecting the City of Tampa on mainland Florida to the Gulf coast peninsula famed for its white sand beaches and the cities of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Location, location, location. Oldsmar is perfectly situated. Initially, R.E. Olds named the city ‘Olds-On-The-Bay’ but the name changed soon thereafter to Oldsmar. “Mar” is a variation of the French word “mer” meaning “sea.” Years later, for a short while, Oldsmar’s name changed to Tampa Shores (a real estate marketing concept), then was officially changed back to ‘Oldsmar’ in 1937.

Little Known Facts

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