Where Past & Future Collide
North Port’s 10,000 year old past, and rumored Fountain of Youth, continues to bring new residents to the rapidly expanding city.
Like many of our communities on the Gulf Coast of Florida, North Port started as a dream in the mind of land developers following World War II.
In 1958, retired Air Force Colonel William “Bill” Royal, an amateur archaeologist began diving into the depths of the Warm Mineral Springs. The springs are a 30,000-year old artesian sinkhole that stays naturally warm because of the flow of 20-million gallons of mineral infested water per day from a vent 200 feet below the surface. Legend has it when Ponce de Leon landed here in search of the Fountain of Youth, he believed that he had discovered it in the Warm Mineral Springs, and died here shortly thereafter.
Royal’s dives took him deep enough, he was convinced of the archaeological value of the site, and to prove it, he brought to the surface a human skull, dating at least 10-thousand years old, perfectly preserved with brain matter intact!
Around the same time, Frank Mackle, Jr, the eldest of the infamous Mackle Brothers, decided to separate the northern subdivision of Port Charlotte that their General Development Corporation was building and give the area its own identity. So in June of 1959, the residents voted to incorporate the City of North Port Charlotte. It must have been so much easier with only 28 people voting!
North Port Charlotte wouldn’t stay small, though. By 1960, the newly minted city had grown six times larger, population-wise and would continue its astronomical growth until today.
In the 1960’s the mineral springs reputation for the near-miraculous healing powers made it a hot spot – no pun intended – for people from around the world to come soak in its waters.
In 1974, the citizens, by a large margin, approved a measure to rename the city and build its own identity as simply North Port.
Despite Col. Royal’s discoveries, archaeologists didn’t start seriously exploring the Warm Mineral Springs until the 1970’s when Florida State University researchers unearthed at least 20 sets of human remains – including an 11,000 year old skeleton in the fetal position, believed to be the oldest intentional burial in North America. In addition, they found tools, and remains from a giant ground sloth, a saber-toothed cat, a horse, and a prehistoric camel.
Despite the value of the Springs to archaeologists and tourists, the city closed the Springs temporarily in 2012 to consider how best to develop them. In 2014, they reopened for swimming only.
North Port today boasts a population of around 60,000 people, with homes and businesses that take up a mere 10% of the 103-square miles of the city, with plenty of potential for future growth. North Port is the only city in Florida that has a state forest – Myakka State Forest – within its boundaries. 95-miles of freshwater canals makes the city appealing to fishermen and boaters.
The Warm Mineral Springs – known as Chudo Ozero, or Miracle Lake in Russian, attracts 120-thousand of mostly Eastern European tourists every year. And about 10% of the city’s population is of Ukrainian descent.
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