Monday, October 19, 2015

The Baronoff Oak, Count Philippe and Safety Harbor

Safety Harbor is a city north of Clearwater of about 17,000 people.  Like most cities around here you just run into it and never know it, since most everything is developed.  It is a pretty nice place, colorful municipal buildings, a touristy feel to it and lots of those little niche shops that are never part of the chain malls.  The initial reason for coming was to go to Philippe Park, whose sign is posted on the way to the neat Causeway area that is great for taking pictures.   

In downtown Safety Springs, Florida is this tree.  It is an oak.  It is majestic.  And it is somewhere between 300 and 500 years old.   It is the Baranoff Tree which is the oldest living thing in these parts.  City officials did their best to kill it but yet, there it is, still blooming and majestic.  A few years ago after  arborists determined its age, the city fenced the area off and started making brick paths and brick markers at the corners.  In doing so they started to cut off water to the root system.  It began to die until officials removed the brick and today it has regained its health. 

At the park there are a number of interesting things to see.  One of them is the burial site of Odet Philippe.  A Frenchman he was the first European to settle the area, and was the first person to introduce the grapefruit to the are and establish cigar-making in Tampa.  A factoid I recently learned from there website of Bodine-DILLIGAF is that the grapefruit was an early sign of welcome.  Legend has it that sea captains would spear a pineapple outside their homes alerting friends and neighbors that he had returned and to stop by to visit.  Soon businesses placed pineapples on their signs as a display of welcome.  

Before Baron Philippe settled the area, however, another group settled, actually about 6000 years ago.  They were the Tocobaga Indians and I'll post one of their burial grounds on an upcoming post.  

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