San Antonio & St. Leo
If you tour the rural countryside surrounding Dade City you will find one historic marker after another. The tiniest towns or simple crossroads each have a history that is often surprising and always delightful.
San Antonio and St. Leo lie just east of Dade City along State Road 52. In the 19th century it was the dream of an Arizona Chief Justice that the area would be a haven for Catholics. Judge Dunne had acquired 100,000 acres of Florida real estate in exchange for legal work and set about creating a Catholic Colony with San Antonio at the center.
The original plans included several villages surrounding San Antonio and even set aside forested conservation areas. The town was built in European fashion around the town square that exists today just south of Lake Jovita.
Dunne and his cousin had "discovered" the lake forty years after government surveyors had overlooked it. They named the lake for St. Jovita and the town for St. Anthony of Padua. Dunne eventually deeded the property over to Benedictine Catholics who founded the town of St. Leo nearby building a monastery, a school and a church. Over the years the monastery was elevated to an Abbey and the what had once been a secondary school is now St. Leo University.
Historic sites in the area include Pasco County's oldest private or public school, St. Anthony's. It opened more than 125-years ago on the town square. St. Leo University's campus on Lake Jovita has grown significantly in recent years and attained an international reputation for excellence in education. Many families with roots that go back generations still remain in the area.
Winding roads and gently sloping hills make this area popular with both bicyclists and motorcycle groups. Colorful pelotons of bicyclists can be seen most weekend mornings leaving out of the San Antonio's Little League baseball field. By afternoon, the shops and restaurants are busy with locals and visitors alike. And, with three golf courses within minutes of each other, this is a great place for golfers as well.