Clearwater is a city located in Pinellas County, Florida, United States, northwest of Tampa and St. Petersburg. To the west of Clearwater lies the Gulf of Mexico and to the southeast lies Tampa Bay. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 107,685. Clearwater is the county seat of Pinellas County and is the smallest of the three principal cities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, most commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area.
Present-day Clearwater was originally the home of the Tocobaga people. Around 1835, the United States Army began construction of Fort Harrison, named after William Henry Harrison, as an outpost during the Seminole Wars. The fort was located on a bluff overlooking Clearwater Harbor, which later became part of an early 20th-century residential development called Harbor Oaks. University of South Florida archaeologists excavated the site in 1962 after Mark Wyllie discovered an underground ammunition bunker while planting a tree in his yard.
The area's population grew after the Federal Armed Occupation Act of 1842 offered 160 acres (0.65 km2) to anyone who would bear arms and cultivate the land. Early settlers included the Stevens, Stevenson, Sever and McMullen families, who claimed and farmed large tracts of land. Prior to 1906, the area was known as Clear Water Harbor. The name "Clear Water" is thought to have come from a fresh water spring flowing from near where the City Hall building is located today. There were many other freshwater springs that dotted the bluff, many in the bay or harbor itself.
Originally part of Hillsborough County, the first road joining Clearwater and Tampa was built in 1849, which dramatically reduced the prior day-long commute between the cities.
During the American Civil War, Union gunboats repeatedly raided the community's supplies, as most of the able-bodied men were away fighting for the Confederate Army. The town began developing in the late nineteenth century, prompted by Peter Demens' completion of the first passenger railroad line into the city in 1888. Clearwater was incorporated in 1891, with James E. Crane becoming the first mayor. The area's popularity as a vacation destination grew after railroad magnate Henry B. Plant built a sprawling Victorian resort hotel named Belleview Biltmore just south of Clearwater in 1897.
By the early 1900s, Clearwater's population had grown to around 400, ballooning to nearly 1,000 in the winter. Clearwater's oldest existing newspaper, the Clearwater Sun, was first published on March 14, 1914. Clearwater was reincorporated, this time as a city, on May 27, 1915, and was designated the county seat for Pinellas County, which broke from Hillsborough County in 1912. In 1915, a bridge was built across Clearwater Harbor, joining the city with Clearwater Beach to the west. Clearwater Beach, although located on a separate barrier island, belongs to the city of Clearwater and fronts the Gulf of Mexico. A new, much higher bridge now arcs over the bay, replacing the former drawbridge; the connecting road is part of State Road 60 and is called Clearwater Memorial Causeway.
During World War II, Clearwater became a major training base for US troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. Virtually every hotel in the area, including the Belleview Biltmore and the Fort Harrison Hotel, was used as a barracks for new recruits. Vehicle traffic was regularly stopped for companies of soldiers marching through downtown, and nighttime blackouts to confuse potential enemy bombers were common practice. The remote and isolated Dan's Island, now the highrise-dominated Sand Key, was used as a target by U.S. Army Air Corps fighter-bombers for strafing and bombing practice.
- 1888 Settlement of Clear Water Harbor founded. "Narrow-gauge railroad" begins operating.
- 1891 Town of Clear Water Harbor incorporated. James E. Crane becomes mayor.
- 1894 - Orange Belt Railroad begins operating.
- 1897 - Belleview Hotel in business in nearby Belleair.
- 1900 - Population: 343.
- 1905 - Population: 610.
- 1906 - Clear Water Harbor renamed "Clearwater."
- 1911 - Clearwater Yacht Club formed.
- 1912 - Clearwater designated seat of newly created Pinellas County.
- 1914 Clearwater Evening Sun newspaper begins publication. Tampa and Gulf Coast Railroad begins operating.
- 1915 - City of Clearwater incorporated.
- 1916 - Public library and bridge to Clearwater Beach built.
- 1918 - Pinellas County Courthouse built.
- 1920 - Population: 2,427.
- 1921 - Capitol Theatre in business.
- 1923 - Peace Memorial Church built.
- 1926 - Fort Harrison Hotel rebuilt.
- 1930 - Population: 7,607.
- 1948 - WTAN radio begins broadcasting.
- 1950 - Population: 15,581.
- 1953 - Palm Drive-In cinema in business.
