History of Lutz, Florida: It’s Lost Its Small Town Feeling

“Welcome to Lutz, established in 1913”, reads the sign along the congested highway. What does this sign welcome you to now? Crowded streets, strangers moving in to old neighborhoods, new housing developments and the vanishing of Lutz’s history and character are becoming more noticeable to a lifelong resident. I take out my family’s old photographs and find it hard to recognize the town of the past.

The name Lutz first appeared on a Florida map in 1909 as the name of a train station. This town was originally called North Tampa. When a post office was erected in 1913, the town was changed to “Lutz”. Now this post office sits in a shopping center that overwhelms its history. No one understands the fight the residents had in getting a post office to their town. Petitions were directed to the government numerous times in order to get their own post office. All the residents care about now is the wait in line to mail their packages.

By 1911, there were thirty buildings in Lutz including a school, a train depot and a hotel. Residents of Lutz say that if you wanted the local gossip, you went to the Dixie Service Station built in the 1920s. Anyone wanting to know what was happening in Lutz needed only to come to the station, grab a soda from the box, pull up a drink crate, sit down, and keep his ears open. Now residents don’t care about their neighbors and they get their gossip from the Internet.

Originally, horses and buggies traveled the dirt roads of Lutz before the arrival of automobiles. My great grandmother was the first person in Lutz to drive a Model-T on the rutted roads. With the growing population however, came asphalt roads. In the early 90s, the widening of roads became needed. Old Highway 41 was changed from a two-lane highway to a monstrous six-lane highway. The major consequence of this growth was the demolishing of numerous historic homes, including the first home built in Lutz where my great uncle was born. I saw the broken bricks on the ground as a symbol of lost heritage as he also passed away that year.

I see our fruit stand named “Vosburgh Fruit Stand” in black and white photographs. This original fruit stand supplied my great aunt and the extended family with necessary income. Aunt Emma loved her orange groves and her business. She loved exotic animals and raised monkeys, chickens, guineas, geese, turkeys, cats, dogs, hogs, cows and peacocks. People not only came to her fruit stand to buy produce, but to look at her zoo. The only item left from her treasured inventory is the peacocks. A few descendents can still be seen roaming our property.

Spacious, vacant land is becoming a rarity. Now Lutz’s landscape is littered with drab office buildings. As I take care of my prosperous orange grove, I wonder what will become of it in the future. The oranges passed on to me are a labor that I have little time for. My grandfather and my father had time to earn ten cents a box for picking oranges. Will more orange groves be uprooted and destroyed along with the town’s history and heritage?

A town that was defined as a place to raise your family in the early 1900’s has been stripped of its original character. There is no more time to enjoy your family, your neighbors, or the scenery. Front porches are not used as often as in the past. As a child in Lutz, I would see people sitting on their rocking chairs watching the scenery, watching their neighbors and sipping orange juice from their own trees. “Welcome to Lutz, established in 1913” reads the sign. This sign is still there. The meaning however has disappeared.

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