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What's in a name?

Pioneer grower left quiet legacy of citrus

Not as well known as William Morrison, James Watrous made his living in Hyde Park, where his home still stands.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 24, 2003

William A. Morrison is widely credited as the pioneer responsible for Hyde Park's citrus grove origins. But another Tampa pioneer had the same idea for the same place at about the same time.

In 1876, Pennsylvania native James Watrous and his wife, Jennie, settled near the shore of the Hillsborough Bay in a log cabin near the present Watrous Avenue. They bought 30 surrounding acres and planted citrus groves. Business was good, and by 1882 Watrous had built a grander house behind the cabin.

He remained an active grower until a freeze decimated citrus in 1894-95. He died at his mansion in 1922 at age 92.

The James M. Watrous House survives today at 1307 Morrison Ave. It is Hyde Park's second oldest house; Watrous had it built to last. Rails from old railroad tracks were used to strengthen the poured concrete walls.

Next door is another Watrous house, known as the Harry Watrous House, which the elder Watrous built for his son in 1912.

Incidentally, Hyde Park's oldest house is the nearby 1879 Italianate manse named for Morrison.

-- Source: Tampa Bay History Center

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