Think about this: If Brandon had never been settled, the southeastern US would never have been dotted by the rather ubiquitous—at least in the Tampa Bay area, they are—Beef O’Brady’s family-oriented chain of bar-and-grill establishments. Nor would Hillsborough County Florida have had a place for its county fairgrounds. And, what’s a county without a county fair?! That’s huge! Okay, in all fairness (yes, the pun was intended), Hillsborough County probably would have still established its fairgrounds in the same location, but you can’t be certain. Plus, other than relatives, no one would have heard of—or really cared about—some guy named John Brandon. And, right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Oh, John Brandon, we never really knew ye.” Or maybe, you’re not. Read on, lest you miss out …
As chance would have it, John Brandon moved from Mississippi to an area in Florida known as New Hope in 1858 after stops in a place called Fort Brooke, which later became Tampa, and the lesser known settlement of what is now Seffner. Brandon, with his wife and six sons in tow, purchased a total of 200 acres of land, and promptly named this new land, “Brandon.” (Not that he had an oversized ego or anything.) He may not have received any points for creativity with the name, but it stuck—as history has borne out. Its growth was slow—as growth was prone to be back then—but was not without its share of significant milestones. New Hope Church, for example, was erected on land owned by Brandon, and also housed the first area school. Stowers Funeral Home, which is, to this day, a local landmark, was built by Brandon’s son, James. In 1890, a depot was constructed to serve the Florida Central & Peninsular Railroad, and other construction populated the area around the depot, in particular. So, now you know the basic, but salient, points regarding Brandon, the man. For that matter, you now know the same about Brandon, the land. At least, as it was in the beginning.
Today, Brandon is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) situated in Hillsborough County. It is located about 10 miles east of Tampa, and near the Gulf coast. As of the most recent census, the CDP had a population of just over 103,000 residents. Brandon’s growth has come in spurts: As recently as 1960, its population was under 2,000; within 10 years, it had risen to 12,749 residents, and continued with another significant jump to nearly 42,000 by the 1980 census. Since then, its growth has been robustly sustained at over 30% within each of the following decades.
Much of Brandon’s recent growth can be attributed to its proximity to I-75 and SR60, both major thoroughfares providing easy access to the area. Aggressive promotion from its Chamber of Commerce drew businesses and residential growth, as well. Brandon also began spreading out into bordering communities. With the construction of the town’s first shopping center, Brandon Center—now known as Westfield Brandon (clever, eh?)—and later, its regional library, Brandon had grown into a thriving community with the Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association, the Florida Academy for the Performing Arts, the multi-level entertainment center Top Golf, as well as a premier shopping destination. It is also a gateway to the many entertainment activities in nearby Tampa and the attractions of Orlando, about 90 minutes away. One of Brandon’s most notable annual events is its Balloon Classic that features over 50 hot air balloons from all over the country. And, of course, there is the aforementioned Hillsborough County Fair that provides fun and excitement for children and adults alike—and, probably for the carnies that travel with it.
Population growth begets residential construction and commercial development, and Brandon has not been the least immune to either. There is something for everyone in the selection of your next home within the area. And, your purchase comes complete with quality public and private schools. Brandon public school options include six elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school, under the auspices of the Hillsborough County Public School District. It is also home to nine private educational facilities. Hillsborough Community College also serves the Brandon community.
If you still fret over not knowing who John Brandon was, well, that seems like your problem, really. But, it’s hard to argue that Brandon—the community—doesn’t have an awful lot to offer its residents. The guy did a heck of a job putting things in motion. And, what about Beef O’Brady’s?!
Don’t be one of those people who have walked into a Beef O’Brady’s and sighed deeply, as they lamented that they missed out on bragging rights concerning a true slice of southwestern US gastronomic history.
Besides, who doesn’t love the hustle-and-bustle, smells, noises, fun, and carnies of a good old fashioned county fair?!