In 1926, construction workers took a break from their work on the Fort Harrison Hotel for this group photo. Built by Clearwater real estate developer Ed A. Haley, the Fort Harrison was Pinellas County’s first ‘skyscraper’ at 11 stories high. Mr. Haley would later move on to develop the Moon Lake Lodge in Port Richey before leaving the state for North Carolina.

The Clearwater Beach Hotel was a busy place in the 1920s. Built first as a private residence in 1917 by a man who had made his fortune in lumber, the hotel had a 90-year career as a Clearwater landmark. The hotel is now the site of the Sandpearl Resort.

In the 1920s the state of Florida became a beacon for those looking to get rich quick in the real estate market. Large ads placed in newspapers up North called Florida “The Greatest Real Estate Development in the World” and others promised that in Florida “Winter exists in memory only” and that "A plot of land might be bought and sold as many as ten times in one day."

Clearwater also had its share of the boom. Developer and local businessman Ed Haley saw a golden opportunity to capitalize on the wealthy Northerners coming to the area to meet any one of the 300 real estate agents working in Clearwater. Haley wanted to construct a grand hotel that would overlook the bay, offer every possible amenity and provide a social center for the community. Thus, the Fort Harrison Hotel began construction in 1925 and finished in late 1926. Other properties constructed during this era include the Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church, the West Coast Hotel, the lovely estates of Harbor Oaks and the “Million Dollar Causeway” that connected downtown Clearwater with Clearwater Beach.

Beauty contests were always popular. Pictured standing on Clearwater Beach with a bevy of admirers are America’s Healthiest Girl, Miss St. Petersburg, Miss America and Miss Clearwater. The photo was taken July 3rd, 1930. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
A friendly game of checkers took place in 1921, played on a board that was sixteen feet square. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

The West Coast Hotel was constructed in 1927 and was considered one of the finest boutique hotels on the West Coast of Florida. Hosting meetings and conventions for groups such as the Tampa Bay Chiropractic Association, the Women’s Division of the Democratic Campaign Committee and the Clearwater Bar Association, the Hotel also promoted its “sizzling steaks, hot apple pie and vacuum-made coffee.” In 1933, the contestants of the Miss Florida Pageant rented a whole floor of rooms for its contestants and their chaperones. Like the Fort Harrison, the West Coast Hotel was also used by the Philadelphia Phillies for their Spring Training quarters. The property is now owned by the Church of Scientology and is used for administrative offices. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

The beautiful downtown Clearwater Post Office was built as a Works Progress Administration project, to put the unemployed to work. The Postmaster General himself attended the dedication of the facility in 1933, which is pictured here. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

But despite the growth, a series of misfortunes, including the overselling of land to people who could not afford it, a hurricane, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the arrival of the Mediterranean fruit fly signaled the end of an era for Clearwater.

However, this did not deter people from wanting to move to Pinellas County – the population jumped from 28,265 people in 1920 to 91,852 in 1940. During this era, tourism continued to be an important economic engine for the region.

Parking was a problem back in the 1920s. The Coachman Building (in the background) was still the highest building in town when this photo was taken.

Golf has been a popular Clearwater pastime since the 1890s. Here, these well-heeled young ladies play a round at the Clearwater Country Club in the 1930s.