History Happened Here

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St. Leo

Pasco County

Year Founded: Founded in 1881, Incorporated July 4, 1891Founded by: Judge Edmund Dunne


In 1881, Judge Edmund Dunne began a foot-by-foot search of Florida for the perfect place to establish a Catholic Colony. Homesteaders with descendants still residing today in Pasco County were here to welcome him. On the southern shores of Lake Jovita, among rolling hills and forest, he settled on the grounds of what is now Saint Leo Abbey.

Ten years later on July 4th, 1891, St. Leo became a Town, making it the oldest incorporated municipality in Pasco County. It is located in eastern Pasco County along SR 52 between San Antonio and Dade City. The town is approximately 990.5 acres in size, with sixteen percent of it comprised of water; Lake Jovita and a portion of Finger Bowl Lake.

Named after Pope Saint Leo The Great, Judge Dunne’s vision was realized with the formation of two Benedictine communities, Holy Name Priory, 1889 and St. Leo Abbey in 1902. In the Benedictine tradition of promoting education, the oldest Catholic College in Florida was formed. Today it is known as Saint Leo University, named one of the best regional colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report, offering more than forty undergraduate majors and specializations in business administration, education, criminal justice and theology.

Rated as one of the top one hundred places in Florida to live, a portion of the Lake Jovita subdivision community also calls the Town of St. Leo home and plays a part in its history as well. The first Lake Jovita Golf course opened to great acclaim in the spring of 1926. A victim to the Great Depression, it closed in the early 1930′s. Today, it has two spectacular golf courses designed by PGA Tour great, Tom Lehman, and award winning course architects, Kurt and Steve Sandness. In addition to the golf courses at Lake Jovita, The Abbey Course is a traditional Florida course with hills and gently sloping terrain.

St. Leo is a small town with a huge history. June 4, 2011 marked its 120th year. The town’s heritage, beauty, and integrity are all sources of pride for its 1340 residents. Emphasis on maintaining the town’s rural-residential character ensures the continuation of its alluring history.

Little Known Facts

Historical Sites

Name: Garden of Gethsemane Grotto
Location: Across SR 52 from Saint Leo Abbey Church
Historical Significance: Built in 1938

Name: Saint Michael the Archangel Statue
Location: Holy Name Priory on SR 52
Historical Significance: Built in 1912

Name: St. Leo Abbey Hall
Location: Saint Leo Abby and Saint Leo University Campus on SR 52
Historical Significance: Built in 1920

Name: Saint Leo Abbey Church
Location: 33601 SR 52 St. Leo, Fl 33574
Historical Significance: Built in 1948

Name: Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
Location: Across SR 52 from Saint Leo Abbey Church
Historical Significance: Built in 1916

Key Historical Events

Event: 122 Year Anniversary
Event Description:

St. Leo was incorporated on July 4, 1891. July 4, 2013 marks the Town’s 122 Year Anniversary.

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