Did you ever wonder how Del Oro Groves was established?
In the 1880's a Mr. Sampson from Mackintosh bought 100 acres of land on the shores of Old Tampa Bay, south of Green Springs—now Safety Harbor, stretching from Alligator Creek south to where Drew Street enters Bayshore Blvd. His citrus groves around Mackintosh had frozen so he decided to come farther south and try again. The land he bought was a high hammock suitable for citrus. He first cleared 20 acres just northwest of the Kapok Tree Restaurant and planted Villa Franco lemons. He found a good market in Boston and New York, so he extended his plantings and built a large packinghouse where San Jose Street now ends. The fruit was packed and carried by barge to Port Tampa where it was loaded on steamers for the northern market.
In 1907 he decided to retire and sold his grove and citrus business to R.J. Knight Sr., who had large turpentine holdings in Citrus and Hernando Counties. At that time malaria was a problem where he and his family were living. He felt the Clearwater area was more healthful, so he built a home on the bay and brought his family here.
Only lemons of a certain size were saleable on the markets then. Therefore, a great many good lemons had to be discarded. Sometimes the bayou around the packinghouse would be afloat with thousands of good lemons—the wrong size. After two or three years, Knight decided he couldn’t stand to see such a waste, so he had his lemon trees cut down and grafted with Duncan Grapefruit. He named his groves Del Oro and shipped under the name Cavalier Brand, with a knight in armor on the seal.
In October 1921, a hurricane blew in from the Caribbean and lasted about three days. Before it was over, the wind had blown from every point of the compass, twisting the heavily laden trees out of the ground. After that, the grove wasn’t profitable but the land boom of the 1920s had begun.
Bruce Knapp developed about 90 acres of the grove into lots for sale as a subdivision named Del Oro Estates. However, just as it was ready to go on the market—complete with paved streets, sidewalks, lights and water and sewer systems—the land boom ended and none of Del Oro was sold. The city removed the utilities—even the bricks from the streets—and oaks and palms took over the subdivision.
It remained in this condition until World War II when R.J. Knight Jr. with two of his sisters bought it back from the City of Clearwater, which held a mortgage on it for the utilities it had installed. In 1966, Del Oro was again put on the market as a subdivision.
The neighborhood was built in phases. In fact, the plats of the over 330 homes can be in one of 4 different plat books! At first the plan was to sell small lots for mobile homes. There was also the concept that along some streets there was a need for the ability to have industrial construction. In fact, those homes in that area actually have 3 phase electric service available where most residential areas have two phase electrical. But the demand for single homes during the boom was more attractive and so land lots were grouped together to form larger residential lots for larger homes. Some homes are on 3 lots, some 4, some as many as 6!
The names of each phased developments are Del Oro Groves, Del Oro Groves First Addition, Del Oro Groves Estates with two plat book entries. A volunteer HOA was formed in the late 1960's and eventually become a not-for-profit registered organization of the State of Florida in the 1990's. Today the HOA is still a volunteer organization, and the original fee of just $25 for an annual membership is the lowest in all of Florida. The organization has its own website domain the is www.delorogroves.com and is also supported by a team of volunteers that manage Facebook, Gmail and GDrive accounts.
The parkway to the south of Del Oro Groves started off as a 300-foot green space between the residential home area and the condominiums to the south. Later on, that tract of land become part of the Rheem Wilson Trail, and now connects to Bayshore Rd, and to the Pinnellas County Trail. With just a few transition points, a person can enjoy over 20 miles of beautiful scenery by bike, walking or running.
Today this parkway leads to the brand new (as of 2023) Del Oro Park, featuring pickleball courts, tennis courts, playgrounds, bathrooms, picnic shelter and much more.
On the east end of the parkway is the Coopers Bayou Park, that was the original grounds of a fish camp in the 1920's. In fact, San Jose Street actually extends across Bayshore road eastward to a homestead that is right on Tampa Bay.
In the 1990's SWIFTMD saw the need to create a retention pond. So, using those funds, they created a beautiful freshwater lake (See below) and a fitness trail, and kayak launch. This was a nice asset for the residents of Del Oro who could enjoy this wonderful area along the water within walking distance.
About 20 years ago, one of the residents, Allen and Betty Arnold, who owned a flower shop on Main Street, decided to gift all the residents of Del Oro, by putting beautiful red bows on their mailboxes. This wonderful gesture of good will led to an annual tradition that continues today. The Arnolds have retired from their flower shop, but now from their home on San Carlos, they still create over 330 beautiful red bows. A team of volunteers installs them each year right after Thanksgiving and they remain up till Valentines Day. The Del Oro community has a lot to be thankful for due to this tradition started by Alan and Betty Arnold.
Del Oro Groves today is a nice Florida residential community with homes built by many builders over tens of years. The trees have grown up nicely and the large lots make for a wonderful place to call home. Dan Grimmer and his wife and family live on San Pedro and have been residents for over 30 years. Dan is a local business real estate owner and at over 80 years old is still a beacon for our community. Dan served on the HOA Board for many years and today is so proud of the community that Del Oro has become. One of our longest residents, Gay Duncan is the widower of Bob Duncan who started the Duncan State Farm Insurance franchise. His son Craig Duncan now runs the franchise. Gay enjoys her home that has been here since 1957. She is also good friends with Alan and Betty Arnold.
Our community benefits from all the wonderful services and amenities of both Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and Safety Harbor. In fact, Safety Harbor is less than a mile away with its quaint downtown area and marina.
The residents of Del Oro feel blessed with all the history that has only made the future better for this community.