By Kathy L. Collins
Several South Shore area organizations, including the Firehouse Cultural Center and Hillsborough Community College Ruskin, have collaborated on a project to collect, record and archive the history of Ruskin and the South Shore area. The project is known as Celebrate South Shore History. The project can be viewed by the public by accessing hccfl.digital.flvc.org.
Ruskin, which was formed and founded on August 7, 1908, has a long history. The town of Ruskin was named after John Ruskin, an artist and philanthropist who lived from 1819 to 1900.
Long before Apollo Beach and Sun City Center were formed, the land area was simply known as Ruskin. It was largely agricultural. Now, the South Shore area is a vibrant community filled with houses and successful businesses. The South Shore area now consists of Ruskin, Sun City Center, Wimauma, Riverview, Gibsonton and Apollo Beach.
Frances Hereford, a long time resident, is one of the collaborators on the Celebrate South Shore History. Hereford, who was born in Tampa, has lived much of her life in Ruskin. Her family moved to Ruskin when Tampa Electric established its business presence in the area. She knows the area and its history well. However, even Hereford learned a lot about the area through the project.
Hereford explained that the project started when people came to the Firehouse Cultural Center and she learned that they did not know the boundaries of Ruskin. This got her started. She has worked tirelessly interviewing farmers, residents and former county commissioners. She, along with others, collected newspaper clippings and photographs. All of these items have been scanned and archived.
“I loved working on this project. It was very eye opening,” said Hereford. “I worked for Cargill for 40 years, but I did not know about the Showman’s Museum, which is located in Gibsonton, until this project.”
This is the 50th anniversary of the Ruskin Library. Celebrate South Shore History is an ongoing project, any residents who have history or memories they would like to share are asked to contact Hereford at the Firehouse Cultural Center at 645-7651.