Location in Hillsborough County and the state of Florida
|• Total||15.4 sq mi (40 km2)|
|• Land||14.2 sq mi (36.9 km2)|
|• Water||1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)|
|Elevation||3 ft (1 m)|
|• Density||540.3/sq mi (208/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0290065|
Ruskin is an unincorporated census-designated place in Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. U.S. Route 41 currently runs through the center of the community. The town was founded August 7, 1908 on the shores of the Little Manatee River. It was developed by Dr. George McAnelly Miller, an attorney and professor at Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri, and Mrs. Adaline D. Miller. It is named after the essayist and social critic John Ruskin (1819–1900). Miller established the short lived Ruskin College in Florida.
The town remained largely agricultural, including large tomato crops, until recent decades when it expanded with suburban housing developments. The population was 17,208 at the 2010 census.
Ruskin is home to Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the community has a total area of 15.4 square miles (40 km2), of which, 14.2 square miles (37 km2) of it is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) of it (7.65%) is water.
In 1907, Dr. George McAnelly Miller, a former Chicago prosecuting attorney and professor, and former president of Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri, relocated his family to the area, and along with his brother-in-law Albert Peter Dickman’s family. They purchased land and started to set up homes, a saw mill, and a school. Mrs. Adaline D. Miller, (Dr. Miller's wife) founded a post office on August 7, 1908. This day is recognized as the official founding day of the town. The Ruskin Commongood Society platted Ruskin on February 19, 1910, and filed the plat on March 9, 1910, in the Hillsborough County Court House with lots for the college, the business district, two parks, and for the founding families, with only Whites allowed to own or lease land in the community. Albert Dickman’s house, finished in 1910, on the banks of the Little Manatee River, is one of the few structures left standing from the founding of Ruskin.
The Millers began Ruskin College in 1910 with Dr. Miller serving as president and Adeline Miller serving as Vice President. Continuing with the college’s former practices, students worked a portion of each day as part of their education and as a way to pay for tuition and board. It offered three years of preparatory classes, students could then attend the college, taking classes in art, drama, language, literature, music, shorthand, social sciences, and speech. In 1913 the school has 160 students.
By 1913, the community had a cooperative general store, a canning factory, a telephone system, an electric plant supplying electricity to both public and private buildings, a weekly paper, and regular boat freight and passenger service to Tampa.
With the onset of World War I, most of students went to the war in Europe and the college closed its doors. In 1918, a fire destroyed the college, sparing only the Miller’s house. Dr. Miller died in August 1919.
At this time U.S. Route 41 was only a 9-foot-wide (2.7 m) shell road paid for by a $30,000 local bond issue. Because of the growing importance of truck farming, these roads and others were built to facilitate the transportation of produce to local markets throughout the 1920s. The railroad track connected Ruskin to the Seaboard Airline Railroad line in 1913. On the eve of the college’s demise in 1918, Ruskin had a population of 200 Ruskinites, as they are called. The majority of people appeared to have been truck growers. These residents supported a saw mill, a turpentine still, a syrup factory, a black smith, a newspaper, a lawyer, two carpenters, and three general stores. Rachel W. Billings served as postmaster and as the Universalist Reverend. With this foundation, it is not surprising that even with the destruction of the college the colony survived.
In 1925, Ruskin’s population remained at 200. It had six hotels, two saw mills, one turpentine still, a public library, the Ruskin Telephone Company, four groceries, one garage, a well driller, two restaurants, a dry goods dealer, a carpenter, and a number of fruit and truck growers. Some of the fields have been cultivated and tomatoes, cabbages, onions and other crops are being raised. There is a nursery established for ornamentals on a favorable site, and in all probability it will become a pretentious place. Thousands of palms are ready for the demand of the markets and streets are being graded in certain portions of the town that lie off the highway....The social life of the town is commendable. The women have organized four or five clubs, ranging from the Woman’s Twentieth Century Club of the League of Women Voters. A new school was erected, as well as a church. With the road developments auto service was provided to Brandon, Tampa, and Wimauma.
In 1930 Ruskin’s population reached 709, consisting of 395 males and 314 females. Despite the deed restrictions against African Americans owning or leasing property, 140 Blacks resided in Ruskin. The rest of the population was White, of whom 514 were native and 52 were foreign born. Three companies operated in Ruskin in 1935 despite the Depression and a drop to 600 residents: Florida Power & Light Company; Ruskin Telephone, Electric Light and Power Company, Inc.; and Ruskin Trailer Company.
Because of its agricultural roots, the town weathered the depression. The soil of Ruskin farms is especially adapted to growing tomatoes. There is a large area of muck land under-laid with marl in this region. The marl base allows irrigation of crops without loss of fertilizer, as the marl prevents the fertilizer from washing too deep into the soil. Irrigation is no problem for Ruskin is favored with numerous artesian wells. Due to the rapid growth of tomato culture and a cooperative arrangement among Ruskin farmers, the town has taken a new lease on life and again is a thriving community. It has a canning plant which employs 65 workers, a community hall and a modern schoolhouse. As part of an attempt to attract visitors to Ruskin and to celebrate the area’s agricultural richness, the community instituted the annual springtime Ruskin Tomato Festival in 1935 where vegetables were displayed and the community’s most popular woman was voted as queen. This Festival still takes place every year in May.
With many Ruskin residents working in Tampa during World War II, people from Tampa began hearing of the benefits of the rural community. Shortly after the war, Ruskin slowly became more and more suburban as people not related to the agricultural business moved into the community.
