A visually and cartographically explicit narrative blog about Tampa's built history and development.
(Above banner created from photo in the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, that old Infrastructure!

Well it's been awhile since I've last posted, and as inspiration is lacking I'll pull a post from the archives of unpublished thoughts.  So here it is a look at kooky bits of infrastructure from Tampa's past, or things that just look plain crazy to our modern eyes.  These are all things that were built to help the growing city flow, literally.

City sewage disposal plant, septic tank building, on northwest corner of Twiggs and Twelfth Streets: Tampa, Fla
In what is now the channelside district, near the seaboard square apartments.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How'd you like this ride?

The weather is lovely and I want to ride my bicycle, but it needs some servicing.  So I'll share some images of bicycling throughout the years in Tampa.   It's great to see the old bicycles, however I am even more amazed to think of the conditions early cyclists faced in Tampa back in the day.

Leo Day, Postal Telegraph Messenger, 12 years old, and a very knowing lad. (See report of L.W.H.) Location: Tampa, Florida.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Under the bridge downtown

My friend Cesar of CesarDPhoto.com recently posted some pictures on his blog that caught my attention.  I enjoy taking my bicycle out for the occasional leisurely ride down bayshore or through downtown and sometimes I even ride it to work.  One of my biggest gripes about bicycling from South Tampa / Bayshore area into downtown is the difficult and sometimes dangerous trip over the river.  Maneuvering the one-way bridges and narrow and steep curving sidewalks that lead to them are not easy for a casual or new rider.  So I was surprised to see Cesar's photo of the pedestrian path under the Platt Street bridge, I thought that one may be there but never took the time to check for myself.

Friday, October 1, 2010

For easier browsing of the Burgert Bros. Collection try...

If you haven't already stumbled upon this great website, check it out today.  The library's searchable database is a little cumbersome and slow when it comes to looking at the Burgert Bros. online collection.  Mr. LaMartin has created a wonderful index site.  Now you can instantly see the photos you are searching for.  You can browse by year if you wish, or see all those photos that weren't tagged with a year to find something that a search won't.  The site requires the  Microsoft Silverlight plugin.  Thank you Mr. LaMartin.

As the caption clearly states there are over 13000 digital images of photos from the Burgert Bros. Collection on the Tampa library's website, here they all are tiled out for your searching enjoyment:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall comes to Tampania

Fall begins in approximately 6 hours and I couldn't be more ecstatic.  From the second the humidity digs iin ts claws in mid-May the dread sets in, ugh another Tampa Summer!  In many ways it was an excruciatingly long summer, and as I get older they just seem to get longer and harder to bear.  And these last few official hours of summer symbolize the hardest wait of all, the time during which the calendar says fall and yet you are still waiting for that first under 90 breezy and dry day that leads into an even cooler night so you can open your windows and hopefully leave them open for months on end.  Well that usually doesn't happen til October, so still we sit and wait.  

Historically the tourist season has been October through May, and Tampa and the rest of Florida would shrink down to a small permanent population during the unbearable and non-air conditioned summer months.  Board of Trade signs use to boast in big letters "Tampa - Florida's Year Round Destination" while in smaller print the truth comes out "Winter months - October through May", as in the sign below that greeted new comers and visitors at Tampa's Union Station.

Luckily modern Floridians enjoy a more comfortable and climate controlled year round situation.  So, as the weather starts to get more bearable and comfortable, I hope to get out more to take more pictures and find more buildings and interesting features to write new posts on.  In the meantime, the waiting begins.  Here's to a pleasant and fruitful Fall!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tampa's "Oldest" House in peril

It seems that historic preservation advocates are on top of things lately.  The story of the threatened status of Tampa's "Oldest" known house has been popping up all over the place lately.  As much as I am an advocate for historic preservation, I wanted to check more into the facts of the story as all causes are subject to sensationalism these days.  Plus I don't always trust the dates of houses shown by the property appraisers office.  The image above is from Google Earth and will be used as a comparison for the house's layout.  Now off to the trusty Tampa Library's Sanborn maps site to do some investigation.  Supposedly, Tampa's current oldest house, at 3210 E Eighth Ave. (shown above), was originally built on the Southeast corner of the City Hall block at Jackson and Florida in 1842.  The current City hall building was built in 1915.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sarasota School in Tampa

