Over in Hillsborough County on the West side of Florida lies a smallish town. Well before it was formally settled the Indian village was known as Ichepuckesassa. Just guessing BUT since it was hard to pronounce, spell or ever remember the folks in the region choose the name Cork after the hometown of the Irish born Postmaster at the time. A few years later Cork was renamed Plant City.

Love the old town architecture

This old building houses the Whistle Stop Cafe
Street scene downtown
We liked seeing the old style awnings

Most of us from the region would immediately jump to the the conclusion that the city’s name was from the strawberry plant, or maybe from the many other tropical fruits, vegetables or other plants that grow in its tropical Gulf Coast climate. Not true. Plant City was named for the railroad developer Henry B. Plant that brought the RR right through the area.

The town was incorporated on January 10, 1888 and is located between Brandon and Lakeland. It has a current estimated population of 40,000 strawberry shortcake eating souls. This year the city celebrated the 85th year of their Strawberry Festival that runs of 11 days in late winter bringing thousands of folks into town to enjoy the massive event.

I grew up only 24 miles away in Bartow and vaguely remember coming to attend the festival one year way back when I was a kid never having returned since until this visit. About time right? I figured since we were camping in the area at the Edward Medard Conservation Park I really needed to take the drive over and take another look after 50+ years.

My mother was an only child and was born in Plant City on July 19, 1927. Her Dad was Lewis George Carlton and mom was Kate Rocker Carlton. They moved to Bartow shortly after she was born as best any of us can remember. Her dad was known as Cap Carlton and was the Mayor of Bartow at some point – he and Kate were cattle ranchers but Kate also ran a flower shop in the back of their home at 820 South Oak Street in Bartow. Liz and I wanted to visit the Plant City courthouse and local library to see if we could find any info on where my grandparents might have resided during that time but everything was buttoned up.

The old State Theater circa 1930’s – now a terrific antique store to explore!

Hated to have to pass up this store
Nice small downtown park area
Local eatery sadly needing customers
Old Privative Baptist Church – needs TLC

Observations were clearly going to be altered from the on-going Corona-19 virus at the tine of this writing….traffic in town was very low despite being 3pm on a Wednesday….most stores and other businesses were closed. The town and homes we surveyed appeared to be in great shape overall. There seemed to be a true sense of pride in the downtown district as well as the older neighborhoods.

A stately Plant City home

We enjoyed seeing the “old” Plant City High School circa 1914…the building is very cool looking and appears to have been well cared for over the past 106 years – now it serves the citizenry as a Community Center. We walked over and visited the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum too and while it too was closed we peeked in the windows and enjoyed seeing the depot/station and the rail viewing platform across the tracks.

The “old” 1914 Plant City High School
The rail viewing platform next to museum

The surrounding areas are still pretty much dedicated to agricultural interests and yes the strawberry fields are beautiful when loaded with the plump berries….perhaps thousands of acres? The harvesting crews are still very busy moving from patch to patch picking the late season berries – always looking for a laugh, I got out of the truck honked my horn and waved with my camera….they graced me with big smiles and waves back for the shot! Liz and I were saying how their backs must ache at the end of a long day bending over those low bedding plants! Ouch.

A big smile and hello to the nut with the camera!

Thanks to Plant City for allowing the Bartow riff-raff to come over and chronicle the latest from the ‘Strawberry Capitol of the World!” A lovely visit and we enjoyed walking the streets and seeing so many of your beautiful vintage homes.

Chris Pipes
  • Clark Waters
    Posted at 16:55h, 26 March Reply

    Quite an interesting tale of a little town Ichepuckesassa! Great photos Cod, I always enjoy your eloquent descriptions and, at times, a little hyperbole ! Keep em coming Cod.

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:50h, 29 March Reply

      As always – thanks for the feedback – we love hearing from everyone! Great to be with you and Pegi this wknd – we really had fun! Stay in touch and take care buddy.

  • tim
    Posted at 17:12h, 26 March Reply

    Great story brother. Thanks for sharing…..not sure of his status, but we do still have Carlton relatives living on the north side of I4 in the plant city area.

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:48h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks Tim. It would be cool to meet some of the Plant City Carltons one of these days! Enjoyed the recent round of golf with you…maybe we’ll be able to get more rounds in when we’re back in November? Talk again later….

