TAMPA - Florida's Industrial Port City


For more information on downtown Tampa, visit: THE CITY OF TAMPA; TAMPA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE; TAMPA BAY HISTORY CENTER; THE TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART; THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM; and ; THE TAMPA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

START: EXIT I-275 at ASHLEY STREET. If you wish to walk the area (congested on weekdays with many one way streets), LONG-TERM PARKING is available at Curtis Hixon and by the Library and at FORT BROOKE GARAGE behind CITY HALL. Drivers should follow guide to avoid pedestrian streets.
     Like most large urban centers, manyof Tampa’s older downtown landmarks vanish as might be the case with this guide.


Down Tyler Street, you'll notice the: (1) TAMPA BAY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (l987), a massive three-theater complex (largest in southeast) located along the Hillsborough River. CONTINUE DOWN ASHLEY STREET past the: (2) TAMPA DOWNTOWN LIBRARY (l968), a three-unit development by McElvy and Jennewein. The well stocked Special Collections Library on the second floor of the West Building has a major collection of photographs and materials on local history.
Just past a multi-story parking garage is: (3) CURTIS HIXON PARK, located on the site of the 1965 original convention hall Curtis Hixon Hall, where Elvis and Spiro Agnew were hits, but Liberace was a flop, and Cheech and Chong were busted on stage for smoking pot. The site now contains the fantastic TAMPA ART MUSEUM and the CHILDRENS MUSEUM, a very coloful building.


Next door is the important TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART with another entrance overlooking the Hillsborough River at the rear. Across is the river symbol of downtown THE TAMPA BAY HOTEL, Henry B. Plant's 1892 hotel, now the University of Tampa.  The goal of the city for years is to build a river-walk along the Hillsborough River from the Performing Arts Center to the Convention Center to the cruise docks.

CONTINUE DOWN ASHLEY past Tampa's cylindrical 33-story skyscraper, the former  (4) NATIONS BANK BUILDING (1987), with its distinctive six-story notches and sculpture garden. This “Tin-Can Skyscraper” with its huge sculpture outside has become a local landmark and was John Trovalta’s evil center in The Punisher.  Across Ashley is the 36-story (5) PARK TOWER (once First Florida Tower) (l973), Tampa's first skyscraper.

If you continue down Ashley and follow the city signs you will head toward HARBOUR ISLAND, downtown's residential island;  the  massive TAMPA CONVENTION CENTER and the TAMPA HISTORY CENTER, on Franklin Street; you can get on a trolley to go over to the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES FORUM (once the ICE PALACE), Tampa's downtown arena, with the new area of hotels, condos, and restaurants.




Further along Tampa's Channelside district is the lovely FLORIDA AQUARIUM, the CRUISE SHIP DOCKS, a new shopping complex with movies, and lots of funky shops. If you follow this route or stay on the trolley, you will soon be in Ybor City.


FOR THIS ROUTE, however, CONTINUE DOWN ASHLEY PAST KENNEDY BOULEVARD AND TURN LEFT ON JACKSON STREET. You will past to the left of the HYATT REGENCY (l982) and the 523- foot TAMPA CITY CENTER (l982), with its pedestrian mall of shops and restaurants.
AFTER FIVE BLOCKS, TURN LEFT ON MORGAN AND STOP AT KENNEDY. You'll note across the street on your left the granite sides of the (6) HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE (l949), designed by William O. Sparklin.   This is not the original – even newer is the ANNEX COMPLEX on the next block.




TURN LEFT ON KENNEDY. On your right is the (7) HILLSBOROUGH LODGE (1928), 508 Kennedy, the two-story headquarters of one of Tampa's oldest (1850) organizations. In 1865 future Governor Henry Mitchell expelled two members for serving in the Union Army. Next door is the (8) SCOTTISH RITES BUILDING (l921), a F. Leo Elliott building.
STOP AT FLORIDA AVENUE and look left to Elliott's most famous structure, (9) TAMPA CITY HALL (1914), a two-tiered creation topped by Hortense the Clock, named in honor of Mrs Hortense Ford, daughter of Tampa's first doctor, and fundraiser for the clock.

