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stagecoach

Developing Land O’Lakes

By Diane Bedard Posted on January 20, 2022

Land o’ Lakes is a census-designated place (CDP) in Pasco County, Florida, United States. Land o’ Lakes is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida MSA. It is located around Land O’Lakes Boulevard (US 41) from County Road/State Road 54 north to State Road 52. In 1990, the population was about 7,000, but it was over 38,000 in 2020!

In 1990, the movie Edward Scissorhands had scenes filmed in Land O’Lakes. In 2017, a huge sinkhole opened up in Land O’Lakes swallowing three homes with a resident in one of them! It made national news and was very frightening. Recently, I saw a video of the sinkhole and it looks like a pond, with nature having taken over the banks. I expected an alligator to show up.

Land O’Lakes also hosts several nudist resorts. In the 1941, Lake Como Nudist Resort was started, creating a movement in the area. Pasco County was known as the nudist capital of the world for many years, although there is little promotion of that distinction now.

Bordering Wesley Chapel and Lutz, it is no wonder the Land O’Lakes is seeing tremendous residential growth, and with that, chain restaurants and retail.

History of Land O’Lakes

The land had opened up to settlement soon after the Seminole Indians that once roamed the pristine forest were forced by an 1830 U.S. government order to leave for reservations west of the Mississippi River.

concord stagecoach sign
The Concord Stage Line had a relay station located in what is now Land O’ Lakes known as “26-Mile House” where horses would be changed out. It was about halfway between Brooksville and Tampa. Image courtesy of Florida State Archives.

By the late 1840s, a Hernando County businessman operated the Concord Stage Line, cutting through the center of what is now Land O’ Lakes. Relay stops were established where fresh teams could replace exhausted horses.

About 1850, the Concord Stagecoach Line began regular passenger service and built a relay station was located in this vicinity. It was known as “26-Mile House,” because it was 26 miles south of Chocochatte (near what is now known as Brooksville but was then known as Melendez). It was about halfway between Melendez and Tampa.

concord-stage-coach-1870-silver-springs
The Concord Stagecoach in 1870 outside of Silver Springs, Florida. Image courtesy of Florida State Archives.

Stagecoach service was suspended during the Third Seminole War in 1856. Service resumed afterward and continued through the Civil War and into the early 1900s.

Railroads replace Stagecoach Travel

In 1907, Tampa Southern Railroad put down tracks along the old stagecoach route. A station was built at what is now U.S. 41 and State Road 54. It was called Denham Station, named after the general manager of the Tampa Northern Railroad.

The Drexel tower, part of the railroad’s movement into the area about 1927. From the Historic San Antonio Depot Collection

Today, when you drive to the intersection of Land O’Lakes Blvd. and State Road 54, you can see the railroad tracks that run parallel to US 41. There is even a lumberyard at the northwest corner.

Several small communities developed in the vicinity, most of them lumber and turpentine towns along the railroads, including Denham, Disston, Drexel, Ehren, and Fivay Junction.

Ehren appears to have been closer to State Road 52 and east of US 41.

Jack Vogel, Patsy and Eddie Herrmann are dwarfed by this tree in this photo taken on Aug. 27, 1989, by Bill Maytum. This majestic bald cypress escaped the woodman’s axe because it had severe lightning damage that caused it to be hollow. The Historic Places of Pasco County has: “This is thought to be one of the largest cypress trees in Florida. Professional forester Jack Vogel estimates its height at 116 feet and its age at 400 years. It is 27 feet in circumference and 8.59 feet in diameter (measured 4.5 feet above ground). It contains approximately 20,000 board feet of lumber—enough to build four houses. Image courtesy of Eddie Herrmann.

Ehren Sawmill, Post Office and Cemeteries

Named by sawmill owners Frederick and Louis Muller, Ehren means “place of honor” in their native German language and was also said to be the name of the town they left in Germany.

