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Monday, July 6, 2009

Tampa, FL

Images, from Top, left to right: Downtown Tampa, Centro Ybor in Ybor City, Channelside, Bayshore Boulevard, Palace of Florence Apartments, Raymond James Stadium, MacDill AFB, and the Tampa Convention Center.

Nickname(s): "Cigar City", "The Big Guava"

Tampa Seal

Tampa (pronounced /ˈtæm.pə/) is a Gulf Coast city in Hillsborough County, on the west coast of the state of Florida in the United States. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. The population of Tampa in 2000 was 303,447. According to the 2007 estimates, the city has a population of 382,060, making it the 54th largest city in the United States.

Tampa Flag

Tampa is a part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". For U.S. Census purposes, Tampa is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida MSA. The four-county area is composed of roughly 2.7 million residents, making it the second largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the state, and the fourth largest in the Southeastern United States, behind Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The "Greater Tampa Bay" area has just over 4 million residents and generally includes the Tampa and Sarasota metro areas. The Tampa Bay Partnership and U.S. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the Greater Tampa Bay Market has experienced a combined growth rate of 14.8 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 3.9 million and hitting the 4 million people mark on April 1, 2007. The Tampa Bay Designated Market Area (DMA) is the largest media market in the state of Florida and the thirteenth largest media market in the United States.

A Ft. Brooke cannon displayed across the river from downtown

In 2008, Tampa was ranked as the 8th cleanest city in America by Yahoo! Real Estate and 5th best outdoor city by Forbes. A 2004 survey by the NYU newspaper ranked Tampa as a top city for 20-somethings.


Main article: History of Tampa, Florida

The word "Tampa" may mean "sticks of fire" in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived south of today’s Tampa Bay. This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months. Other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks".

Franklin Street, looking North, Tampa c. 1910s-1920s

Toponymist George R. Stewart writes that the name was the result of a miscommunication between the Spanish and the Indians, the Indian word being "itimpi", meaning simply "near it". The name first appears in the "Memoir" of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive. He calls it "Tanpa" and describes it as an important Calusa town. While "Tanpa" may be the basis for the modern name "Tampa", archaeologist Jerald Milanich places the Calusa village of Tanpa at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, the original "Bay of Tanpa". A later Spanish expedition did not notice Charlotte Harbor while sailing north along the west coast of Florida and assumed that the current Tampa Bay was the bay they sought. The name was accidentally transferred north.

Barracks and tents at Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay

Map makers were using the term Bay or Bahia Tampa as early as 1695.

Henry Plant's Port Tampa Inn. Note rail line in front of hotel

Early explorations

Hernando de Soto.

Not much is known about the cultures who called the Tampa Bay area home before European contact. When Spanish explorers arrived in the 1520s, they found a ring of Tocobaga villages around the northern half of Tampa Bay from modern-day Pinellas County to Tampa and Calusa villages along the southern portion of the bay in modern-day Manatee County.

George R. Stewart's books about U.S. highways were based on his cross-country drives in 1924, 1949 and 1950.

Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa to look for gold and possibly start a colony. Neither conquistador stayed in the region for long once it became clear that the local riches were only abundant fish and shellfish. The native inhabitants, who derived most of their resources from the sea, repulsed any Spanish attempt to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism.

The famous minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel / University of Tampa

The newcomers brought a weapon against which the natives had no defense: infectious disease. Archeological evidence reveals a total collapse of the native cultures of Florida in the years after European contact. The Tampa area was depopulated and ignored for more than 200 years.

Seasonal residents and U.S control

In the mid-1700s, events in England’s American colonies drove the Seminole Indians into the wilds of north Florida. During this period, the Tampa area began receiving (seasonal) residents: Cuban fishermen. They stayed in temporary settlements on the shore of Tampa Bay along a small freshwater stream near today’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

In 1821, the United States purchased Florida from Spain (see Adams-Onís Treaty), partly to reduce Indian raids, and partly to cut down slave escapes from Georgia. One of the first U.S. actions in its new territory was a raid which destroyed Angola, a village built by escaped slaves on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay.

Downtown Tampa looking from the Hillsborough River

Frontier days

The Treaty of Moultrie Creek (1823) created a large Indian reservation in the interior of the peninsula of Florida. As part of efforts to establish control over the vast swampy wilderness, the U.S. government built a series of forts and trading posts in the new territory. "Cantonment Brooke" was established in 1823 by Colonels George Mercer Brooke and James Gadsden at the mouth of the Hillsborough River on Tampa Bay, at the site of the Tampa Convention Center in Downtown Tampa. In 1824, the post was officially named Fort Brooke.

