DAVIS ISLANDS, Tampa's island suburb, was the dream of Dave Davis the "Florida version of the Great Gatsby." The son of a steamboat captain, Davis tried many jobs before choosing real estate just prior to the Florida Land Boom. With ruthless desire and reckless regard to money, Davis convinced the City Fathers to allow him to dredge up the swampy islands at the entrance to the Hillsborough River.

He got the City Hospital and the top radio station moved to his island. On opening day, October 4, 1924, all 300 prepared lots sold for a $1,683,582 profit. The 40-year old widower lived and played hard, marrying the Gasparilla Queen, divorced her, and re-wed her. When the Land Bust hit just $30,000 came in on four million dollars of payments. Banks began to seize his island hotels and villas. On October 10, l926, Davis sailed for Paris with his friend detective Ray Schindler and his mistress Mrs Lucille Zehring, a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. He vanished at sea with no explanation. Some say he was robbed of his jewelry and tossed into the sea. Others say he committed suicide. Some say he fell overboard after one of his drinking runs.


UPON ENTERING THE ISLANDS TURN RIGHT down congested ADALIA STREET, directly in front of the: (1) PONCE DE LEON APARTMENTS (1925), 16 Davis Boulevard, a wonderfully balanced maze of parapet roofs and balconies forming a village complete with a courtyard fountain. Now called Villa De Leon Apartments, the units are often rented by people with family in Tampa General Hospital.Davis built five major hotels on his resort.

The second house on the left is the (2) ALI GIUNAND HOUSE (1926), 25 Adalia Street, a two-story stucco house with the central open tower Davis popularized in middle class structures. This block of small Mediterranean Revival houses were built 1925-1926 at the start of home construction of the islands. Next door is the (3) FRANK LYONS HOUSE (1926), 27 Adalia St., a Mediterranean with a Spanish parapet and extensive balconies expected from the owner of Lyons Iron Works. Other early Davis houses on this block are the (4) JOHN BONACKER HOUSE (l927) at 29 Adalia, the (5) REV. HENRY BARBOW HOUSE (1927), 31 Adalia, and the (6) JOSEPH LYLES HOUSE.

In contrast are the new houses such as the modernistic (7) JOSEPH GRECO HOUSE at 58 Adalia.


AFTER PASSING AEGEAN, look back to the second house on the left: the (8) FRANCIS GANNON HOUSE (1927), 54 Aegean Street, a fine U-shaped hacienda once owned by the Treasurer of Davis Islands Inc. On Adriatic on your right are three of the earliest island residences: (9) JAMES A. KEETER HOUSE (1927), 112 Adriatic Street, a typical Mediterrean Revival; the (10) JAMES HUGHES HOUSE (1926); and the (11) CAPTAIN JACK De LYSLA HOUSE (1926), 116 Adriatic St., a big house with a square tower, owned by the colorful publisher of Southern Highways magazine.

Two other originals are at (12) 124 Adriatic (1927), and (13) 126 Adriatic (l927), but we suggest you TURN LEFT ON ALBEMERLE in front of the: (14) JAMES D. BARRETT HOUSE (1928), 61 Albemarle Street, a massive stucco villa with a real tower, owned by the founder of Poinsettia Dairy. Five houses down at 53 Albemarle Street is the (15) ROY MARTIN HOUSE (l927), an L-shaped Mediterranean residence with balconies and tower. Martin's tile company was a major benefactor of Davis Islands' Spanish architecture.

On the right at the Aegean intersection is the (16) RUFUS THORNE HOUSE (1926), 37 Aegean Street, and the (17) JOHN FITZWATER HOUSE (1926), 38 Aegean Street, residence of the President of Charles Bell Real Estate.

CONTINUE DOWN AEGEAN past the  (18) FORREST W. MONTANYE HOUSE (l926), 36 Aegean, home of Davis' advertising manager. The last house on the right was once the (19) CATHOLIC WOMENS CLUB (1926), 31 Aegean Street, converted to a residnce, but still interesting with its freize work. You are leaving the oldest section of houses.


TURN RIGHT ON DAVIS BOULEVARD before the famous round tower of the: (20) DAVIS ISLANDS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING (l925), 30 Davis Boulevard, used in recent years by Sea Born School. Here every morning Davis gave a pep talk to his salesmen and the anxious newsman. They must have been successful for many of them bought houses across the street on Columbia.

