Fort Homer W. Hesterly
Then: Fort Homer W. Hesterly
Now: Future home of the Tampa Jewish Community Center & Federation
The Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation recently purchased Fort Home W. Hesterly armory and has plans to use the building as the home to its new 83,000 SQ FT facility. The history of Fort Homer dates back to the early 1900s, when President Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders used the site during the Spanish-American War. It later became an airfield known as Benjamin Field. During the 1920s, the land was taken over by the Florida National Guard, who built an armory in 1941.
The National Guard occupied the building until 2004 but held control of Fort Homer until October 1 when the Tampa JCC officially signed a 99-year lease. JCC Executive Director Jack Ross says the new facility will better serve Tampa’s Jewish population.
“About 46-percent of our Jewish community lives south of I-275, making it the highest concentration of Jewish people in the nation,” he said.
The $18-million Jewish Community Center will feature a 14,000 SQ FT preschool, a junior Olympic size pool, event space, full gymnasium, fitness programs, a fine arts center and more. As of press time, the group was currently halfway to the fundraising goals of their capital campaign. In January, Ross says they’ll announce the title sponsor for the building. The target date for the unveiling is 2015.
In the Details
Elvis Presley performed at Fort Homer several times. Other notable musical acts include Nat King Cole, Pink Floyd, The Doors and Blue Oyster Cult.
President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated four days after speaking in Tampa.