Although Apollo Beach was not named until 1958, it was born more than a century ago.
At the tender age of eleven Paul Dickman came to Florida with his family in 1908. When an adult, he purchased in 1938 nearly 4,000 acres he named Tampa Beach because he thought the name Tampa would attract tourists.
Following a complicated series of failed efforts, Dickman sold the land in 1957 to Francis J. Corr, the second largest shopping center developer in Michigan, who renamed the area La Vida Beach, a Spanish phrase often translated as the life or lifetime.
After another developer started but failed to finish construction of the Flamingo Canal from U.S. Highway 41 along what is now Fairway Boulevard to Tampa Bay, Corr completed the canal and eventually negotiated a deal with the Holiday Inn to construct a motel on a beach he built by filling sand on a ledge that Dickman discovered earlier.
Today, this area boasts 55 miles of interconnected navigable canals with an average a depth of seven feet in the center. Lined with magnificent homes surrounded by lush tropical foliage, the canal features docking facilities for luxurious sail and motor boats.
Legend has it that Corr’s wife Dorothy suggested a new name she thought would best describe the greatest benefit of the area: sunshine. So in 1958 Apollo Beach was named after the Greek and Roman god of the sun. Other benefits Corr added that year were a golf course and an airstrip.
Today Apollo Beach highlights an 18-hole, par 72 championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones a golf course architect who designed more than 500 golf courses in 40 states and 35 countries.
After Corr died, his sons took over and initiated the first “finger wedges” type development on the Florida west coast. Using the fill from dredging canals, they created fingers of land with elevations high enough for homes to be built on.
The first housing development was Jamaica Isle comprising a mere 51 houses. The Jamaica Isle Yacht Club is now the Dolphin House. Later, home sites like Sabel Key and Bal Harbour Isles as well as Caribbean Isles Mobile Home Park were added. These days, a tranquil stretch of beachfront also highlights exclusive communities like Symphony Isles and Andalucia, the crown jewels of Apollo Beach.
Essential to sustained growth, however, is a road, and in 1967 the Apollo Boulevard was finished connecting the beach front to Florida route 41.
In the 1970s, none other than Guy Lombardo arrived to give a concert promoting the new Bal Harbour Chateau Condominiums, the first in Hillsborough County.
Probably the most popular attraction today is the Manatee Viewing Center at the Tampa Electric Plant.