Streets of South Tampa

Tracing the history of South Tampa’s historic street signs

We tend to spend a lot of time in traffic here in Tampa Bay. In fact, Forbes magazine said back in 2010 that we rank in the top tier nationally for the amount of time we spend commuting. Here’s the bright side to that figure: our roads are paved with rich history. Some of the streets we use everyday bare the names of our most renowned residents.

You know these roads. You probably drive them everyday. But do you know the story behind the name? In the following pages, we’ll tell you the history of our most traveled roads, as well as a few that aren’t as familiar.


Adamo Drive

Namesake: Frank Scozzari Adamo

Have you ever wondered why we put hydrogen peroxide on our open wounds? You can credit Dr. Frank Scozzari Adamo for that. Born in Tampa in 1893, the son of Sicilian immigrants dropped out of high school and rolled cigars in Ybor City before attending med school in Chicago. He later enlisted in the reserves and served in World War II as an Army surgeon at Fort McKinley Hospital in the Philippines.

When Japanese troops attacked the island, Dr. Adamo—whose name is pronounced ah-DAHM-o—was tasked with treating scores of wounded soldiers and civilians, many of which suffered from gangrene. Amputation was the most prescribed treatment until Dr. Adamo experimented with a few patients by forcing oxygen into the wound via an hourly irrigation of hydrogen peroxide. As he expected, the gangrene couldn’t survive from the constant exposure to oxygen and subsided. It saved the lives and limbs of numerous patients during the war, and for many years to come. His achievement named him “Bataan’s medical hero” by Life Magazine.

Unfortunately, the Japanese forces overtook the island and Dr. Adamo was made a prisoner of war. Even though he was stricken with dysentery, he treated other POWs and even his enemy while in captivity. He was liberated on Feb. 4, 1945 and made it back home to Tampa, where his return was celebrated with a parade and the renaming of First Avenue to Frank Adamo Drive. For his service, he was also presented the Legion of Merit Award. Mr. Adamo lived a long, healthy life in Tampa before dying in 1988.

Traffic Ticker: 31,837 total daily drivers on Adamo Drive from 39th Street to 50th Street (date of count: 11/4/09)


Howard Avenue

Namesake: Howard Pettingill Macfarlane

In the early 1900s, former Tampa Public Works board member Hugh Macfarlane named Howard Avenue after his son Howard Pettingill Macfarlane. Hugh was instrumental in developing West Tampa—he’s often called the “Father of West Tampa”—and lured cigar manufacturers across the Hillsborough River by establishing the Fortune Street drawbridge, the first of its kind. His son was born in Tampa in 1888 and practiced law with his father at the Macfarlane Ferguson law firm. He served as an instructor at Camp Lee, VA during World War I until 1918 when he returned to Tampa. Three years later he was elected the youngest president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association.

Traffic Ticker: 11,825 daily drivers on Howard Avenue from Bayshore Boulevard to Swann Avenue (date of count: 11/2/10)


Fortune Street

Sometimes, even the smallest streets have big history. Such is the case with Fortune Street, which is named for Fortune Taylor. A freed slave, she married Benjamin Taylor in 1866. Taylor had acquired 33 acres in the area where I-275 crosses the river today. He died several years later and Fortune took over the homestead, maintaining it until the city gained ownership of the land near the turn of the 19th century. Fortune was renowned for her baked goods. Although a short stretch of road between Doyle Carlton and N. Ashley drives still bare her name, longtime Tampa residents may recognize Fortune for being the namesake of the Fortune Street Bridge, now the Laurel Street Bridge. The drawbridge was built by Hugh MacFarlane to attract cigar manufacturers across the Hillsborough River and into Tampa.


Nebraska Avenue

An influx of Nebraska residents moving into Tampa in the 1870s is what caused the naming of this street. Tampa’s population as a whole was falling and the city was hurting for progress, but the quiet land front outside of downtown was attractive to those who wanted a peaceful town with plenty of fishing and hunting. From 7th Avenue in Ybor City to Columbus Drive, these “cornhuskers” bought up the land and started building homes outfitted with citrus groves. The area just became known as Nebraska Avenue by default. There was discussion of a possible name change in 2013, but little progress has been made on that front. St. Augustine founder Menéndez de Avilés is believed to be a top choice for the new name.

Traffic Ticker: 4,507 the average amount of daily drivers on Nebraska Avenue from Jackson Street to Cass Street (date of count 10/4/10 to 10/26/10)


Marion & Morgan Streets

These two streets in downtown Tampa are named after men who had very little connection to Tampa. There’s Brig. General Francis Marion, who pestered the British when they overran Charleston, SC during the American Revolutionary War. His fellow American troops fled the city, but Marion—whose story is loosely brought to life in the movie The Patriot—put together a militia group that pestered the British soldiers with sabotage attacks, rescuing prisoners and destroying communication lines. His work in the Battle of Eutaw helped drive the British out of South Carolina and earn him a Senate seat from 1781-1784.

Brig. General Daniel Morgan also served during the American Revolutionary War. He was a commander of troops in Virginia, a captain in the Continental Army and even helped Benedict Arnold in the battle against Quebec. Morgan fought in the battles of Saratoga and served as the brigadier general during the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina. His last task was commanding a group during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. He served just one term in Congress and died in 1802.

Traffic Ticker: 4,282 the amount of daily drivers on Morgan Street from Polk Street to Cass Street (date of count: 8/10/08)

Ashley Drive

There’s a beautiful love story associated with Ashley Drive, one of the main arteries of downtown Tampa. Elected as the city’s first clerk in 1865, William Ashley fell in love with a slave from Georgia named Ashley. According to a Tampa Bay Times story, the census showed that he was listed as single with no children. However, the Slave Schedule for which all slaves were tracked revealed he owned a 40-year-old woman named Nancy. The story says that they lived together as man and wife until Ashley died. Nancy was even said to have unofficially carried his last name. In his will, he requested his estate be transferred to Nancy. William also purchased a plot of land that would fit two: he and Nancy. The executer of the will, John Jackson, was also a city surveyor of roads. When it came time to name the downtown streets, he thought the Ashleys would be a perfect fit.


Zack Street

This downtown Tampa road is named for the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor. He served as an officer and major general in the Army and is best known for serving in the War of 1812 and leading the U.S. to victory during the Mexican-American War. He defeated Lewis Cass, the namesake of Cass Street, to become president in 1849. He served just a year in office before dying suddenly of an intestinal disease.


Cass Street

General Lewis Cass served the U.S. during the War of 1812 and was appointed governor of Michigan in 1813. He held that position until 1831 when he took over as Secretary of War. His ran for presidency twice and was denied by James Polk in 1844 and Zachary Taylor, who defeated him in 1848.


Twiggs Street

Augusta, Georgia native General David E. Twiggs served in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War before joining the Confederate Army. He was the oldest Confederate general to serve during the Civil War.