San Antonio, Florida

San Antonio, Florida

San Antonio is a small town in Pasco County, Florida that was built because of one man’s dream and vision. Judge Edmund F. Dunne, of Arizona and his cousin chanced upon the neighborhood when they were hiking in the southern part of Hernando County. They spotted an unknown tract and unnamed lake.

San Antonio Florida Water Tower. San Antonio, Florida, September 25, 2020. File photo: Linda White Wolf, Shutter Stock, licensed.

About The Community

Dunne envisioned the land as a “Catholic Colony”, a settlement dominated by Roman Catholics, a center of Catholic civilization in Florida. He named the large clear lake after the martyr whose feast day it happened to be: Lake Jovita and acquired a hundred thousand acres of land around it. Judge Dunne established San Antonio as a Catholic settlement in 1881 to the southwest of Lake Jovita. Plans included roads, areas for schools, convents and residential neighborhoods in distinct zones.


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File photo: Natalia Garriock, Shutter Stock, licensed.
Lake Jovita, just days before hurricane Irma struck the area in 2017. File photo: Natalia Garriock, Shutter Stock, licensed.

The town was designed like a European town with a central town square and it soon grew with a church, school and stores. Dunne also wished to develop other Catholic townships around it where the religion could be practiced without persecution. He earmarked certain areas as forests. Most of the early settlers were of Irish decent, as was Judge Dunne himself. When the South Florida Railroad passed through Dade City, in 1887, things changed rapidly. Pasco County was formed out of the southern end of Hernando. Central Florida used to be a center of Florida’s citrus industry. The Orange Belt Railroad was constructed to pass through San Antonio on its way to St. Petersburg. Crops could now be shipped quickly and efficiently to northern markets. Many new settlers arrived and the area grew prosperous. San Antonio was incorporated in 1891.

Important Links

In 1926, during the Florida land boom, San Antonio was reorganized as the City of Lake Jovitall and its boundaries extended to include a large part of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, this could not be sustained and in 1929, during the Great Depression the town changed its name back to San Antonio and to its original boundaries. A golf course built in the 1920s too did not survive but in the 1990s, Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club was established there.

Vicinity of San Antonio

Additional Details

A community with deep roots in the past and strong agricultural ties, Judge Dunne’s Catholic Colony is now comprised of the Cities of San Antonio and St. Leo and the unincorporated village of St. Joseph. The area is mostly agricultural and there are miles of orange trees and pasturelands. About twelve hundred people live on 1.3 square miles that make up San Antonio on the San Antonio River. There is little to differentiate it from the neighboring St. Leo which is home of the original Abbey built in the times of Judge Dunne.

Exterior Of Pasco County Sheriffs Office.
Exterior Of Pasco County Sheriffs Office. File photo: Photointoto, Shutter Stock, licensed.

The community of Saint Leo Abbey also goes back to 1881 when Edmund Francis Dunne founded the Catholic Colony of San Antonio. In 1889, the Saint Leo College and monastery were founded. The Saint Leo University, Holy Name Monastery and Saint Leo Abbey are part of this community. Saint Leo University has been educating students of various ages, cultures, and backgrounds since 1889. Today it is an internationally respected university offering forty-one academic programs, including some of the most innovative and sought-after majors you will find anywhere.

A group of students in the field gathering for an activity at Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL, August 14 2019.
A group of students in the field gathering for an activity at Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL, August 14 2019. File photo: Artsy Shot Photography, Shutter Stock, licensed.

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