I just recently refinanced two houses in Tampa and I noticed that the real estate growth in Florida, particularly in upscale properties, is still going strong. Downsizing is also on the rise and I noticed several estates up for sale online, none more intriguing than the Dickman mansions on Dickman Island in Tampa Bay in Ruskin.
The 212 acre Dickman Island in Tampa Bay
Few Florida families have had a bigger influence in the development and growth of a Florida community as the Dickmans in the town of Ruskin along Tampa Bay’s eastern shoreline.
In 1906 a utopian socialist college President named George McA. Miller wanted to start a college based upon the ideas of the English writer John Ruskin. Previous institutions had failed up North, but this time Miller had the support of A. P. Dickman and his two brothers. They helped Miller acquire a staggering 13,000 acres for the school and surrounding community by trading all their Missouri farmland.
President George McA. Miller’s Swiss Style House
Dickman played a major role in the setting up the Ruskin Commongood Society where college students could pay their tuition and fellow farm members could purchase more land by working in the Society’s fields and workplaces. Ruskin was an isolated and unusual community for a decade, but that situation would quickly change.
The A. P. Dickman House off US41
A forest fire destroyed all but three of the college buildings in 1919 and the intrusion of US41 and the Florida Land Boom undermined the development of the community. Ruskin soon became just a small, farming community between Tampa and Bradenton.
The Dickmans, however, continued the spirit of Ruskin. Son Paul B. Dickman organized the Ruskin Vegetable Cooperative in 1941 and helped make Ruskin one of the most famous tomato growing places in the world.
In Summer The Ruskin Vegetable Coop
If you drive through Ruskin on US41 today you will still see the name of Dickman on real estate and business operations and if stop off in the Ruskin Library, you can see journals of the college and the days of the Commongood Society.