Tampa Convention Center, built at the site of Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River (on the far left)

Tampa was very much an isolated frontier outpost during its first decades of existence. The sparse civilian population practically abandoned the area when the Second Seminole War flared up in late 1835. After almost seven years of vicious fighting, the Seminoles were forced away from the Tampa region and many settlers returned.

The Territory of Florida had grown enough by 1845 to become the 27th state.

Four years after statehood, on January 18, 1849, Tampa had also grown enough to officially incorporate as the "Village of Tampa". Tampa was home to 185 inhabitants, not including military personnel stationed at Fort Brooke. The city's first census count in 1850, however, listed Tampa-Fort Brooke as having 974 residents, inclusive of the military personnel.

Tampa was reincorporated as a town on December 15, 1855 and Judge Joseph B. Lancaster became the first Mayor in 1856.

Tampa During The Civil War

During the American Civil War, Florida seceded along with most of the southern states to form the Confederate States of America. Fort Brooke was manned by Confederate troops, and martial law was declared in Tampa in January 1862. Tampa's city government ceased to operate for the duration of the war.

In late 1861, the Union Navy set up a blockade around many southern ports to cut off the Confederacy from outside help, and several ships were stationed near the mouth of Tampa Bay. Blockade runners based in Tampa were able to repeatedly slip through the blockade to trade cattle and citrus for needed supplies, mainly with Spanish Cuba.

Union gunboats sailed up Tampa Bay to bombard Fort Brooke and the surrounding city of Tampa. The Battle of Tampa on June 30 to July 1, 1862 was inconclusive, as the shells fell ineffectually, and there were no casualties on either side.

More damaging to the Confederate cause was the Battle of Fort Brooke on October 17 to October 18, 1863. Two Union gunboats shelled the fort and surrounding town and landed troops, who found blockade runners hidden up the Hillsborough River, and destroyed them.

The local militia mustered to intercept the Union troops, but they were able to return to their ships after a short skirmish and headed back out to sea.

The war ended in Confederate defeat in April 1865. In May 1865, federal troops arrived in Tampa to occupy the fort and the town as part of Reconstruction. They remained until August 1869.

The Lean Years

The Reconstruction period was hard on Tampa. With little industry, and land transportation links limited to bumpy wagon roads from the east coast of Florida, Tampa was a fishing village with very few people, and poor prospects for development. Throughout its history, Tampa had been affected by yellow fever epidemics borne by mosquitoes from the surrounding swampland, but the sickness was particularly widespread during the late 1860s and 1870s. The disease was little understood at the time, and many residents simply packed up and left rather than face the mysterious and deadly peril.

In 1869, residents voted to abolish the City of Tampa government. The population of "Tampa Town" was below 800 in the official 1870 census count and had fallen further by 1880.

Fort Brooke, the seed from which Tampa had germinated, had served its purpose and was decommissioned in 1883. Except for two cannons displayed on the nearby University of Tampa campus, all traces of the fort are gone. A large downtown parking garage near the old fort site is called the Fort Brooke Parking Garage.

Phosphate, Railroads, and Cigars: Tampa Finally Prospers

See also: History of Ybor City

Ybor's 1st Cigar Factory c. 1900

Tampa's fortunes took several sudden turns for the better. First, phosphate was discovered in the Bone Valley region southeast of Tampa in 1883. The mineral, vital for the production of fertilizers and other products, was soon being shipped out from the Port of Tampa in great volume. Tampa is still a major phosphate exporter.

Phosphate fertilizer processing plant

Henry B. Plant's railroad line reached Tampa and its port shortly thereafter, connecting the small town to the country's railroad system. Tampa finally had the overland transportation link that it needed. The railroad enabled phosphate and commercial fishing exports to go north, brought many new products into the Tampa market, as well as its first tourists.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory ca. 1920

The new railroad link enabled another important industry to come to Tampa. In 1885, the Tampa Board of Trade helped Vicente Martinez Ybor move his cigar manufacturing operations to Tampa from Key West. Nearness to Cuba made imports of tobacco easy by sea, and Plant's railroad made shipment of finished cigars to the rest of the US market easy by land.

