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  • Tags: sponges

1546153[1].jpg
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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Piles of all types of sponges fill the courtyard of the Sponge Exchange on an auction day in 1921. Most of the men in the courtyard appear to be Greek, except for the African American man walking towards the camera. He was one of many who worked in…

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A crew member finishes the grueling job of cleaning sponges on February 11, 1975. Sponges, which are simple animal organisms, must be cleaned of their skin, internal matter, and any stones or sand that have adhered to them. Crew members repeatedly…

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Auctioneer and former diver Costas Klimantos accepts a bid from potential buyer George Smitzes at the Sponge Exchange on June 19, 1978. After a sale, the captain or owner is reimbursed for food and boat expenses, then each member of the team receives…

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Costas Tsourakis loading strings of sponges into the back of a truck during the 1940s. Tsourakis arrived from Greece in 1905. In addition to working with sponges, he made charcoal for the sponge boats at a lot on Athens and Cedar Streets.

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This early image of a sponge packing house is associated with the name Trefon Constantinou. Sponge merchants are central to domestic and international distribution. Many belong to families that have worked in every aspect of the business for…

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Outside their gift store on Pinellas Avenue in 1948 are children Costas Pappas, Fanitsa and Theodosios Frantzis, and adults Katherine Esfakis Pappas, her father-in-law Costas George Pappas, and sister-in-law Zula Pappas Frantzis. Katherine was raised…

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George Danapas demonstrates trimming a sponge at a festival on the Sponge Docks on March 6, 1987. Danapas was long involved in the sponge industry, and had his own hook boat.

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The Gulf of Mexico Sponge Co. warehouse was built at 122 Roosevelt Boulevard around 1930 by Drosos Alahuzos, who arrived in the U.S. in 1916. Drosos ran the family sponge business out of Philadelphia but spent some of his time in Tarpon Springs,…

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On October 2, 1970, the crew of the sponge boat Eleni hauls strings of sponges off the boat to store in the Sponge Exchange until they are auctioned later in the day.

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James Piccolo sizes sponges at Acme Sponge & Chamois Company, one of the largest sponge distribution businesses in Tarpon Springs. The company was established in 1938 by Michael Cantonis, who came from a family of Symian sponge merchants. Acme…

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A man stands next to the Sea Curiosities from Gulf of Mexico tourist display on January 30, 1928. Note the dinghy named for Greek Prime Minister Venizelos and the shop to the left, which is a ships’ chandlery. Mass tourism bloomed after World War I…

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Mass tourism bloomed after World War I as the middle class expanded. As a result, tourism based on the sponge industry and Greek culture developed early in Tarpon Springs. This image shows a store selling sponges at 629 Dodecanese Boulevard in 1921.

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The Sponge Exchange on Dodecanese Boulevard across from the Sponge Docks was one of the most important places in Greektown. It consisted of a large courtyard for cleaning, processing, sorting, and selling sponges, surrounded by klouves, or cells in…

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Men view sponges to be auctioned in the Sponge Exchange on July 24, 1937. By 1940, there were over 1,000 men actively engaged in the sponge industry. These men and their families constituted roughly 2,500 Greeks in a town of 3,402. With the onset of…

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The men gathered in front of the Sponge Docks with strings of large harvested sponges reflect a variety of levels within the sponge industry. No doubt those wearing everyday work apparel are sponge boat crews, while those with white shirts and ties…

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Men gather to survey heaps of large sponges in the yard of the Sponge Exchange. The early wooden buildings indicate that this might be in the 1910s, before the sturdier brick buildings were constructed.

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A merchant surveys the street from the doorway of his tourist shop stocked with shells and sponges in 1936. In decades past, tourist shops near the Sponge Docks marketed items such as sponges, shells, curios, and Greek vases.

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The historic N. G. Arfaras Sponge Packing Plant located at 23 West Park Street is a one-story wood frame building listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It was among the last of the sponge packing plants erected in Tarpon Springs…

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A Greek saleswoman explains the properties of a vase sponge inside a tourist store near the Sponge Docks, 1936. Shops very similar to this one remain today, together with specialized and general tourist shops.

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Sponge brokers examine the piles of sponges for sale in the Sponge Exchange courtyard on November 6, 1936. Many of the men are taking notes in preparation for the silent auction.

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The crew of the St. Michael crew clean the sponges harvested during a recent trip on October 4, 1973. After returning to port with sponges, the crew members count them, put them into net bags, and the captain keeps an account of the number, type, and…
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