• Hillsborough County
  • Year Founded: 1887


The Tocobaga Indians lived in the Tampa Bay area for about four hundred years prior to the arrival of the Pánfilo de Narváez expedition in 1528. Notes from those explorers referred to Tampa as “Bahia de la Cruz,” or “the best harbor in the world.” After a disastrous journey through Florida the remaining explorers took to the sea in 5 crude boats and vanished. Only Cabeza de Vaca and 3 companions survived. The castaways wandered for 8 years from Tampa Bay to Mexico. In subsequent years, the Spaniards generally focused their attention on settling eastern Florida and left the western areas alone. In 1824, only two months after the arrival of the first American settler, four companies of the U.S. Army established Fort Brooke to protect the strategic harbor at Tampa Bay.

Development of the Tampa Bay region began after the territory became part of the United States in 1845. In spite of the blockade and Federal occupation during the Civil War, the area grew steadily. Henry B. Plant’s 1884 railroad extension to the Hillsborough River provided access to new areas, and he built lavish hotels along his rail line to attract visitors.

Tampa owes its commercial success to Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River. When phosphates were discovered nearby in the late 1880s, the resulting mining and shipping industries prompted a boom of growth and wealth that lasted through the 1890s.

In 1886 Vicente Martinez Ybor established a cigar factory in Tampa. From the steps of Ybor’s factory, Jose Marti, sometimes called the George Washington of Cuba, exhorted the cigar workers to take up arms against Spain in the late 1800′s. Hispanic culture enlivens Ybor City, which covers about 2 square miles between Nebraska Avenue, 22nd Street, Columbus Drive and East Broadway.

The military has also had an ongoing role in Tampa’s development. The city was the primary outfitting and embarkation port for U.S. troops bound for Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

In 1914, Percival Ellicott Fansler introduced the world’s first scheduled commercial airline service with the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Piloting the airline’s Benoist “flying boat” was Tony Jannus, the namesake of the Tony Jannus Award presented each year by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce for achievement in commercial aviation.

The advent of the automobile was responsible for a large settlement wave that occurred in Tampa during 1923-1926. Many subdivisions were built during this era, including Davis Islands, created by D.P. Davis.

The main Tampa downtown business district has grown phenomenally since the 1960s. Major banks and an increasing number of other corporations occupy large glass, steel and concrete buildings that tower high above the bay.

Thus Tampa has evolved into a multi-cultural, diverse business center with sustainable communities for its citizens. People of all ages arrive here to escape the worries and winters of wherever they came from, and an increasing number of them stay.

Story of City’s Founding

January 18, 1824 * – Col. Brooke, along with James Gadsden and four companies of infantry, arrived in Tampa Bay.

January 18, 1849 – 14 men vote unanimously to establish Tampa Village with a trustee form of government.

October 10, 1852 – Citizens vote to abolish the village government.

September 10, 1853 – Citizens vote to organize as the Town of Tampa with a Board of Trustee form of government. September 15, 1855 – Citizens vote to abolish the Town government and establish a City Charter.

December 15, 1855 – Governor Broome signs Special Act of the Florida Legislature granting a charter for the City of Tampa.

February 22, 1862 – The City Government is suspended by Confederate Military Authorities during Civil War.

October 25, 1866 – Elections held per Florida State Legislature to reorganize the Incorporation of the City of Tampa.

March 11, 1869 – The citizens of Tampa for the No Corporation People’s Ticket to disenfranchise the City government.

August 11, 1873 – Citizens hold town meeting and vote to re- incorporate as Town of Tampa.

Little Known Facts

  • Tampa is home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk: Bayshore Boulevard, which is 4.5 miles long.
  • In 1898, Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” spent time in Tampa prior to leaving for Cuba in the Spanish-American War.
  • The first commercial flight in the United States landed in Tampa on January 1, 1914. The pilot was Tony Jannus and he flew one passenger (former mayor of St. Petersburg, A.C. Pheil) from St. Petersburg to Tampa in 23 minutes.
    Tampa is home to the Columbia Restaurant, the oldest and largest Spanish restaurant in the United States.
  • Since West Tampa was considered a separate city until 1925, Tampa received two Carnegie Libraries within two miles of each other.
  • Tampa was the site of President John F. Kennedy’s last public speech on November 18, 1963.

Historical Sites

Name: Oaklawn Cemetery
Location: 606 E Harrison St Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: The resting place for many of Tampa’s founders, mayors, and county officers. Including a governor of Florida, two Supreme Court Judges, framers of all five Florida Constitutions 1839-1885, and soldiers of seven wars.

Name: University of Tampa.
Location: 401 W. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: Built by Henry B. Plant as the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891

Name: Tampa Union Station
Location: 601 N. Nebraska Ave. Tampa, FL 33605
Historical Significance: Built in 1912 the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Name: University of Tampa
Location: 401 W. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: Originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891 by Henry B. Plant. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Name: Tampa Theatre
Location: 711 North Franklin St Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: Tampa Theatre is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a Tampa City Landmark, and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres.

Name: Centro Asturiano de Tampa
Location: 1913 North Nebraska Avenue Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: Built in 1914, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Name: City Hall
Location: 315 E. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, FL 33602
Historical Significance: Designed in 1915 by architects Elliott and Bonfoey, the building is still used as City offices today.

Key Historical Events

Event: Organization of the City of Tampa
Event Description:

Tampa was officially organized as a city.

Event: First Gasparilla Pirate Festival
Event Description:

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla staged its first Gasparilla invasion and parade as part of Tampa’s second May Festival.

Event: First Commercial Airline Flight
Event Description:

Tony Jannus completed the first scheduled airline service, flying from St. Petersburg to Tampa with his single-passenger Benoist airboat.

Event: Opening of Tampa’s City Hall
Event Description:

Tampa’s City Hall building, with a blaze of lights, a boom from a toy cannon and banging by “Hortense” the clock, opened to the public. Construction cost is $235,000.

Event: Gandy Bridge Opens
Event Description:

Gandy Bridge, named for builder George S. Gandy, links Tampa and St. Petersburg with what was billed as “the world’s longest toll bridge,” almost six miles of causeway and bridge. The original toll was 75 cents per car and 10 cents per passenger.

Event: Tampa Theatre Opens
Event Description:

Now a National Historic Landmark, Tampa’s first air-conditioned public building, the Tampa Theatre, opened on Franklin Street. The opening film was “The Ace of Cads,” starring Adolphe Menjou.