Statue in Centro Ybor, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida

Since Tampa was still a small town at the time (population less than 5000), Ybor built hundreds of small houses around his factory to accommodate the immediate influx of mainly Cuban and Spanish cigar workers. Other cigar factories soon moved in, and Ybor City (as the approximately 40 acres (16 ha) settlement was dubbed) quickly made Tampa a major cigar production center. Many Italian and a few eastern European Jewish immigrants also arrived starting in the late 1880s, operating businesses and shops that catered to the cigar workers. The majority of Italian immigrants came from Alessandria Della Rocca and Santo Stefano Quisquina, two small Sicilian towns with which Tampa still maintains strong ties.

The Moorish Revival Tampa Bay Hotel

In 1891, Henry B. Plant built a lavish 500+ room, quarter-mile (400 m) long, Moorish Revival style luxury resort hotel called the Tampa Bay Hotel among 150 acres (0.61 km2) of manicured gardens along the banks of the Hillsborough River. The eclectic structure cost US$2.5 million to build. Plant filled his expensive playground with exotic art collectibles from around the world and installed electric lights and the first elevator in town.

The resort did well for a few years, especially during the Spanish-American War. With Plant's death in 1899, the hotel's fortunes began to fade. It closed in 1930. In 1933 the stately building reopened as the University of Tampa.

Circulo Cubano de Tampa, one of Ybor City's social clubs

Mainly because of Henry Plant's connections in the War Department, Tampa was chosen as an embarkation center for American troops in the Spanish-American War. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were among the 30,000 troops who waited in Tampa for the order to ship out to Cuba during the summer of 1898, filling the town.

Centro Ybor, a restored shopping area on 7th Ave.

The founding of Ybor City, the building of Plant's railroad and hotels, and the discovery of phosphate - all within a dozen years in the late 1800s - were crucial to Tampa's development. The town expanded from a village to bustling town to small city.

The 20th century

Gasparilla Pirate Festival

During the first few decades of the 20th century, the cigar making industry was the backbone of Tampa's economy. The factories in Ybor City and West Tampa made an enormous number of cigars—in the peak year of 1929, over 500,000,000 cigars were hand rolled in the city.

Centro Ybor complex with a TECO Line car passing in front

In 1904, a local civic association of local businessmen dubbed themselves Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (named after local mythical pirate Jose Gaspar), and staged an "invasion" of the city followed by a parade. With a few exceptions, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been held every year since.

José Martí and cigar workers in Ybor in 1893.

Bolita & the Mob

Beginning in the late 1800s, illegal bolita lotteries were very popular among the Tampa working classes, especially in Ybor City. In the early 1920s, this small-time operation was taken over by Charlie Wall, the rebellious son of a prominent Tampa family, and went big-time. Bolita was able to openly thrive only because of kick-backs and bribes to key local politicians and law enforcement officials, and many were on the take.

Profits from the bolita lotteries and Prohibition-era bootlegging led to the development of several organized crime factions in the city. Charlie Wall was the first major boss, but various power struggles culminated in consolidation of control by Sicilian mafioso Santo Trafficante, Sr. and his faction in the 1950s. After his death in 1954 from cancer, control passed to his son Santo Trafficante, Jr., who established alliances with families in New York and extended his power throughout Florida and into Batista-era Cuba.

The era of rampant and open corruption ended in the 1950s, when the Senator Kefauver's traveling organized crime hearings came to town and were followed by the sensational misconduct trials of several local officials. Although many of the worst offenders in government and the mob were not charged, the trials helped to end the sense of lawlessness which had prevailed in Tampa for decades.

Panorama of Downtown Tampa taken in 1913.

Mid to Late 20th century

Tampa grew considerably as a result of World War II. Prior to the United States' involvement in the conflict, construction began on MacDill Field, the predecessor of present day MacDill Air Force Base. MacDill Field served as a main base for Army Air Corps-Army Air Force operations, with multiple auxiliary airfields around the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties. At the end of the war, MacDill remained as an active military installation while the auxiliary fields reverted to civilian control. Two of these auxiliary fields would later become the present day Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Four attempts have been made to consolidate Tampa with Hillsborough County (1967, 1970, 1971, and 1972), all of which failed at the ballot box; the greatest loss was also the most recent attempt in 1972, with the final tally being 33,160 (31%) in favor and 73,568 (69%) against the proposed charter.

The biggest recent growth in the city was the development of New Tampa, which started in 1988 when the city annexed a mostly rural area of 24 square miles (62 km2) between I-275 and I-75.

East Tampa, historically a mostly black community, was the scene of several riots, mainly due to problems between residents and the Tampa police.