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)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The HUB of downtown existence

Recently I came upon a set of videos that someone took of patrons at the HUB bar in downtown Tampa twenty years ago, in 1991.  The HUB opened in 1946 at 701 N. Florida as a package lounge (around the block from its current location). Smack dab in the middle of downtown, next to the federal courthouse it soon became a popular place. The 70s and 80s saw the decline of downtown, but it is apparent from the video that one business was still thriving during this time.  Downtown workers, UT students and passers-through still needed a watering hole that served affordable, yet strong drinks in a friendly atmosphere. The HUB and its patrons have seen a lot of change over the years; regulars came and went, buildings were demolished and sometimes new ones were built in their place. Around the 38 minute mark one patron mentions the night he walked towards the HUB through what he thought was fog, it was actually the building across the street burning. That building was the beautiful downtown YMCA, which burned down in June 1991, the lot has remained a parking lot ever since.  The HUB moved in 2000 to 718 N. Franklin, and I believe they took the bar, chairs and tables with them. The jukebox is still pretty good and it's nice to sit at the bar, talk to a stranger and watch a train or two roll by.  Check out their website for a more history and pictures http://www.thehubbartampa.com/

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1211 Tampa Street

There is a little 3 story building situated on Tampa Street just South of the State Administration building.  It is boarded up and painted over and it appears that the first floor street side has received a rather odd treatment over the years. It is probably one of the oldest buildings left on a stretch of Tampa between the interstate and Twiggs.  The property appraiser lists 1925 as the date this structure was built, however the building shows up in the 1915 Sandborn map online.  It is listed as a Grocer's Warehouse with apartments above.  Below, you can see the building as it was in the 20s (the 3 story building with the balcony).  The little building that currently abuts it to the South was built in the early 50s. The building of the interstate and then the State Building to the immediate North contributed to a decline in the immediate area.  However, this area is seeing a resurgence.  I look at the 1211 Tampa building and see potential, it is fortunate that it has survived through the years.
The immediate area along N. Franklin, including this building, was listed as a National Historic District several years ago.  Many of the buildings listed have already been renovated and repurposed, like Fly Bar and the Arlington apartment block.  But, a listing on the National Register does not mean that the building is protected.  I assume that the main reason no one has bought and restored the 1211 Tampa building is that the lot line follows the building with only about 10 additional feet in the rear (see aerial layout from the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's website below).  This leaves no room for parking. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Balbin Bros. Cigar Factory In Trouble

Is the 1904 Cigar Factory at 1202 N. Howard in trouble?  I drove by the building last night and saw that the front overhang is now crumbling apart.  Is this to be a sign of things to come?  Bought in 2006 by Intellident, it was to have been rehabbed in similar fashion to the Berrimen-Morgan factory up the street and become the companies new office.  But it seems to have became a victim of the downturn.  This building is not designated locally as a landmark or on the National Register.  However, it is within the West Tampa National Historic District.  Doing a google search, Intellident has a history of the building located on their website. 

Great map and list of the remaining factory buildings in Tampa:  http://www.cigarsoftampa.com/tpa-factoriesmap.html

Gator Preservationist post on our unprotected cigar factories, including the Balbin Bros.:  http://gatorpreservationist.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/cigar-factories-of-tampa-part-2/

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ybor tunnels myth comes to light again!

ABC news recently did a story on how the now mythic Ybor City tunnels may have once again been uncovered during recent downpours.
The Ybor City bootlegging tunnels are perhaps one of the greatest urban legends in the Tampa Bay area.  Solidified in popular culture in Scott Dietche's book "Cigar City Mafia" it is believed that bootleggers had dug tunnels under many of the establishments and clubs along the main drag in Ybor City connecting them to the port for illegal liquor shipments;
"Under the crowded streets of Ybor is a series of tunnels, the use of which has never been fully documented.  The tunnels run under some of the early gaming palaces and down along the streets toward the port of Tampa."  
The most recent sighting was on the Southwest Corner of 15th Street and 7th Ave, across from Czar Nightclub (former Los Novidades).  I went out later this week and it appears someone has left a stake around the area where this "hole" formed.
 The Southwest corner of 15th and 7th Avenue is the site of the former Blue Ribbon Supermarket which was family owned for years and then purchased by a developer in mid 2000.  However the building "mysteriously" went up in flames in August 2000, and was demolished the next day.  An interesting video from Fox 13 provides more of a background.

Photos from St. Pete Times (Article links above)
 Even more curious is the fact that the 1931 Sandborn Maps indicate that this address was home to the Ybor City Post Office.  Why would tunnels be built into a building which houses offices of the federal government?  Below is a picture of the building in the 1925 from the Burgert Bros. Collection.