DRIVERS TURN RIGHT ON FLORIDA AVENUE (STROLLERS may select the Franklin Street Mall route listed later). One block up on the left was the site of the (10) HILLSBOROUGH HOTEL (l912), recently torn down.

A block down Florida on the right is the: (11) SACRED HEART CHURCH (1905), the finest downtown church and a fine example of a Georgia marble cruciform design. Walkers should enter through the huge central loggia for the interior is even more impressive. The main alter of Italian Carrara marble was actually donated by two Lutherans, the famous Smith Brothers of cough drop fame. Their mother died in 1903 while vacationing at the Tampa Bay Hotel and the Catholic Church provided services for her.

Near door is the imposing (12) FEDERAL COURTHOUSE/POST OFFICE (1902), James Knox Taylor's Renaissance and Neo-Classical Revival fortress of granite. The post office is in the basement. A few blocks away is the gigantic new Federal building (1997). BEFORE CROSSING ZACK STREET, NOTICE TO YOUR RIGHT the: (13) FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (1930), 412 Zack Street, a lovely Spanish mission church with two front entrances flanking the main portal and a pointed 70-foot corner tower.

Closer to you is the (14) BRUEN & WEBB BUILDING (1913), a masonry row built by Frank Baum, founder of the Tampa Gas Company, and Captain R, F. Webb, whose Desoto Hotel was the city's first large hotel. The busy Zack Street Newsstand is today's most notable tenant.


CONTINUE DOWN FLORIDA STREET. On your right are the rear sides of the well-worn: (15) F. W. WOOLWORTH BUILDING (1920) and the classical facade of the (16) KRESS BUILDING (1904), whose Franklin Street side is better. On the right in the next block is the (17) FLORIDAN HOTEL (1927), once the state's tallest building when A. J. Simms opened it.  It has been waiting for a new hotel tenant for years.  Next door is the towering NEW FEDERAL COURTHOUSE – the judges have a spa on the top floor.

Before TURNING LEFT ON TYLER STREET, notice the ultramodern (18) FIRST METHODIST CHURCH (1968) which hardly resembles the cabin used in 1846 by circuit rider J. C. Lay when it was Tampa's first church.


NORTHSIDE OPTION: Instead of turning left on Tyler, one could continue north on Florida and turn right on Harrison one block to the (19) ST. PAUL'S A.M.E. CHURCH (1914), home to Tampa's oldest African-American congregation (1870 by Rev. Thomas W. Long) and mother church to a dozen area churches. One block up Morgan Street is (20) OAK LAWN CEMETERY (1850), the burial place of one Governor, men who signed Florida's first two Constitution, and Ybor City's founder Vicente Martinez Ybor. Due to transients, touring the cemetery is best with a group.


THOSE DRIVING WEST ON TYLER STREET to the original starting point should note the (22) HERMAN C. MASSEY PARK, on the site of the Henderson Building, a decorative three-story place where Glenn Henderson sold bicycles to three generations of Tampans. In the next block is (23) CUTRO'S MUSIC STORE (1911), 214 Tyler Street, with a rare open balcony porch on the southwest corner.

RETURN TO ASHLEY STREET START. FRANKLIN STREET MALL FOR WALKERS: Walkers may leave (9) CITY HALL PLAZA, with its monuments honoring Spanish American War veterans and Vietnam War POW/MIAs, and cross down to Franklin Street's pedestrian mall.

On the left at 414 Franklin Street is the (A) FIRST NATIONAL BANK SITE, started in 1883 by Thomas Taliaferro as the oldest national bank in Florida. The next block included the (B) STRAND THEATER, 510 Franklin Street, now a burger palace.


PAST TWIGGS on the right is the (C) EXCHANGE NATIONAL BANK BUILDING (1917), organized by three of Tampa's titans, John Trice, Edward Manrara, and Peter O. Knight. Across the street was the block long (D) MAAS BROTHERS BUILDING SITE (1921), former headquarters for the department store set up by Tampans Abe and Isaac Maas.   Condos are going up and old buildings are goingd own.

On the right side is the "gem of Franklin Street", the (E) TAMPA THEATER (1926), a lavish motion picture house by John Eberson. The interior, perfectly restored by the City of Tampa, shows movies and plays in a Hispanic-Latin setting.  Some of the other Franklin Street stores will probably survive if converted, but this area is near condo growth.