- 1959 - WAZE radio begins broadcasting.
- 1970 - Population: 52,074.
- 1972 - Marine Science Center established.
- 1976 Church of Scientology headquartered in Clearwater. Countryside Six cinema in business.
- 1978 - May 4: Tornado occurs.
- 1980 - Population: 85,170.
- 1984 - Regional Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority formed.
- 1998 - City website online (approximate date).
- 2004 - Clearwater Public Library new building opens.
- 2005 - Clearwater Memorial Causeway opens.
- 2010 - Population: 107,685.
- 2012 - George Cretekos becomes mayor.
- 2013 - Church of Scientology's Super Power Building dedicated.
- 2017 - Charlie Crist becomes U.S. representative for Florida's 13th congressional district.
- 2018 - The shooting of Markeis McGlockton receives national attention and triggers a debate regarding stand-your-ground laws.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.2 square miles (101.6 km2), of which 25.6 square miles (66.2 km2) is land and 13.7 square miles (35.4 km2) (34.86%) is water.
Clearwater's downtown has been undergoing major redevelopment in recent years. General beautification has been done along with completion of several high-rise condos and a large marina. The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of Clearwater has played a major role in revitalizing housing of all income levels, creating opportunities for employment, and attracting the interest of both public and private investors. New bars, restaurants and other amenities are coming to the area, renamed the "Cleveland Street District". Royalty Theatre is also slated to be renovated. Another feature is Coachman Park which hosts events throughout the year. The downtown core is approximately 2 miles (3 km) from Clearwater Beach and 6 miles (10 km) from downtown Dunedin. The drive to both places, and many parts of downtown itself, feature views of the water and the Clearwater Memorial Causeway.
Clearwater has a humid subtropical climate. Clearwater is far enough south that it lies in the broad transition zone from subtropical to tropical climates. As such, Clearwater is mostly warm to hot year round, with few nights of frost. Most of the annual rainfall comes in the wet season (June through September), when daily thundershowers erupt due to the strong solar heating. The dry season starts in October and runs though May, at which time the weather is sunny, dry, and there is little change in daily weather.
As of 2010, there were 59,156 households out of which 19.5% were vacant. As of 2000, 21.7% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.4% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.79.
In 2000, the city's population was spread out with 19.1% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 21.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.8 males.
As of 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $36,494, and the median income for a family was $46,228. Males had a median income of $31,067 versus $25,066 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,786. About 8.4% of families and 12.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.8% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2000, speakers of English as their first language were 84.43% of residents, Spanish as a mother tongue was 8.55%, Greek accounted for 1.15%, French made up 1.00% of speakers, German at 0.97%, and Italian speakers comprised 0.85% of the population.
Clearwater’s economy employs nearly 50,400 people. Major employers include Morton Plant Hospital, Tech Data, and Honeywell. Employment in Clearwater grew 1.84% from 2015 to 2016 with 50,345 people in the workforce. The most common job groups include Service, Sales & Office, Science, and Business. The median household income for Clearwater is $44,569, which is below the average for both the United States as well as the state of Florida.
Art and culture
In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by CBS Money Watch.
- Imagine International Film Festival
- Sea-Blues Seafood and Blues Festival (late February)
- Sugar Sand Festival-Clearwater Beach (April)
- Fun N Sun Festival (April - May)
- Clearwater Celebrates America (July 4)
- Clearwater Jazz Holiday (October)
- Clearwater Greek Festival (October)
- Hispanic Heritage Festival (October)
- Serb Fest Clearwater (November)
- Turkey Trot (November)
- Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 (November 2006 – 2010)
- Superboat International Championship
- Winter Wonderland (December)
The Clearwater Public Art and Design Program, adopted by City Council in 2005, is funded through a 1% allocation on all city capital improvement projects valued at more than $500,000. The program commissions an average of 2-3 new projects per year.
The Capitol Theatre opened March 21, 1921. It was built by Senator-elect John Stansel Taylor. The theater's architect was Lester Avery and the contractor was John D. Phillipoff. Avery is known for his architecture in Miami. Philipoff also built the Coachman Building (1916), the Donald Roebling Estate in Belleair (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979), the old Pinellas County Courthouse (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992), other historical homes which have been saved, and did work at the Belleview Hotel.
