Pinellas News

Tarpon wants national recognition for Sponge Docks

TARPON SPRINGS — The district that’s put Tarpon Springs on the map may be getting a bump in notoriety.

Tina Bucuvalas, the city’s curator of arts and historical resources, briefed the //city commission last week on potentially nominating the Sponge Docks and the part of the city referred to for decades as Greektown as a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We believe that nominating it as a Traditional Cultural Property will be a way to honor this area, have it on the National Register and still gain full community support,” Bucuvalas said.

The Traditional Cultural Property and Native American Landscapes designation was created in 1990 and is not a distinct and separate National Register property type, according to documents posted on the website of the National Park Service. According to National Register Bulletin 38, a property is eligible for consideration “because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that (a) are rooted in that community’s history, and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.”

Many of the locations listed as traditional cultural properties are Native American spiritual landscapes, like Soda Rock in California.

The National Park Service is working to upgrade and refine the Traditional Cultural Properties and Native American Landscapes designation. One of the revisions to the designation is that an eligible property is one where a community has traditionally carried out economic, artistic or other cultural practices important in maintaining its historic identity, according to the Park Service.

That seems to describe the Sponge Docks and its Greek heritage to a tee, Bucuvalas explained, adding that the state’s survey and registration supervisor with the National Register agrees.

“The National Register is encouraging the nomination of such properties and they’re looking for model nominations,” she said. “They are particularly interested in making the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks/Greektown area one of the primary model national examples.”

Bucuvalas’ proposed nomination to city commissioners would designate not just the area of Dodecanese Boulevard, but a much larger swath of Tarpon Springs stretching from the docks to Spring Bayou. Other areas that contribute to the district, such as Cycadia Cemetery, east of U.S. 19, may also be nominated, she said.

Bucuvalas organized a small group of community leaders and longtime residents to determine the future district’s range.

“Official national recognition is an honor and it would increase tourism and generate more local pride in our heritage,” she said.

It //could help secure grants and other funding for area projects, Bucuvalas said. In addition, eligible structures in the district could get federal tax incentives that encourage owners to renovate in a historically and culturally appropriate manner.

All three commissioners who voiced support for the initiative and it was given the city’s Historic Preservation Committee’s “wholehearted endorsement” last Monday night, Bucuvalas said.

“Hopefully, this can happen and we can use it as another marketing tool so people know what a great city we live in,” Mayor David Archie said. “To me it’s a plus if we can get this done.”