Zephyrhills is a city in Pasco County, Florida, known for its pure water, rolling topography, gentle breezes, and senior population. It is a suburb of the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Statistical Area, known as the headquarters of the Zephyrhills bottled water company and is a member of Tree City USA.
The 2010 population was estimated at 13,288 and the city and local area have been growing steadily in numbers and declining in median age over the last ten years, according to Melonie Monson, Executive Director of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce.
Zephyrhills is part of a changing east Pasco and part of Florida’s Nature Coast. As Tampa Bay pushes outward, Zephyrhills is growing with single-family homes, parks and amenities, and generating a lively vibe. In fact, several recreational business have opened up in the last few years, including an axe throwing hall, billiards hall, and local brewery in its historic downtown.
This is helping to attract New Tampa and Wesley Chapel young professionals to the picturesque area.
Zephyrhills History & Industries
Zephyrhills began as the town of Abbott on April 18,1888 and consisted of 280.74 acres. The town was named for Dr. Abbott who ran a drug store and practiced medicine in the area. The primary industries at the time were turpentine production and lumber. The Seaboard Coastline railroad established a depot in Abbott.
A voting district was established in 1893 followed by a post office in 1896.
In 1909, Captain Howard B. Jeffries, a Civil War Union veteran from Pennsylvania purchased 35,000 acres and created the Zephyrhills Colony Company with a plan to create a community for Civil War veterans, and the land sales industry became a part of the Zephyrhills story.
It is said that Jeffries wanted to name the town after the soft, gentle breezes or “zephyrs” that blew across the rolling countryside. In 1910 the town of Abbott voted to change its name to “Zephyrhills” and was incorporated in 1914.
Zephyrhills Historic Industries
In 1923, the Krusen family came to Zephyrhills, where Mr. Krusen bought 13,000 acres of forest on credit, built a sawmill and began the Krusen Land and Timber Company. At one point, they employed over 300 men, turning out over a million board feet of lumber a month!
Citrus was another industry that followed turpentine and lumber. As the forests were depleted, stumps were removed and citrus planted. After heavy winter freezes took out citrus groves, cattle became a staple industry of the area.
Tourists and Trailer Parks come to Zephyrhills in the 1950s
In the early 1900s, the Ford Motor Company brought an affordable automobile to market. Soon thereafter, northern U.S. residents began journeys to the Sunshine State to escape frozen winters. (For more information on that, see our Tin Can Tourists story.)
Toward the middle of the twentieth century, Zephyrhills saw an influx of tourists and retirees. Many mobile home parks were established throughout the area to accommodate those who transplanted from the northern U.S. for year-round residency and those who stayed through only the winter, known as “snowbirds.”
The Zephyr Egg Company
In 1952, Jack Linville came to Zephyrhills to found what was to become its biggest single business: the Zephyr Egg Co. “We started off with 500 chickens and we have more than 2 million now,” says Danny Linville, Jack’s son and Zephyr Egg’s general manager. Jack Linville’s strength, Danny says, lay in running his own feed mill, from which he marketed feed to all the neighboring counties.
In 1989, Zephyr Egg employed 200 people and sent 22 truckloads of eggs all over Florida daily. (1) Zephyrhills Economy Traveled Rocky Road, Jay Bohren, Suncoast News, Feb. 25, 1989
The Zephyr Egg Company is still providing eggs to Florida but is now owned by a large company.
Fred Gore’s family came to Zephyrhills from Dover when he was 14 years old. They had 18 cows on about 60-acres. Fred would rise and milk the cows between 3 and 4 am, then deliver the milk before going to school. The dairy grew to over 300 acres and 1,500 cows under Fred’s leadership and then 1997 Federal EPA regulations made it impossible to profit with the business.
