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)

Monday, July 18, 2011

401 E. Washington

Sometimes a building just excites, and the little building at 401 E. Washington in Downtown Tampa is such a building.  Situated on the corner of Florida and Washington, the building is surrounded by parking garages and skyscrapers, right on the edge of the Southern downtown parking lot wasteland.  You've probably driven by it dozens of times.  It's usually open and lit at night, as you speed by you notice a spiral staircase leading up into the ceiling of the first.  It just seems like an abandoned building spending its last days waiting for something else to come along.  However, the building has been blessed with longevity despite recent turns in the downtown real estate market.
401 E. Washington was built in 1946 as built by a growing Ferman Motor Co. as the Ferman Olds sales and Chevrolet service center.  It was directly across Washington from the original Ferman Chevrolet motor sales and service building on Jackson and Marion (You can see 401 Washington peeking out behind the Jackson building in the picture above).  In the early days of the last century, just as with other major retailers, most automobile showrooms were placed in downtown shopping districts.  The building is three floors, with a small showroom nestled into the Northwest corner of the building.  The rest of building is open garage and service areas.  As you can see in the picture above, one would just drive right into the service area on the first floor.  A steep ramp in the center of the building takes you up to the second floor level, not sure if this level was more service or for car storage. (More pictures and narrative after the jump)