The Sarasota school of architecture has recently undergone a resurrgence in popularity, prompted by several books and the recent fight and unfortunate demolition of Paul Rudolph's masterpiece, Riverview High School in Sarasota.  Two styles of regional modernism emerged in Florida in the mid-twentieth century, the Sarasota School on the west central coast and Tropical Modernism in South Florida.  There are examples of both schools of work in Tampa, but the Sarasota School is the most prominent of the two here. While most of the members of the Sarasota School came from other areas of the country, Tampa boasted the only native, Mark Hampton.  Mark Hampton worked directly under Paul Rudolph in the Rudolph and Twitchell firm. Hampton then moved back to Tampa where opened his own office and worked in the area until the 1970s, when he moved to Coconut Grove.  Hampton's most famous designs in Tampa were Galloway's furniture gallery, the old St. Mary's Episcopal church, the Horizon House and the Webb residence.

Galloway's Furniture gallery

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Franklin Exchange Buildings - Parasitic Modernism

In the 1960s downtown Tampa experienced a new age of growth.  Up until 1966 the Floridan Hotel remained the tallest building in Tampa.  Office space in downtown was filling up fast and land was being gobbled up by the new interstate and crosstown projects, ultimately creating new barriers for growth within the central business district.  There was nowhere left to go but UP! 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My fellow Tampanians I wish you all a very happy 4th of July!

Fireworks over the former State Fairgrounds at the Tampa Bay Hotel (Probably not for 4th of July, but festive none the less).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Sears surprise

I had always been intrigued by the Erwin Technical School building on Hillsborough Avenue and 22nd street.  I always wondered why someone would build it as a school.  Well, it wasn't built as a school, it was originally built in 1959 as a Sears department store.  During the 50s Sears was looking to grow with modern America.  Americans loved their cars and didn't want the hassle of driving all the way to their downtown and fighting for a parking space to get Juniors new pants for the school.  Thus, the big department stores decided to push out into the wilderness of the suburbs where they could build on large lots to accomodate lots of parking.  Sears realized that Florida was a growing region and decided it would build a lot of new suburban style stores in the area to.  I've counted at least 10 built in Florida between 1950 and 1960.  Sears also knew that the styling of the stores had to be modern and reflect the new architectural style of the region. So Sears hired the law firm of Weed, Russell and Johnson out of Miami.  Principal Robert Law Weed was well known for his Florida modern style, having designed the Florida Tropical showcase house at the 1933 Chicago "Century of Progress" World's Fair and collaborated on the design for the new University of Miami campus.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Modernism in Tampa

By the mid 1920s Mediterranean Revival and Craftsman were  the dominant building styles in Tampa.  Then the bust!  Building slowed all over Florida.  Just as this was happening new building styles were emerging, styles that embraced new building materials, lighter forms and new shapes.  Modernism was a style fashioned for  Florida, it is where styles like Miami Modern and the Sarasota School were championed.  But what and where is Tampa's Modern legacy?  We'll take a peek of what is left and what has disappeared in each corner of the city.  You may be surprised or you may, just like me, enjoy looking at these structures of concrete and glass and varying shapes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Punisher House Answers and Questions

It appears that the Old Union Depot Hotel Building (aka Punisher House) was yet another victim of owner neglect and the economy, or owner neglect due to the economy, a Tampa Tribune post indicates.  The article notes that "The hotel's owners, Tampa Union Station LLC, had amassed about $362,000 in code enforcement fines, levied since 2009, at $1,000 a day."  And a recent aerial survey by the city showed that a major roof collapse had taken place.  And as we have seen too often here in Tampa (see Gary School) this eventually leads to total collapse.  After plans for a large condominium project failed to materialize during the downfall the property fell into foreclosure.  So with the consent of the current owners, the city came in on Sunday, May 23rd and demolished the building.  The city will put a lien on the property for $17,000 in demolition costs.