Groundbreaking was December 6, 1920. The "New Capitol Theatre" was damaged in a storm on October 26, 1921 (so it had been completed). A theatre organ was installed in 1922, to accompany silent films with music. The organ was made and installed by the Robert Morton Organ Company.
The theatre was managed by various movie companies (EJ Sparks, Paramount, ABC-Southeastern Theatres, and Plitt Southern) and played the most recent movies of the day. The theatre also offered vaudeville on Friday nights in the 1930s. Headliners included Sally Rand, Fred Stone and his daughter, and Lum and Abner (of radio). The theatre was renovated in 1962. The Morton theatre organ was most likely removed during this renovation. When Plitt Southern did not renew their contract in 1979, Bill Neville and Jerry Strain tried to save the theatre with film classics and reduced prices. However, the theatre closed its doors on October 28, 1980.
Royalty Theater Company signed leases with the Taylor family in February 1981 when it then became known as the Royalty Theater (Clearwater, Florida). The building was renovated with Ron Winter of Winter Associates as the contractor and Scott Musheff as the architect.
During the renovations, Bill Neville's murdered body was found in the balcony.
The theatre remained in the Taylor family estate until it was sold in 1996. In July 2008 the building went into foreclosure.
In January 2009, the City of Clearwater and Ruth Eckerd Hall joined forces to purchase the theater (renamed Capitol Theater) as well as the neighboring Pat Lokey building. They plan to renovate and revitalize the historic Capitol Theater.
In 1911, the city of Clearwater witnessed a vast population increase as well as acquiring telephones, electricity, paved streets, and an ice factory. It is during this time that the Clearwater Library Association opened a subscription library on the second floor of the local People's Bank. Its popularity and support led to the request of $10,000 from the Carnegie Foundation to build a public library. The building was designed by Tampa architect F.J. Kennard. In its first year, the library had over 1,277 visitors and 2,792 books borrowed. As a vacation town, the library provided free access to materials for all residents and winter visitors.
During the Depression, the Clearwater Public Library faced many of the same threats seen at other libraries seen throughout the United States. This includes increased patron usage and dwindling budget. In the 1940s, the Clearwater library increased its staff from three assistants to five assistants. The library's collection also grew from 18,047 to over 100,000. To account for this increase, the Librarian and Board President Traver Bayly made an appeal to the City Commission for additional space.
As a result of segregation, the Clearwater Public Library was for white patrons only from its founding in 1911 to the mid-twentieth century. In 1950, the City Commission agreed to the building of the North Greenwood library. Designed by Architect Eugene Beach, the new library access to many information sources to the city's African Americans population. This library was renovated in 1984. The new Main library was rebuilt beginning in 2000. It opened in May 2004.
As the population continued to increase throughout the late twentieth century, the library system continued to grow. The Clearwater Public Library System now includes five libraries: Clearwater Main, Countryside, North Greenwood, Beach, and East. In recent years, the Clearwater Public Library System has become increasingly digital, providing patrons with access to computers, online databases, and an online library catalog. This was made possible by the Greater Clearwater Public Library Foundation, Inc. which formed in 1984. As a part of the library's Centennial Celebration, a project is commencing to add makerspaces to the libraries. The Main library's makerspace is the "Studio's at Main" and targets creative arts making.
The Clearwater Public Library System is a contributor to the Pinellas Memory Project. This system of libraries is part of the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative which seeks to provide patrons with access to information and programs to benefit the community.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a small non-profit organization and aquarium. Opening in 1972 on Clearwater Beach, the aquarium is most famous for Winter, one of their resident dolphins. Winter was rescued as a calf in 2005 and is one of the first dolphins to have been fitted with a prosthetic tail. Winter lost her tail soon after being rescued due to severe injuries as a result of entanglement in a crab trap. The CMA has two other resident dolphins; Hope and Nicholas. Hope and Nicholas were both also rescued as calves, though approximately eight years apart from each other. All three dolphins are permanent residents and are unable to be released due to concerns of how they would fare, lacking major survival skills usually taught by a calf's mother. The aquarium is also home to otters, pelicans, nurse sharks, and turtles among several species of fish and other marine life. CMA also assists in animal strandings and other emergencies regarding sea life. Animals that have stranded are rehabilitated, and if possible, released back into the wild once they have made a full recovery. It has been featured as the main setting of the American family movie series Dolphin Tale.