  • Dolores Rocker
    Posted at 17:40h, 26 March Reply

    When I was growing up in Lakeland, some of the kids were excused from school to pick strawberries. That was before we had Mexican pickers. Back in the 60s they brought over Haitian pickers for strawberries and citrus. They had to go back after the season was over. We traded them for Mexicans. Who were very good workers! President JohnsonI introduced welfare And ruined our pickers and thus the Mexicans stayed!

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:45h, 29 March Reply

      Hi Delores – Good to hear from you as always….we never knew you lived in Lakeland but thanks for the feedback! Yeah, over the many years of Florida’s agriculture there’s been a ton of adapting and I guess it will continue forever as industries and practices are evolving. We miss seeing your happy face and hope you’re doing good? Thanks for following along.

  • Thomas and Mary Lynn Rhodes
    Posted at 19:00h, 26 March Reply

    Love your travels. Stay safe. Cannot imagine how hard it might be for you to get food and a place to park.
    Mary Lynn

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:39h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks so much for your feedback – this dang virus has been a huge pain but Liz and I are both very adaptive and flexible….most of the tine just blowing in the wind so we’re doing fine. Only two more weeks here in the Polk County area then we’re heading West for the summer and fall. Thank you for following us, we appreciate it. Chris and Liz

  • Bill Wheeler
    Posted at 21:45h, 26 March Reply

    Great read

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:36h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks Bill and we’re so glad to have you as one of our followers. We had hoped to have at least one more of our PipesTraveler “meet-ups” but the virus has changed everything. Hope to see you again but seems it will be November now! Keep in touch.

  • Carol Seay Royer
    Posted at 22:53h, 26 March Reply

    We use to go to SOHO all the time and then to Buddy’s for BBQ lunch. Such a cute and quaint old Florida town. Love the photos!

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:32h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to follow along with us! Glad you’re enjoying. Chris and Liz

  • Robert Collins
    Posted at 02:11h, 27 March Reply

    Chris, my great great grandfather was Enoch Collins. He came into the area in the late 1840’s. He and his three wives had 29 children. You might say that they helped found Plant City.

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:31h, 29 March Reply

      Wow – yes, I’d say old Enoch was a busy guy and sure did produce a bunch of Pickers! Dang, that’s a lot of kids…. Glad to have you following along with us Bob. He to Wendy.

  • MaryLee blair
    Posted at 15:19h, 27 March Reply

    Quaint little town

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:29h, 29 March Reply

      Yes, it is. Good to hear from you MaryLee and we hope you’re doing good.

  • Jane Collins Gardner
    Posted at 15:04h, 29 March Reply

    Thanks for a trip down memory lane. This Bartow girl married a Plant City boy and we raised our family there. He used to ride his horse downtown as a young man. We left in 2014 but cherish our memories of Plant City

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 19:28h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks so much for your feedback! We’re glad you enjoyed the story. It was a nice visit but sure would have been more interesting without the virus problems! Thanks for following along with us. We’re heading out on another big adventure out west in two weeks, so excited as we love it out there.

  • Lucy Clements Lack
    Posted at 00:23h, 01 April Reply

    Hi Chris, I didn’t know your Mom was a Carlton–My Great x 4 grandparents were John and Nancy Carlton who are buried in Friendship Cemetery (out in the woods south of Madison, Florida. https://sites.rootsweb.com/~crackerbarrel/Carl1.html Their daughter Lydia Carlton married a Hendry and moved down to central Florida and ended up eventually in Homeland. I know there are Carlton descendants all over in our area, but I didn’t know I grew up down the street from (maybe) a long lost relative lol. I guess many people whose families have been around this area for 4 or 5 generations have some connections they don’t even know about! Interesting about Ichepuckesassa, too, never heard of it.

    • PipesTraveler
      Posted at 18:32h, 01 April Reply

      Hi Lucy – Who knew?! The link that you provided didn’t seem to work… I’ve never really done any genealogy stuff on my moms side of the family but brother Tim did do some stuff on dad’s side many years ago. We’ve got a very old photo of my granddad as a baby in a wagon with his parents and siblings supposedly when they were initially arriving into the Live Oak/Madison area. Guess many years later Grandad ended up in Plant City… We really don’t have any connections with any of our Carlton ancestors..regrettably. I knew I liked the Clements clan for some reason! Thanks for sharing.

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