Settled in 1823 and incorporated in 1917, the Safety Harbor area of Tampa Bay has nevertheless been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age. Numerous sites around Safety Harbor have yielded ancient pottery as well as artifacts of copper, shell, and stone. In fact, a 6,000-year-old spearhead was found at Marshall Street Park in 2008.
Not much is known about earliest inhabitants of the area. The Tocobaga and Timuquan people were the first recorded inhabitants who lived and fished in villages around Tampa Bay from the 1500s until the 1700s when European explorers brought infectious diseases that decimated their numbers.
The Tocobaga were known for constructing various ceremonial mounds to bury their dead. Most of these mounds were destroyed in the early 1900s due to development, though one of these ceremonial mounds is still visible in Safety Harbor’s Phillippe Park. Shells found in these mounds were once used to pave Safety Harbor’s streets.
Formerly known as Worth’s Harbor and Green’s Springs, the name “Safety Harbor” originated in the early 18th century. Since pirates roamed the water’s around this area, ships that reached the top of Tampa Bay were no longer in any danger, so it gained popularity as being a “Safe Harbor.”
Safety Harbor is also the home to the Espiritu Santo Springs, or “Springs of the Holy Spirit.” This natural mineral spring was given its name in 1539 by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who was searching for the mythical “Fountain of Youth.”
In the twentieth century, Espiritu Santo water was bottled and sold commercially, and a health spa and hotel were built around the springs. In 1964, the site was designated a Historical Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and, in 1997, a Florida Heritage Landmark.