Parks and recreation
Moccasin Lake Nature Park is a 51-acre nature preserve with a 5-acre lake that is owned and operated by the city. The preserve also features the Moccasin Lake Environmental Education Center, which offers environmental education classes, programs and camps. The Center features live rehabilitated birds of prey, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic wildlife. It opened in 1982. The City of Clearwater contains five pools: Ross Norton, North Greenwood, Morningside, the Long Center, and Clearwater Beach. Swim lessons are offered throughout the year to patrons, and the pools have both a recreation summer pool league and the Clearwater Aquatics Team. These pools have participated in the World's Largest Swim Lesson.
The Clearwater City Council comprises the mayor and four council members, each of whom serves a four-year term. The council is responsible for setting policies and making decisions on local government issues including tax rates, annexations, property code variances and large contract awards. The city manager and city council are supported by the various city departments.
- St. Petersburg College
- Everest University
- Sunstate Academy
- Clearwater High School
- Clearwater Central Catholic High School
- Ultimate Medical Academy
- Washburn Academy
- Delphi Academy of Florida
- Clearwater Academy International
- Clearwater Christian College
Tampa International Airport serves Clearwater and the rest of the Tampa Bay Area as the primary means of air travel. St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport has also seen its usage increase. The city owns Clearwater Air Park.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus service is currently Pinellas County's only general public transit. The service offers approximately 35 local routes, two express routes which cross Tampa Bay to the east, and a beach trolley that runs north and south along the county's roughly 25-mile-long (40 km) chain of barrier islands.
One of PSTA's transfer hubs, Park Street Terminal, is located in downtown Clearwater.
The major street arterial system in Clearwater is essentially an east-west, north-south oriented grid pattern. Gulf to Bay Boulevard (State Road 60) is the east-west backbone of the city, ending at Clearwater Beach on its west end and progressing over the Courtney Campbell Causeway on its east end en route to Tampa. SR 580, Sunset Point Road, Drew Street, Lakeview Road, and Belleair Road are the other heavily traveled east-west arterials in Clearwater. Major north-south routes include U.S. Route 19 Alternate, Myrtle Avenue, Missouri Avenue, Highland Avenue, Keene Road, Hercules Avenue, Belcher Road, and McMullen-Booth Road.
U.S. Route 19 is by far the area's most heavily traveled road, some parts of it carrying nearly 100,000 vehicles per day. As of October 2017, it is a limited-access highway in Clearwater South of State Road 580.
- Kirstie Alley, actress
- Austin Aries, professional wrestler
- Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, Inc.
- Ricky Carmichael, supercross/motocross racer
- Ken Climo, professional disc golfer
- Jeremiah George, American football player, currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts
- Raquel Gibson, model and actress, and Playboy Playmate of the Month (November 2005)
- Joseph W. Hatchett, Florida Supreme Court Justice
- Milan Hodža, Hungarian-born Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
- Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler
- Robert Ingram, US Navy Corpsman, Medal of Honor recipient
- Howard Johnson, Major League Baseball third baseman
- Kirstjen Nielsen, United States Secretary of Homeland Security
- Evel Knievel, stuntman
- Kidd Kraddick, radio personality
- Clark Mills, creator of international Optimist dinghy (first sailed in Clearwater)
- Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors
- Buster Narum, Major League Baseball pitcher
- Neil O'Donoghue, former American football placekicker
- Lisa Marie Presley, former resident
- Melanie Safka, singer-songwriter
- David Sims, former CFL safety
- Juliet Simms, musician, Scientologist, former contestant on The Voice, resident from 1994 to 2006
- Lynn D. Stewart, co-founder of the Hooters restaurant chain
- Elsie Thompson, supercentenarian
- Keith Thurman, professional boxer
Beginning in the 1970s under the code-name Project Normandy, the Church of Scientology began targeting Clearwater in order to "establish area control" of the city and county. The operations were exposed in a Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles in the Clearwater Sun.
Gabe Cazares, who was the mayor of Clearwater at the time, went so far as to call it "the occupation of Clearwater" and later characterized it as a "paramilitary operation by a terrorist group." The Church of Scientology targeted Cazares, attempting to entrap him in a sex scandal. Scientology also staged a phony hit-and-run accident with Cazares in an attempt to discredit him. Cazares and his wife sued the Church of Scientology for $1.5 million. The church settled with Cazares in 1986.
Clearwater has city partnerships with the following cities: