Stop 40: The 1922 Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF THE DADE CITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE!
The Dade City Chamber of Commerce began in 1922. As was the case for most Florida cities, the institution evolved from the Dade City Board of Trade which dated back to 1913.
In the early years of the Chamber throughout the state, many focuses were on agricultural related topics. The Florida Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1916 in dire times for ranchers as a Florida Cattle Tick Eradication committee effort. The prevalence of the cattle tick was literally threatening Florida’s entire economic welfare. Agriculture leaders were cognizant that they could accomplish more as a cooperative. Although Dade City was not a member until 1922, the tick problem was prevalent in Pasco County as well.
Today the elegant building of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce sits in a strategic place in Dade City near historic Church Avenue (commonly referred to as Church Street) and the Hardy Trail. It is placed in a strategic piece of history as one can gaze up the old Front Street (now known as 8th) and reflect on the many merchants as well as the Edwinola Hotel and Coleman & Ferguson Mercantile locations. For the veteran observer, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Depot buildings that occupied a spot just to the northwest of it for nearly one hundred years. Always a symbolic north star for photos, the historic palm tree that stands just to the southwest of the front door of the Chamber office holds ions of history as well.
Milestones of the Chamber are many and Directors often known as Secretaries were many and ranged from area business people to specialists in the Chamber concepts who served.
In 1913, the Tampa Weekly Tribune reported that the Dade City Board of Trade was preparing to inaugurate a very active campaign to develop the city, and had applied for a charter of incorporated with the goal of working with neighboring towns and counties for upbuilding.
In 1922 that very Board of Trade was reorganized into the Dade City Chamber and held their first meeting at the Woman’s Club house in Dade City. They elected Frederic Daniel Cosner as President. The group was so enthusiastic, largely fueled by the growth and the new roads. They set out as one of their first efforts to lend aid in helping to build a hard road from Dade City to the west coast. They rallied support behind a bond vote for funding. They also met with the Plant City Chamber to learn the ropes of developing a Chamber.
Also in 1922, they worked on the Dade City Tourist Camp, bringing hygiene services for the tin can tourists and campers in the form of running water and bathroom facilities.
There were numerous efforts in their early years related to beautification. In 1923, they established an ordinance against signs on roadways. They worked with the Pasco County Chamber to plant trees and beautify the roadsides but were insistent that no more advertising signs would be allowed to be erected on the highways; the edict was quickly passed by the Pasco County Commissioners as well and the fledgling Chamber got a taste of the kind of influence, they might be able to wield for the community.
By 1924, the second director, Carl B. Taylor of the Dade City Banner, had resigned and Captain Robert P. Evans had been elected the new secretary, and the Chamber was set on a new advertising campaign to bring more visitors and settlers from the north.
Also in 1924, the Chamber erected an information booth on the median of Meridian Avenue for the purpose of handing out literature on Dade City. With the opening of State Roads Number 2 and 23, folks needed information and the Chamber was there to pass it out. The booth was considered an architectural beauty but was only seven feet square. The newspaper said, “hundreds of cars from out of state are passing this way daily, and at nearly any hour from two to a dozen may be seen parked along the street.” The information booth was quite prolific and the Chamber members who were then primarily men, solicited their wives to man the booth. Mrs. Lillie Allen did an interview in 1928 about her experience. Also in 1924, the Chamber took on a project with the federal War Department to find some landing fields for airplanes.
In 1926, the Orlando Chamber recruited our Dade City Chamber Secretary, J.T. Welden and H.M. Simmons was then plucked from the Zephyrhills Chamber.
The chamber was constant and imaginative in its advertisements and slogans over time. In 1927 they bragged on the good roads which would “provide a revelation to visitors”. At that time the county Secretary of the Chamber was the county agent, so lots of information was passed out at the extension office.
Also in 1927, a project that had been brewing for some time came to fruition with a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that shined enormous focus on the Dade City Chamber. From its inception and in partnership with the city’s Kiwanis club, the Dade City Chamber was aghast at the condition and cramped quarters of the Seaboard Coastline depot in the center of Dade City. They appealed to Seaboard’s corporate management to build a more fitting accommodation. After all passengers disembarked their train and took walks through Dade City, often dining at the fashionable Edwinola or perusing the shops. After years of work, the case was heard at the Florida Supreme Court and a ruling was delivered in Dade City’s favor in 1927…Seaboard Coastline would be required to build a new depot.
The most significant Chamber of Commerce, Dade City held the county seat and the economic and population centers of the area and they were well respected.
By 1946, the chamber boasted a membership of 128, and Chamber secretary Robert L. Odum announced that the chamber was working with the city to prepare a new city map!