The city has recently set up new incentives to help owners make necessary repairs on historic buildings, in the wake of the Gary School tragedy.  The property that officials and the public are watching most closely is the Kress building on Franklin Street in Downtown Tampa, it is already showing signs of roof stress. But will this mean anything in today's economic climate where many properties sit in foreclosure?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Punisher House 0, Tampa Parking 1

Demolition and destruction!  Unfortunately this old building has gone with not a bang, but a whisper.  In fact, it seems that this demolition was barely audible, almost magical.  Well it seems that within the past week or so the Old Union Depot Hotel, at 858 Zack Street, met the wrecking ball. Wikipedia alredy lists the day of death as May 23rd.  This flatiron style, 2 story building was a unique fixture in Tampa.  Built in 1912 to service the recently built Tampa Union Station, it would have been one of the first buidings to greet passengers as they stepped out of the Station doors.  The building had six-sides and almost took on a flatiron style when viewed from the Nebraska.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.  Of course the building is probably best known for it's role in the Punisher, as the apartment of the lead character and his band of misfit friends.  The lot was to be part of a planned office development dubbed "Union Station" however it is unclear whether the development is still going forward as planned.  The lot is already cleared, leveled and the 717 Parking signs are already up!  Punisher House 0, Tampa Parking 1!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Morgan Street Jail - making way for high speed!

For over the last 100 years there was always a jail on, well not necessarily Morgan, but Jefferson street near the historic Oaklawn Cemetery. In preparation and with the hope that high speed rail would come to Tampa, demolition of the Morgan Street jail started in August of 2009.  This site will soon be the home of Tampa's future High Speed Rail station.  Constructed in 1964, the building was  functional, never anything special.  By the 90s overcrowding was a common problem, and the Orient and Falkenburg jails were used instead. 

However, the 1925 structure it replaced was something.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Burying our Past - Palm River

When the Tampa Bay History journal was re-issued in 2007 (originally published from 1979-1998) the first essay in the edition was an intriguing look at the Tampa bypass canal system and flood management control in central Hillsborough County titled "The Taming of the Hillsborough River: How Tampa Gained a Moat, Destroyed a Creek, and Forgot a River" by Thom Foley.   While the Hillsborough River is mentioned in the title, the essay focused mostly on Palm River and Six Mile Creek.

Palm River is south of SR 60 / Adamo Drive and flows into McKay bay south of Ybor City.  Upstream the river bends towards the north and was called Six Mile Creek.  Here was where Plant's railroad first entered the area.  In the first half of the 20th century if you were traveling into Tampa from Brandon, Plant City, Lakeland or any other community to the East you had to travel down Broadway over an old bridge spanning Six Mile Creek. Surrounding the bridge was the small community of Six Mile Creek that contained a market and service station ready to meet the needs of travelers.  When settlers first came to the area they set up farms along the creek and river.  As the area grew industrial factories began to set up shop near the creek and river shores.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burying our Past - Spanishtown Creek

The first recorded non-native settlement in Tampa was at Spanishtown Creek.  It was said to be inhabited by Cuban fishermen around 1783, many decades before Fort Brooke was established.  Up until the establishment of Henry Plant's railway and hotel in the late 1880s this area was mainly farmland and homesteads.  After Plant's hotel was built tony neighborhoods began to platted directly south of the hotel, centering along Hyde Park Ave. (named after Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood) and Plant Ave.  Slowly this area started to become more developed.  Below is the original plat map of the Packwoods Subdivision from 1892, from the Hills. Co. Property Appraisers site which shows the path of the creek at that time and how the lots and streets would be laid out:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

South Franklin Street demolition "breaking news"

On South Franklin Street across from the Convention Center there is a row of old buildings that are the last testament of the bustling warehousing and manufacturing center that lined  the waterfront South of downtown.   Recently work commenced on the TECO Streetcar line extension and a few months ago the 2 story building at 238 S. Franklin (The former Fuel teen nightclub) was demolished. You would think that the 2 events were related.  You can see the block below in the birdseye view.   

