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Clearwater is a city located in Pinellas County, Florida, United States, nearly due west of Tampa and northwest of St. Petersburg. To the west of Clearwater lies the Gulf of Mexico and to the east lies Tampa Bay. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 107,685. It is the county seat of Pinellas County. Clearwater 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.
The city is an active center for Scientologists. Cleveland Street is one of the city's historic avenues and the city includes Bright House Field and Coachman Park. The city is separated by the intercoastal waterway from Clearwater Beach.
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 under ground 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 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 city'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 Florida 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.
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.2 square miles (101.6 km2). 25.6 square miles (66.2 km2) of it is land and 13.7 square miles (35.4 km2) of it (34.86%) is water.
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 City Hall looking up and east from the foot of the bluff toward the rear of the building
The City of Clearwater is administered by a council-manager form of government, and the city manager serves as the chief executive and administrative officer of the city.
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.
Clearwater Beach sunset
Florida Strawberry Festival
Imagine International Film Festival
Fun N Sun Festival (April - May)
Clearwater Celebrates America (July 4)
Clearwater Jazz Holiday (October)
Hispanic Heritage Festival (October)
Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 (November 2006 – 2010)
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.
Plans are in the making for a future regional transit system, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA). Presently, the Tampa/Hillsborough County area has a separate transit system, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), which has an express bus route connecting Clearwater with Tampa.
The major street arterial system in Clearwater is essentially an east-west, north-south oriented grid pattern. Gulf to Bay Boulevard (Florida 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. It is a limited-access highway for a majority of its length in Clearwater, with an exception being the portion between Druid Road and Haines Bayshore Road. Plans are underway to develop this piece to freeway standards, however.
Major employers include Morton Plant Hospital, Tech Data, and Honeywell.
Art and culture
In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by CBS Money Watch.
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 and includes a similar, citywide requirement on all private development projects valued in excess of $5,000,000. Eligible private developers have two options to satisfy the Public Art Ordinance: dedicate 1% of the project's aggregate job value toward the installation of on-site public art; or contribute 0.75% of the project's aggregate job value to the city's Public Art Discretionary Fund, to be used to supplement and initiate public art projects throughout the city. The Public Art and Design Program is overseen by a seven-member board, appointed by City Council and composed of local arts supporters and administrators, design professionals and private citizens, Christopher Hubbard is the Public Art Specialist for the city. The program seeks to "enhance Clearwater for those who visit and live within the city and to contribute to a legacy for generations to come" through the commission of unique, public artworks that enhance the city's diversity, character and heritage.
The Capitol Theatre (Clearwater, Florida) 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 Robert Morton Wicks Opus 415 organ was installed in 1922.
Donald Roebling was a frequent patron, having his own double seat installed at the theatre.
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 Robert Morton Wicks Opus 415 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 (Clearwater, Florida)]].
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. 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.
Bright House Field in Clearwater is the spring training home of Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, as well as their High-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers.
Beginning in 1970s under the code-name Project Normandy, 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."
Scientology headquarters are located in downtown Clearwater and there remains ongoing controversy over the church's influence.
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