In 1960, Ruskin was still very rural. Agriculture dominated Ruskin throughout the 1970s, but its influence began to wane. The greater Ruskin area’s population reached 17,000 by 1975, many of whom were not farmers, but suburbanites. By 1982, Ruskin produced approximately 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of tomatoes a year, and one of the world’s largest tomato-packing houses operated in nearby Apollo Beach. However, flower farms, phosphate, real estate, and tropical fish farms also became important economic engines for Ruskin that began encroaching upon farmland. Despite this invasion, farmers grew approximately $15 million worth of produce yearly in the late 1980s.
Poor crop yields in the mid- to late 1980s drove some farmers to the wall. Many borrowed money, sometimes as much as $500,000, against their land to plant their crops. Consequently, many farmers were forced out of business, and others chose to leave farming forever. Due to the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s which allowed Mexican tomatoes to flood the U.S. market and with ever increasing water restrictions, tomato acreage continued to decline. Less than half the number of acres planted with tomatoes in the early 1990s were planted in 1997. The housing boom of the first decade of the 21st century turned most of the tomato and orange plantations into new housing development, bringing thousand of new inhabitants to the area.
Despite the downfall of the housing market, Ruskin continues to grow. U.S. Route 41 is now a 4-lane road connecting Ruskin to Tampa, as does the interstate I-75 that has an exit at Ruskin. It had a very active Chamber of Commerce until 2011 when it merged with the Apollo Beach Chamber to become the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and moved from Ruskin to Apollo Beach. Ruskin is the seat of the South Hillsborough County Government Center. It also has a branch of the Hillsborough County Public Library System. In 2009, the Dickman family donated the land where the new Ruskin Campus of the Hillsborough Community College was erected, across the street from the Earl J. Lennard High School.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,321 people, 2,963 households, and 2,074 families residing in the community. The population density was 584.4 people per square mile (225.6/km²). There were 3,603 housing units at an average density of 253.1/sq mi (97.7/km²). The racial makeup of the community was 80.69% White, 1.23% African American, 0.62% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 14.85% from other races, and 2.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 36.73% of the population.
There were 2,963 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.0% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.28.
In the community the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 104.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.9 males.
The median income for a household in the community was $28,228, and the median income for a family was $32,404. Males had a median income of $25,787 versus $20,817 for females. The per capita income for the community was $12,943. About 10.6% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.
As of March 2006, the area collectively known as Ruskin remains as a part of unincorporated Hillsborough County. A movement towards incorporation began in late 2004 and early 2005 as mounting opposition to the amount of new developments within the community. Many longtime residents feel that the County Board of Commissioners has ignored repeated requests to slow down the development until proper infrastructure was in place. The Ruskin Incorporation Committee was formed to perform a study on whether it was feasible for the community to become a city in which it found it was. On January 19, 2006, HB 759 was filed with the Florida House of Representatives with all county representatives fully supporting the measure. If passed the question will be place on the ballots of the voters within Ruskin and the city would be officially incorporated on April 1, 2007 as a sovereign government. The Bill was not approved and it prevented Ruskin from becoming the first new city within the county in over 80 years. Ruskin is the seat of the South Hillsborough County Government Center and the Hillsborough Community College Ruskin Campus.
Amazon comes to Ruskin-2013
Gov. Rick Scott and Amazon announced a deal June 13, 2013 in which the Internet retail giant would create 3,000 new jobs in Florida by 2016 — with about a third of those likely headed for a 1-million-square-foot warehouse in Ruskin.
- MaryKate Duignan Glidewell, professional wrestler
- Aaron Carter, singer
- Leslie Carter, singer
- Nick Carter, musician, Backstreet Boys
- Willa Ford
- Harriet E. Orcutt.
- Michael Parker, muralist.
National Historic Status and other Points of Interest
There are several locations in and near Ruskin some of which have been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
- A. P. Dickman House
- Cockroach Key
- Firehouse Cultural Center
- Fountain of Youth 
- Leisey Shell Pits located in Ruskin by the Little Manatee River, is perhaps the world's largest ice-age fossil deposit, yielding tens of thousands of bones and several hundred species of Ice Age mammals.
- George McA. Miller House
- Ruskin, Florida, was founded as a utopian socialist community similar to Tennessee's Ruskin Colony.
- Ruskin Memorial Park Cemetery 
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- South Shore Chamber of Commerce. http://southshorechamberofcommerce.org/
- "CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING (1790-2000)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-07-17.
- Michael Van Sickler and Bill Varian. "Amazon deal could bring 1,000 jobs to Hillsborough, but more taxes for online shoppers" http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/amazon-deal-could-bring-1000-jobs-to-hillsborough-but-more-taxes-for/2126574
- Netter, Matt (January 1999). Backstreet Boys * Aaron Carter. New York: Pocket Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-671-03539-8.
- Jameson, Melody. "History exhibit soon to be housed in Ruskin library." Observer News July 18, 2012. http://www.observernews.net/thisweek/front_page/4010-History_exhibit_soon_to_be_housed_in_Ruskin_library.html
- Mitch Traphagen, "For area artist, a big dedication for a big work of art" Observer News May 29, 2013. http://www.observernews.net/thisweek/front_page/4369-For_area_artist_a_big_dedication_for_a_big_work_of_art.html
- Kim Wilmath, At Boat Ramp, Watery Wonder." St. Petersburg Times, Friday, October 15, 2010. http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/at-boat-ramp-watery-wonder/1128403
- Cridlin, Jay. "The bone collector:Ruskin paleontologist Frank Garcia's passion has netted about 30 discoveries of unknown prehistoric species." St. Petersburg Times March 21, 2003. http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/21/Brandontimes/The_bone_collector.2.shtml
- Lois Kindle. "Ruskin Memorial Cemetery Park gets a facelift" Tampa Tribune. March 13, 2013.
- Ruskin Chamber of Commerce
- Ruskin Historical Society webpage (including photos on subpages)
- Ruskin Website