Welcome to Dunedin

Floridians have a diverse collective heritage that connects the state with all parts of the world. Dunedin, a quiet city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a perfect illustration of this. Dunedin citizens take pride in their town’s Scottish roots, such that tartan kilts and bagpipes are as a common a sight as palm trees.

Postcard of Dunedin, Florida welcome sign on Edgewater Drive  (circa 1950s).

Postcard of Dunedin, Florida welcome sign on Edgewater Drive (circa 1950s).

In the late 1870s two Scotsmen, J.O. Douglas and James Somerville, opened a general store in a waterfront community and petitioned the government for a post office. They requested the name Dunedin, in honor of their home back in Scotland. “Dunedin” (Dun-E-din) is the Gaelic name for Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. The legacy of these Scottish settlers can still be seen today in the names of many of the city streets. One such street, located downtown, is Douglas Avenue, which is lined with popular landmarks like the Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery.

Postcard with street scene of downtown Dunedin, Florida (circa 1940s).

Postcard with street scene of downtown Dunedin, Florida (circa 1940s).

The Dunedin Scottish-American Society promotes the city’s rich Celtic heritage by sponsoring events such as ceilidhs, or parties, with old Scottish style singing and dancing. The organization also hosts special dinners dedicated to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, and Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. The Scottish Country Dancers of Dunedin honor the city’s heritage by teaching traditional highland dancing. Another cultural tie with Scotland is Dunedin’s sister city relationship with the Scottish city of Sterling.

Scottish dancers at Highland Games in 1975 Dunedin, Florida.

Scottish dancers at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

Scottish bagpiping and drumming are an essential part of Dunedin’s local culture. The city has a community pipe band with pipers of all ages and skill levels. Both the Dunedin High School and the Dunedin Highland Middle School have bagpipe and drum bands as well. The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching Band’s uniforms are tartan kilts with full military-style regalia. They play “Scotland the Brave” as the football team’s fight song, and even have traditional Scottish dancers perform with them during the halftime shows.

Hear the City of Dunedin Pipe Band play “Scotland the Brave” at the 1991 Florida Folk Festival:


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The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching and Pipe bands perform at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching band performs at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

One of the most prominent celebrations of Dunedin’s Scottish heritage is the annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival which began in 1966. There are actually four Highland Games each year throughout Florida, but Dunedin’s is the largest and oldest, attracting spectators and competitors from around the world. It is a week-long festival that includes the Highland Games, Celtic music concerts, the Military Tattoo, Scottish storytelling, a 5-K run, authentic Scottish food, and even sheepdog demonstrations! During most of these events spectators witness performances and competitions in the centuries-old Scottish traditions of piping, dancing, and drumming. Scottish clans and spectators alike are encouraged to wear their tartan sashes and kilts.

A bagpiper at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

A bagpiper at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

The Highland Games are arguably the most popular portion of the festival. The Games are widely believed to have originated in the 11th century when King Malcolm III held a footrace to decide who would become his personal messenger. Highland Games nowadays have grown to include competitions in the heavy athletics such as the caber toss, stone put, and Scottish hammer throw, all of which can be seen in the Dunedin version of the celebration.

Competitor tossing the weight over the bar at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1997.

Competitor tossing the weight over the bar at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1997.

Competitor tossing the caber at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1977.

Competitor tossing the caber at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1977.

This is the story of just one of the many unique communities in Florida. What stories from your Florida community are documented by the records and photographs on Florida Memory? Let us know about your local traditions by sharing a comment below!

Great Floridian Feats: The Gandy Bridge

If you’ve ever made it from St. Petersburg to Tampa in less than an hour, count yourself lucky. It wasn’t always so easy. Prior to 1924, the only way to get between those two points was to drive all the way around the north shore of Old Tampa Bay via Oldsmar. All that changed, however, with the opening of the original Gandy Bridge.

The original span of the Gandy Bridge between Tampa and St. Petersburg, completed in 1924 (photo circa 1925).

The original span of the Gandy Bridge between Tampa and St. Petersburg, completed in 1924 (photo circa 1925).

The bridge was named for the man who conceived it and managed its original construction. George S. “Dad” Gandy, who came to St. Petersburg from Philadelphia around 1902, had had a successful career in building trolley lines. He developed a reputation for visionary thinking, but when he revealed his idea to build a bridge across Old Tampa Bay, even his friends thought it absurd.

George S. "Dad" Gandy, the man who conceived and built the original Gandy Bridge across Old Tampa Bay (photo circa 1924).

George S. “Dad” Gandy, the man who conceived and built the original Gandy Bridge across Old Tampa Bay (photo circa 1924).

