USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Browse Items (55 total)

  • Tags: sponge industry

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During his later years, Steve Stavrakis (1928-2012) made model sponge boats that he gifted to family members. Stavrakis’ father came from Halki around 1918. He moved first to Tampa, and then to Tarpon Springs where he owned a ship’s chandlery for…

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Anthony “Curly” Spanolios is seen here trimming sponges near the Sponge Docks. When he was young, Spanolios’ family owned a wood yard on Athens Street, where he helped his father make charcoal for the sponge boats and private residences. He…

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One of Tarpon Springs’ largest sponge merchants was Michail Koutouzis (1942-2013), standing amid sponges being packaged for sale in his sponge warehouse in April 2008. Originally from Kalymnos, Koutouzis and his brothers were all sponge…

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Florida Folk Heritage Award recipient and third generation boat builder George Saroukos is the last master builder of Greek sponge boats. During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of achtermas-style sponge boats were built in Tarpon…

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The son of a diver and hook boat captain, Costa John Tsataros (1926-2001) also became a sponge diver. While at sea, he often whittled—creating beautiful sponge boats from blocks of wood. Today his sons John and Steve continue his father’s…

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During the filming of Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), the sponge boat Eleni was painted to look as though it had been burned by the rival Key West Conch sponge fishermen. After the filming ended, the boat was restored to its original condition.…

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Actor Lloyd Bridges poses with townspeople at the Sponge Docks during the filming of 16 Fathoms Deep (1948) in Tarpon Springs. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, both this film and Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) created a romantic aura around…

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The family of a sponge fisherman poses for a photograph in front of their home on November 16, 1936. Although the talented Burgert Brothers photographers from Tampa found intriguing subjects in Tarpon Springs, they did not always record the names of…

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Mike Renios, suited up for diving on George Georgiou’s diving exhibition boat, Plastiras, on February 10, 1969. The tourist exhibition boats often provided employment for divers in the off-season or for those who were not able to spend weeks out in…

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Four men aboard George Georgiou's sponge diving exhibition boat at the Tri-city Suncoast Festival in 1961. John Georgiou operated his first sponge boat, the Plastiras, from 1947 to 1952. He then began to charter his second boat, the Aspasia, and gave…

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While in Tarpon Springs to film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), Terry Moore and Robert Wagner talk with John Gonatos in his family’s Olympic tourist shop. Gonatos played a Conch sponger in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, did diving scenes for 16 Fathoms…

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The crew of the tourist boat St. Nicholas III poses for a photograph. Standing on the dock are Captain Michael J. Billiris, Angelo V. Billiris, unidentified diver; on the boat are George M. Billiris, Theodore J. Billiris, unidentified, Ted M.…

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In 1924 the Billiris family created one of the early sponge industry attractions. St. Nicholas Boat Line Sponge Diving Exhibition still functions as a cruise from the Sponge Docks up the Anclote River that incorporates an exhibition of hard-hat…

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Anna Smolios Kouskoutis Ioanidis (right) worked in Sylvia Billiris’ (left) gift shop during the 1950s. With the decline of the sponge business in the late 1940s and early 1950s, tourism based on Greek culture and the sponge industry became Tarpon…
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