Gore’s Dairy herd was dismantled, the equipment was sold, and the land went to developers in 2006. Today it is a shopping center featuring a Staples office supply store, with single family homes and other housing developments behind the center. (2) Dairyman sees the end of farm life, with a smile, Molly Moorehead, Tampa Bay Times, August 28, 2006
Zephyrhills Pure Water
In 1961, Don Robinson took advantage of the area’s good-tasting water to establish the Zephyrhills Water Corporation. The company started bottling the spring water and shipping it all over the state, leading to the town being known as “The City of Pure Water.” The original spring from which Don began his business was bought by Nestle Waters USA. It is now the Crystal Springs Preserve, a 530-acre sanctuary that supports environmental education and the preservation of Florida’s natural environment.
Crystal Springs Preserve
Nestle Waters USA partners with Crystal Springs Foundation to bring groups access to its 520-acre preserve. Crystal Springs Foundation has been developed as Florida’s Premier Living Laboratory. Their mission is to provide quality environmental education programs which empower students to make environmentally conscious decisions. They have several curriculums and accommodate groups of 15-100 for a negligible fee. Educators and other group leaders can find out more here.
Zephyrhills Depot Museum
In 1927, the Atlantic Coast Line built what is now the Zephyrhills Depot Museum. Originally built to serve the local lumber, turpentine, and booming real estate markets, it was purchased from CSX Railroad by the City of Zephyrhills in 1989. The Depot was restored, and reopened to the public November 19, 1997.
The Depot Museum is open from 9 am to noon on Saturdays at this time, and there is cute, train-themed playground equipment outside for daily enjoyment.
Zephyrhills has over a dozen City parks, including a skate park and a water park.
Zephyr Park is a wide-open 34-acre park featuring a splash pad, playground equipment, and a dedicated dog park with no admission fee! There is a wide paved walkway around Lake Zephyr. The water park is open daily from 9 am to 6:30 pm. The park includes Alice Hall Community Center, 5 lighted tennis courts, handball, fishing, picnic pavilions with picnic tables, barbecue grills, and horseshoe pits.
Dogs are welcome with proper vaccinations, well-behaved and on a leash. Pets are not allowed in playground areas or on athletic fields.
For more information, visit the Parks & Rec page.
The city is served by Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, which is home to Skydive City.
More than 70,000 skydives are performed annually at Skydive City, Inc., founded by Joannie Murphy and Susan Perkins Stark in 1990.
“When we first visited the land that is our drop zone on the Zephyrhills Airport, it was accessible only by footpath. There were no facilities except an old World War II bunker and a taxiway to the runway,” state Susan and Joannie on the Skydive City website.
The center trains every level of skydiver, and supports all types of skydiving activity and regularly hosts major skydiving events, festivals, and competitions.
Barracks Museum of Military History
In 1942, the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport was built for training the Army Air Force. Hundreds of fighter pilots came here to hone their skills before going to war. After World War II, the airport was donated to the city.
The pilot barracks had all been demolished, and the infirmary building was the only survivor of this period of history. From 1997 to 2001, state and city grants allowed for restoration and preservation of this building, turning it into the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.
The museum holds treasured memories of the World War II veterans who lived and trained in Zephyrhills, and others who served in war. It is open on Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm.
Zephyrhills Historic District
The city began an inventory of historic buildings in its boundaries. In 1999, Zephyrhills created a historic district, and in 2001 the Zephyrhills Historic District was nominated for, and listed on, the National Register of Historic Places.
Captain H.B. Jeffries’ house, located at 38537 5th Avenue, was registered on the National Register of Historic Places. This frame vernacular structure was built in 1911. It is one of several historic homes on the historic homes tour.
Zephyrhills: The City of Pure Water is a Great Place to Visit
Zephyrhills is also where the largest single Powerball lottery winner bought her ticket. Gloria C. MacKenzie of Zephyrhills bought a ticket at the Zephyrhills Publix. On June 5, 2013 it was announced she had won $587 million!
Yes, not everyone gets a winning lottery ticket in Zephyrhills, but it is a lively community with a lot to offer NatureCoasters, whether on a day trip or for relocation purposes.
Photos: Credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ebyabe