Gandy felt strongly that the project could and would be done, but he also knew the timing was not right in 1903. St. Petersburg and Tampa would need to have larger and more progressive populations to support such an enormous undertaking. By 1915, conditions appeared to be more favorable. Gandy hired engineers to survey the bay and shoreline, and began lobbying federal and state officials for the appropriate franchises to build a bridge. He faced competition from the Tampa, Atlantic, and Gulf Railroad, which had already submitted plans for a trestle across the bay. Had the railroad been built as planned, it would have crossed Gandy’s proposed route, making an automobile bridge impractical at that time. Local banking houses, businesses, and influential individuals sent a flurry of endorsements by mail and telegram to Washington and Tallahassee, arguing that Tampa and St. Petersburg badly needed the Gandy Bridge to support their continued growth. The push paid off; by February 1918 Gandy had the necessary legislation and permits to proceed.

One more obstacle stood in the way. The United States entered World War I in April of 1918, and major projects like Gandy’s that were not directly beneficial to the war effort were put on hold. Aside from a few small preliminary engineering studies and filling operations, the bridge remained at a standstill. After the war, financing became the main concern. Gandy wanted the bridge to remain under Floridian control, even though it would be a private, not state, project. That meant Floridians would need to put up the three million dollars needed to make the bridge a reality. With the help of professional promoter Eugene M. Elliot, Gandy and his associates managed to convince nearly four thousand investors to contribute, and by September 1922 construction had begun.

Construction of the Gandy Bridge, 1922-1924. Top Left: A large floating concrete pouring plant built especially for this project works along a section of the bridge. Top Right: Terminus of an 1100-foot dock built out into the bay to handle bridge materials. Bottom Left:  Concrete piles driven into the floor of the bay to support the bridge decking. Bottom Right: Concrete piles are aligned and braced with wood timbers. Photos were published in the official program for the Gandy Bridge dedication, November 20, 1924.

Construction of the Gandy Bridge, 1922-1924. Top Left: A large floating concrete pouring plant built especially for this project works along a section of the bridge. Top Right: Terminus of an 1100-foot dock built out into the bay to handle bridge materials. Bottom Left: Concrete piles driven into the floor of the bay to support the bridge decking. Bottom Right: Concrete piles are aligned and braced with wood timbers. Photos were published in the official program for the Gandy Bridge dedication, November 20, 1924.

The work required to build the Gandy Bridge was extensive, especially for the 1920s. Two years were spent dredging two and a half million tons of sand, casting 2,400 steel-reinforced concrete piles, and laying two and a half miles of concrete decking. This massive endeavor required the work of a small army of over 1,500 workers. In addition to more than a dozen workshop buildings, the builders set up an entire camp just for the bridge workers. Called “Ganbridge,” it featured bath houses and dormitories, along with warehouses, offices, and amenities for the residents.

When completed, the Gandy Bridge became the world’s longest toll bridge, stretching six miles from shore to shore. In addition to becoming an invaluable aid for moving traffic between Tampa and St. Petersburg, the enormity and uniqueness of the span made it a tourist attraction in itself. Numerous postcards depicting the bridge were published over the years.

The Gandy Bridge was dedicated on November 20, 1924 with an elaborate series of ceremonies and festivities. Governors from sixteen states attended the opening, having driven down from a conference in Jacksonville. With a large crowd of press representatives and bridge officials gathered, Florida Governor Cary A. Hardee untied a rope of flowers, and the party of governors drove across the bridge, marking the start of its public service.

Postcard showing the original toll booth for Gandy Bridge. The original toll for passenger vehicles was 75 cents for the vehicle and driver, plus 10 cents per additional passenger. Other tolls included 25 cents for saddle horses, 10 cents for bicycles, 25 cents for motorcycles, and 20 cents per head for loose-driven cattle or horses (photo circa 1930).

Postcard showing the original toll booth for Gandy Bridge. The original toll for passenger vehicles was 75 cents for the vehicle and driver, plus 10 cents per additional passenger. Other tolls included 25 cents for saddle horses, 10 cents for bicycles, 25 cents for motorcycles, and 20 cents per head for loose-driven cattle or horses (photo circa 1930).

The original Gandy Bridge remained the principal route between St. Petersburg and Tampa until 1956, when a second span was added to accommodate the growing number of automobiles needing to cross the bay. The original bridge remained in use until 1975, and the 1956 addition remained in operation until 1997. New parallel bridges were opened in 1975 and 1996 to replace the ones that were closed. While the original 1924 Gandy Bridge is no more, the 1956 addition was for a number of years preserved for pedestrian and bicycle traffic as the Friendship Trail Bridge. As it decayed, however, officials were forced to close the bridge indefinitely. Its fate remains uncertain.

The 1924 and 1956 Gandy Bridge spans side by side shortly after the latter opened. The original bridge is on the left (photo 1957).

The 1924 and 1956 Gandy Bridge spans side by side shortly after the latter opened. The original bridge is on the left (photo 1957).

With its many rivers, lakes, bays, and islands, Florida is home to an especially large number of magnificent bridges. Tell us about your favorite Florida bridge by leaving us a comment below or on Facebook!