Then, a friend called me today to say that another building on South Franklin Street across from the convention center was coming down.  Here is the picture I took this afternoon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Burying our Past - Palma Ceia Springs

Urban springs are fascinating to me. In Florida, springs usually seem to be billed as "natural destinations" in rural and smaller towns, off the beaten path, or the source for our bottled water needs.  There are a few intact springs within the Tampa City limits.  However, most of these springs have been covered over and made part of a greater underground stormwater drainage system.  One of these is Palma Ceia springs right off Bayshore Blvd. and Rubideaux in Fred Ball Park.

Palma Ceia Spring

In the mid 1800s this spring was known for it's healing powers and people came to bathe in its waters. This fountain was erected in 1906 (as the inscription on both sides indicates) and is supplied by the spring itself. one of the few indications that an actual spring lies somewhere underfoot.  A large pool was erected in 1928 to accomodate the growing population and number of tourists coming to the area.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Burying the Past Series - A creek, a river and a spring.

I will be starting a series of posts entitled "Burying the Past". This will be a brief look at some of the changes that development has brought to the local geography and some of the elements that have essentially been "Buried". Stay tuned!

The River:
The Creek:
The Spring:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gate to Tampania

Browsing through the digitized Burgert Bros. Collection a few years ago I stumbled upon this beauty (I admit it was the lit sign and font that did it). The inspiration for the name of this blog, the entrance gate to the Tampania subdivision. The gate spanned a narrow West Shore Boulevard at North B Street.

As the Florida real estate market boomed in the early 20s companies were scrambling to buy up the wilderness, subdivide it into nice little lots and sell the Florida dream to sunshine seeking Northerners. When companies bought up this land the first thing they would do was clear it and plop down an elaborate entrance and maybe a sales office, usually a large arched gate would mark the entrance. Once these were in place the cold hard selling could begin. In Tampania's instance, the gate also served as the sales, or "field", office. Here you can see the company had it's own sales bus that could bring potential buyers right to the site.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hiding our past

One would think that the Floridan Hotel and the Tampa Theater building are the last remaining historic high rises left in downtown tampa. Well, that isn't true. There is another 1920s era skyscraper still gracing our skyline.

The large 12 story structure built in 1925 was formally called the Wallace S. Building (The 4 story adjacent structure was home to the Tampa Morning Tribune) and it sits on block bordered by Ashley, Twiggs, Tampa and Zack. Today it is better known as the Huntington Bank building (formally Gold Bank) and my how it has changed.

(The above picture is from Emporis.com)

In the late 60s / early 70s the building underwent a major renovation. Elevator shafts were added on the South side of building, the window court was closed in and she got the royal Florida stucco treatment. All remaining buildings on the block were demolished, making way for the most important feature of late 20th century downtowns, parking! While the renovation hardly does the original justice, it ultimately saved the building during a period when most of downtowns historic structures were being neglected and/or demolished.
There are many more buildings throughout Tampa that have received updates and renovations that hide their historic character, but this is probably the best and most dramatic example.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Ah, Tampa! That beautiful, sunny, humid "second-rate" city on Florida's Gulf Coast. Tourists, new comers, and school children are beaten over the head with a history and culture that centers around cigar factories, Cuban sandwiches and hotel minarets. Apparently, Tampa was nothing until some Connecticut Yankee decided to build his guilded age masterpiece hotel on her riverfront and bring in the railroad. Of course, several more events and developments contributed to Tampa's growth than just these. On this blog I will highlight many of my own personal discoveries and other interesting facts about Tampa's built environment and development. Here I will wax poetic about demolished buildings and crumbling infrastructure. I will also try to explain this anomoly that is a Rust-belt city of the New South. I am a Tampanian and this is my Tampa.