SLOW DOWN OR PARK BEFORE TURNING LEFT ON ARBOR STREET to fully appreciate the classical beauty of the: (21) PALACE OF FLORENCE (1924), 43 Davis Boulevard, a three-story version of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, designed as an apartment retreat by M. Leo Elliott, Tampa's most noted architect. Athos Menaboni conceived the dramatic features of the high square tower and the gran center stairway leading to the second floor entrances.

CONTINUE DOWN ARBOR toward Tampa General Hospital and the District Headquarters of Hillsborough Community College in the old Gordon Keller Nursing Building. On your right was the location of the famous Davis Islands Tennis Club (l926-l970).

TURN RIGHT ON COLUMBIA AVENUE and immediately stop to see on your right the:

(22) HERBERT DRAPER HOUSE (l926), 36 Columbia Drive, an L-shaped hacienda with a three-story open campanile with transom windows.The house has five bedrooms, five baths, and 3,572 square feet. Draper must have been a successful realtor. The four adjacent houses are also fine; (23) 38 COLUMBIA DRIVE (1926); (24) 40 COLUMBIA DRIVE (l926), home of chief Davis salesman;(25) 46 Columbia Drive, once residence of the ad manager for George Merrick's Coral Gables.

36 Columbia, Davis Island
36 Columbia is a National Register House - sold recently for $820,000.

CONTINUE DOWN COLUMBIA DRIVE along the Marjorie Yacht Basin. Across the harbor are the headquarters for the TAMPA JUNIOR LEAGUE and the TAMPA POWER SQUADRON. Near Bosporus is the (26) MARJORIE PARK GATEHOUSE (l925), containing its original Davis Islands motifs. The Park is named for Davis' first wife, a movie star.

TURN RIGHT ON BOSPORUS just before the (27) DAVIS ISLANDS SWIMMING POOL (l928). Those three story apartments at 511-513 Columbia Drive are the 1926 BAYVIEW APARTMENTS, restored in 1996 by Gaspar Properties who have reborn many Davis Islands apartments including the Palace of Florence. This tour will TURN RIGHT ON DAVIS BOULEVARD, but if you wish to travel to the southern tip of the islands and PETER O'KNIGHT AIRPORT, you'd turn left and continue down East Davis Boulevard past the islands' commercial district and the l925 DAVIS SHOPPING ARCADE at 238 East Davis.Called by most the Fountain Arcade, it was the Bay Isle Commercial Building in the Burt Business Block, when designed by M. Leo Elliott. The small shopping downtown of Davis Islands has restaurants, some stores, and general daily shopping for island residents.

 TURN RIGHT on Davis going past the: (28) PALMARIN HOTEL (198826), 115 East Davis, a three-story Mediterrean hotel with a three entrance archway into a covered courtyard, once home of the Casablanca Cafe, a bistro honoring Humphrey Bogart who stayed here after filming Key Largo. In the distance you'll see one of Davis' smaller hotels (29) THE CADILAC (1927) at 9l East Davis.

TURN LEFT AT THE BIG APEX ONTO WEST DAVIS BOULEVARD and take the first RIGHT ON BALTIC to get a look at later island homes. TURN LEFT ON DANUBE and stop before crossing West Davis. On your left is the: (30) DAVE DAVIS HOUSE (1926), 116 West Davis, an L-shaped Mediterranean home hidden by heavy foliage. Here, Davis' young widow lived after the developer's disappearance.

CROSS DAVIS, TURN RIGHT ON BOSPORUS, LEFT ON BARBADOS, and THEN LEFT ON CHIPPEWA. At the end of this residential excursion is the: (31) MERRYMAKERS CLUB (1926), a two-story stucco young adults club set up in the 1920's to tame those restless youth

Now, TURN LEFT ON DANUBE, RIGHT ON BOSPORUS, and LEFT ON DAVIS to leave the island. Along the way you'll see Davis' biggest project, the: (32) MIRASOL HOTEL (DAVIS ISLANDS TOWERS) (l925), at 84 Davis Boulevard, an eight-story resort complete with backside marina basin and great arcade. Davis built apartments with different income groups considered as seen by the RITZ APARTMENTS at 58 Davis Boulevard, a 1926 three-story Mediterranean with 12 small balconied units.

You may return toward the entrance to Davis Island or reverse your direction back down Davis Boulevard to the delightfully quaint shopping district or continue to the David Island Airport at the end of the highway.