is a city located in Pinellas County, Florida, USA, nearly due west of Tampa and northwest of St. Petersburg. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 108,787; however, according to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau's estimates, the city's population fell slightly to 108,687. It is the county seat of Pinellas County. Clearwater is the smallest of the three principal cities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, most commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area.
Present-day Clearwater was originally the home of the Tocobaga people. Around 1835, the United States Army began construction of Fort Harrison as an outpost during the Seminole wars. The fort was located on a bluff overlooking Clearwater Harbor in an area known today as Harbor Oaks. University of South Florida archeologists excavated the site in 1977 after Alfred C. Wyllie discovered an underground ammunition bunker while digging a swimming pool on his estate.
The area's population grew in 1842, because after the Federal Armed Occupation Act of 1842 offered to anyone who would bear arms and cultivate the land. Early settlers included the Stevens, Stevenson and McMullen families, who claimed and farmed large tracts of land. Prior to 1906, the area was known as Clear Water Harbor. The name "Clear Water" is thought to have come from a fresh water spring flowing from near where the City Hall building is located today. There were many other freshwater springs that dotted the bayfront, many in the bay itself, which were the reason for the crystal clear water found there.
Originally part of Hillsborough County, the first road joining Clearwater and Tampa was built in 1849, which dramatically reduced the prior day-long commute between the cities. The first US Post Office for Pinellas County was built on the site of the present Turner Street Dock Park, circa 1859.
During the American Civil War, Union gunboats repeatedly raided the city's supplies as most of the able-bodied men were away fighting for the Confederate States of America army. The city began booming in late nineteenth century, prompted by Peter Demens building the first passenger railroad line into the city 1888. Clearwater was incorporated as a town in 1891 and James E. Crane became the town's first mayor. The town's reputation as a tourist destination grew in popularity when Plant built the Belleview Biltmore in 1897.
By the early 1900s, Clearwater's population had grown to around 400, ballooning to nearly 1,000 in the winter. Clearwater was reincorporated, this time as a city, on May 27, 1915, and made the county seat for Pinellas County, which broke from Hillsborough County in 1912. Also in 1915, a bridge was built across Clearwater Harbor, joining the city with modern-day Clearwater Beach. Remnants of the original bridge still remain as boating hazards in the harbor's shallows.
During World War II, Clearwater became a major training base for U.S. troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. Virtually every hotel in the area, including the historic Belleview Biltmore and Fort Harrison Hotel, became luxury barracks for new recruits. Vehicle traffic regularly stopped for companies of soldiers marching through downtown, and nighttime blackouts to confuse potential enemy bombers were common practice. The remote and isolated Dan's Island, now Sand Key, was used as a target for US Army Air Corps fighter-bombers for strafing and bombing practice.