TAMPA — In 1887, Tampa’s first city hall existed only in a blueprint.

The Hillsborough County courthouse occupied the property where the Tampa police station stands today.

Freshly laid bricks formed the cigar factories opened two years earlier by Vicente Martinez Ybor and Ignacio Haya.

Henry Plant, who had called the city home during the past four years, was in the process of completing his South Florida railroad with Tampa as the railhead.

This week, Tampa marks the progress it has made since 1887 — the year it grew from a township to a city — with celebrations of its 130th birthday. The city was established that year on July 15.

“It went from a pasture town to a real city,” said District 6 City Councilmember Guido Maniscalco.

Maniscalco, the son of Cuban and Italian immigrants, was born and raised in Tampa.

“The time period we’re in now at 130, most people go for centennials, but with everything that’s happening, it’s Tampa’s renaissance,” Maniscalco said.

The city’s annual Archives Awareness Week is being held during the second week of July this year to coincide with the city’s birthday.

Exhibits and programs launched this week include the release of two historic photo collections online at the website of the Hillsborough County Public Library, boosting the total number of digital collections there to 10, and a new video highlighting the city’s history.

All the photos in the two new collections are being digitized and so far, about 2,000 total have been placed online, said city clerk Shirley Foxx-Knowles.

“The new photo collections include 100,000 images,” Knowles said. “We are hoping to have both collections uploaded within five years.”

Birthday festivities were held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday (July 14) at Lykes Gaslight Square Park with music, appearances by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and starting at noon, free ice pops from Whatever Pops in Tampa will be handed out while supplies last.

Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center, presented a lecture on Tampa’s cigar industry at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the John F. Germany Library.

Birthday cake was served.

Retired judge E.J. Salcines, an authority on local history who delivered a speech during this birthday week, marked the 130th birthday by recalling the city’s birthday 100 years ago — July 15, 1917.

“That also was a transformative year,” Salcines told the Tampa Bay Times, “because we were all geared up for the 30th birthday when President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against imperial Germany.

“The first world war really had a major impact on Tampa’s development.”

That’s when the Tampa area developed into the major producer and shipper of phosphate rock for fertilizer that it remains today.

“A dynamic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic conglomerate of American citizens wanting to build a better community is what has sustained Tampa to reach its 130 birthday,” Salcines said. “Tampa is unique in the South. It’s that diversity in every aspect: social, business and international that has really put Tampa on the map.”

One of councilman Maniscalco’s favorite pastimes is strolling around the city, reminiscing about the structures that used to stand along the streets compared to the view he sees today.

“When you walk down a brick street in Ybor City, those bricks have been there the whole time,” Maniscalco said.

“I know we are known for our cigar history, but there’s so much more,” he said, pointing to Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, who left from Tampa for Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War; Babe Ruth hitting his longest home run at a ballpark where the University of Tampa now stands; the role of Drew Field, now Tampa International Airport, during World War II; and the visit here by President John F. Kennedy just four days before his assassination.

“For some reason,” Maniscalco said, “all roads lead to Tampa.”

Source: Tampa Bay Times, Arielle Waldman


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