Gone But Not Forgotten

No longer does the roar of a diesel engine or the clanking of wheels on the railroad tracks from a passing locomotive, greet residents of a triangular section of land northwest of historic downtown. But Railroad Street and the roughly 38-acre subdivision bordering along the Withlacoochee State Trail, tell the story of what once was a hardworking community.

From Boom To Bust

The year is 1927 and the hardrock phosphate boom that Citrus County saw in the late 1800's is fading fast. The discovery in 1889 of phosphate -- used in munitions -- leads to a network of railways and canals weaving through the countryside to transport the commodity. With the start of World War I in 1914, shipment of phosphate overseas was stopped and the demand dwindled. Though there were more than 30 phosphate mines in the county by the 1930's, the doors to many had already closed.

One such operation is the Southern Phosphate Development Company (SPDC), owned by Howard B. Tuttle. In a July 1997 issue of At Home -- the Citrus County Historical Society newsletter -- the Rev. James C. Hoge said Tuttle closed his mines in 1924 and later turned some of the land into a 9-hole golf course and park space. Hoge wrote that the homes and possessions of dozens of black employees, who predominantly worked the mines, were moved to a section of land between present day U.S. 41 and County Road 581, along the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Company tracks.

The community, approved for development by the Inverness City Council on January 5, 1927, was called the Rosemary subdivision. Hoge noted some of the residents included longtime black mine workers Johnnie Jackson, Eddie Green, Calvin Smith, Evan Williams, Issac Murphy, Tillman Crum and their families. The subdivision was eventually vacated and all that remains is a winding maze of dirt roads and lush vegetation.

Rails to Trails

Today, anyone who happens upon this neighborhood is just as likely to be using two wheels instead of four. The railroad is long gone, replaced by the 46-mile paved Withlacoochee State Trail for bicyclists and other recreational enthusiasts.

  1. The present location of what was once called Rosemary lies between Ella Avenue to the east, Harvest Street to the north, U.S. 41 to the west and the bike trail to the south. The subdivision has since been renamed North Side Addition and is northwest of Inverness Middle School. The upscale Windermere villa community borders the subdivision to the east.

About three minutes from downtown, the subdivision is near the entrance of a walking trail into Whispering Pines City Park. The local leg of the Florida National Scenic Trail, which leads through the park, is a short walk north on the state bike trail. Shopping centers, the hospital, shops, restaurants and numerous other parks are in the surrounding area.

Remnants of Tuttle's ventures remain, including portions of his sprawling estate in the Inverness Highlands area. Over the years, the estate took on the name Espedeco, a variation of his business's name (SPDCO). A section of Espedeco Drive still remains miles southwest of the former Rosemary subdivision, along with hundreds of acres of land, parts of which are under development.