- Written by James Shimberg and Edited by Bob Hood –
The original Town 'N Country Park Community opened September 18, 1959, just north of Memorial Highway. The community was the brainchild of three transplanted New York builders, Charles LaMonte, Mandell Shimberg, Jr. and James H. Shimberg who had come to Tampa in 1957 and created Lamonte_-Shimberg Builders, Inc. They first built in the Interbay section of Tampa and in Brandon.
The first fifty homes in Town 'N Country sold for $9,200 and offered 40-year FHA mortgages at 4 1/2 % interest. The monthly payments were $52, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance. These first 50 homes were built on Brookside Lane and Murray Hill Drive. The original ads presented Town 'N Country Park as the The Community of 1970, and first homes came with built-in stereo sound systems . Prior to the opening, a sewer treatment plant was built to serve the community, and Little League ball fields were built, both just north of Memorial Highway. The sewer facilities were owned and operated by a company related to the developers, Sweetwater Utility Corporation. it was later sold to Hillsborough County in 1976. At the time of the sale to the county, the monthly sewer fees were $7 to $8 per month.
When a Tampa real estate broker, Bill Wingfield, first showed LaMonte-Shimberg the land which now comprises the original Town 'N Country area, it appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. The owner of the land was D. Wayne Webb who operated a dairy farm with the main barn located where the Town 'N Country Plaza shopping center now stands. When LaMonte Shimberg first viewed the land in 1958, one could count on the fingers of one's hand the number of people who lived within a radius of three miles of what is now Hillsborough Avenue and Hanley Road, an area now containing over 50,000 people.
Mr. Webb's house was on the south side of Hillsborough Avenue where the Ranch House Restaurant is now located. Wayne Webb had bought 500 plus acres of land in the 1940's from a Mr Hanley for $100 per acre.
Mr. Hanley was the father-in-law of Congressman Sam Gibbons. The records indicate that Mr Hanley had bought 5,000 acres of land, including the Webb 500 acres, in the 1930's from the Exchange National Bank for $5 per acre. LaMonte-Shimberg bought the land from Mr Webb for $1,500 per acre based on a series of options stretching over 10 years. The first 100 acres were south of Hillsborough Avenue, and the remaining 400 acres were north of Hillsborough Avenue up to what is now Jackson Springs Road. The original purchase included 3,500 feet of property along both sides of Hillsborough, which was ultimately developed commercially.
Starting with the first 50 homes in 1959, over the next two to three years approximately 500 homes were built and sold south of Hillsborough Avenue with sale prices from $9,200 to $15,000. In 1961, a small strip shopping center was built on the south side of Hillsborough Avenue east of Town 'N County Boulevard. In 1961, the development crossed Hillsborough Avenue and an extensive model home area of houses was built on Cresthill Drive. At the same time, a swim club with an Olympic-size pool was built for community use. As time passed, this pool facility eventually went out of existence. A Buddhist Temple now occupies the area once occupied by the swim club. Also in 1961, the developers donated to the Hillsborough School System the first of five school sites. Starting with Town 'N Country Elementary. The sites now house Webb Middle School, Morgan Woods Elementary, Woodbridge Elementary and Bellamy Elementary, north of Waters Avenue.
In the area north of Hillsborough Avenue, the price of the homes started at $18,000 and eventually reached $60,000 to $70,000 by the time the last part of the Town 'N Country area -- Twelve Oaks -- was completed in the 1980's . Successive areas were given separate names such as Morgan Woods, Woodbridge, Twelve Oaks and Woodmere, north of Waters Avenue.
By the time the original developers and builders of Town 'N Country had built their last house, the area covered over 2,000 acres and stretched over three miles from Memorial Highway on the south to north of Waters Avenue. In this area, over 6,000 single family homes and townhouses were built from 1959 to 1983. Two large shopping centers were constructed, Town .N Country Plaza (Hillsborough and Hanley Road) and Twelve Oaks Plaza (Hanley Road and Waters Avenue); and extensive facilities were built, now known as Shimberg Field, north of the canal.
The term Town 'N Country is now used to designate a large part of Hillsborough County, far beyond the 2,000 acres developed by Town 'N Country Park and LaMonte-Shimberg Builders. Over 20,000 people live in the original Town 'N Country area; and due to the interest and concern of its residents, it has become a vital and well recognized part of Hillsborough County.