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Why do they call it that? Roser Park: St. Petersburg suburb built by Fig Newtons

4:40 PM, Dec 14, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, FL-- Could the entire St. Petersburg neighborhood of Roser Park owe its existence to your favorite snack?

Why do they call it Roser Park?

This ought to tug at your sweet tooth. Imagine a St. Petersburg neighborhood built by Fig Newtons!

Mmmm...

So, how do you get a whole community from a cookie? The connection is a man named Charles Roser.

Around a hundred years ago, Charles and Ruth Roser hopped on a train and moved their lives to St. Petersburg.

Charles started a development company and set out to build St. Pete's first-ever suburb.

He spent years creating a lush, beautiful neighborhood along peaceful Booker Creek. It's just southwest of Downtown, right by what's now Bayfront Medical Center.

He named it after himself -- Roser Park.

Some folks thought he was crazy! Who would want to live in a suburb? A whole mile from downtown!

One guy apparently said -- this is a quote -- "no one would drop money into that mud hole."

Roser dropped plenty of money into this place. He laid beautiful brick streets, built a mansion for his family, and donated a lot of the land he bought to the city for public use.

The results remain just gorgeous today.

All that neighborhood-building sure sounds expensive. Where did Roser get the dough to do all this?

Well... from dough.

In 1898, more than a hundred of America's bakeries merged to create the monster National Biscuit Company, which you probably know by its other name: Nabisco.

Fig Newtons became one of Nabisco's star products.

They're named for Newton, Massachusetts, where the cookies were made before that big merger.

The details are fuzzy here, but it looks like our guy Charles Roser had a hand in creating the process used to make Fig Newtons.

Legend has it Roser invented these cookies, then sold the rights to make them to Nabisco for a million bucks.

But the neighborhood association here has checked and they say Nabisco doesn't have any record of making a big million-dollar payment to Charles Roser.

So exactly how Roser made his millions is a mystery.

Maybe he did invent Fig Newtons. Or maybe he was just a bakery owner who got bought out by the big boys when Nabisco was formed.

Either way, Roser made a fortune from the baking business.

And he brought it all here to St. Petersburg, to create a community built on charm, elegance, and cookies.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Thanks to Ralph in St. Pete for suggesting Roser Park to us.

If you're a fan of our "Why do they call it that?" series, please mark your calendars!

Grayson Kamm will be talking about "Why do they call it that?" in a live presentation next month at the Tampa Bay History Center. He'll share some of the best stories he's covered in the series.

It's Thursday, January 10th at 6:30 p.m. at the Tampa Bay History Center, right next to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Downtown Tampa.

It's free and open to everyone.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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