The Ehren post office opened Jan. 17, 1890 and closed in 1950. Burned and rebuilt several times, the post office was once listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as the nation’s smallest, although I might challenge that distinction with the Aripeka Post Office.

worlds smallest post office ehren florida
An image of the Ehren Post Office from the book Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers by Dr. Susan McManus.

By 1910 the community boasted a hotel and school along with Ehren Pine Company Sawmill. The sawmill brought settlers of all races to this remote place. Survivors of the active lumber town include Ehren and Mt. Carmel cemeteries, and a bald cypress considered one of Florida’s largest in the Cypress Creek Preserve.

By the 1930’s citrus cultivation was the area’s principal industry. However, one of Florida’s first tourist attractions was created in Land O’Lakes about this time.

Dupree Gardens Tourist Attraction Opens in Land O’ Lakes

Developed by Tampa Attorney J. Wm. Dupree, Dupree Gardens opened to the public on December 1, 1940. The attraction consisted of 25 acres of flowering trees and plants around a lodge, and a tearoom with gift shop. It also featured electric powered glass-bottomed boats on Dupree Lake.

This prominent attraction brought as many as 30,000 visitors to the area, many of them servicemen and women – from throughout the nation during the annual November 15 to May 1 season. Then the U.S. entered WWII on December 7, 1941.

Gasoline rationing unfortunately caused the facility to be “Closed for The Duration,” in 1943. Still, a New York City auction of Dupree Gardens’ camellia blooms netted $250,000.00 for the War Bond effort in 1944. Dupree Gardens, still a beautiful garden spot, reopened in 1946 for civic and group events.

A Dupree Gardens brochure. Photo from the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Olden Days Collection of Elizabeth Riegler MacManus.

How Land O’ Lakes Got its Name

Land O’ Lakes was named by popular vote at a June 13, 1949, meeting by the Denham-Drexel Civic Association at the Sanders School. In 1950, the state recognized the name, and the federal government opened a Land O’ Lakes post office.

dupree lodge home
The Dupree Lodge, after its conversion to a home by the Hendrix family. Photo courtesy of Joe Strickland from the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Olden Days Collection of Elizabeth Riegler MacManus.

The Dupree Gardens tearoom burned in 1995. The lodge was converted to a home by the Hendrix family, and the gatehouse ruins and some scattered plantings are all that remain of the early Florida theme park. The land was split and sold for other purposes, including a small nudist camp on Dupree Lake.

Land O’Lakes Growth and Changes

The 2000s saw the massive growth of Land O’Lakes. Beginning in 2003, Beazer Homes developed 468 acres as Dupree Lakes. They chose to save the native limerock ticket booth as part of a nature preserve on the property, which can be seen on the south side of Ehren Cutoff.

The Dupree Gardens Ticket Booth/Entrance along Ehren Cutoff Road. Now part of the nature preserve of the Dupree Lakes community. Image by Nikolas Panos.

Along both sides of Land O’Lakes Boulevard, you will see the new replacing the old. Hungry Harry’s Barbecue is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving residents since 1985. There are old motels and new tractor dealerships all along the road.

Tampa Bay Sporting Clays is located on 260 acres of wooded terrain in Land O’Lakes and offers shooting courses, archery, and a petting zoo, as well as lessons for beginners through competition level.

map of land o' Lakes
This map shows the boundaries of the Land O’ Lakes census designated place. Map by Bing Maps.

Along State Road 54, you will find the urban sprawl that seems to be taking over Land O’Lakes. Along I-75 and State Road 56 is the Tampa Premium Outlets mall, attracting visitors from all over the Tampa Bay area. Just a few miles west, Land O’Lakes officially begins. With thousands moving to Tampa Bay year after year, it is no surprise that this beautiful enclave of woods, farms, gardens, groves and goodness would grow and grow.

Great Thanks for Jeff Miller, who has cultivated many of these images on Flickr and received permission to share them with the world! He has also created a wonderful resource for the area called fivay.org.

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