To celebrate the history and traditions of our community, here are seven of the icons we think best represent South Tampa. On the following pages, you’ll find objects from across the area that help tell the story of a city.
The railing that lines the 4.5 miles of Tampa’s most famous street gives Bayshore Boulevard its distinctive look. It’s also one of South Tampa’s most visible icons, as approximately 30,000 cars drive some length of Bayshore each day and an untold amount jog, bike or rollerblade on the wide sidewalks. The balustrade was built from Howard Boulevard to Gandy Boulevard in 1926, and funds from President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration supported the completion of the full railing in 1938. The balustrade is so important to the city that local officials pumped over $1 million into restoring the sidewalks, including the balustrade, and the medians of the road before the Republican National Convention in 2012.
Where to find it: Bayshore Boulevard
Glistening in the bright sunshine, the silver Moorish-style minarets, domes and cupolas that sit atop the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall are ingrained in Tampa’s history. They were an original part of Henry Plant’s $3 million, 500-room Tampa Bay Hotel, which helped lure visitors from Queen Victoria to Theodore Roosevelt to Tampa. According to prominent Tampa historian James W. Covington, Plant sent hotel architect James Wood to Spain to study Moorish architecture, resulting in the hotel’s Islamic-inspired look.
Where to find it: Plant Hall at the University of Tampa, 374 UT University Dr.
Red Phone Booth
While it’s not known if it is a tribute to the Hyde Park across the pond, this classic British-inspired phone booth – located on the corner of Snow and Dakota Avenues by Pottery Barn Kids – has become well-known in South Tampa because of its seeming misplacement. As the village’s increasing number of restaurants and retailers has drawn in more visitors, this unique piece has become a place to take fun photos with an international flair.
Where to find it: Hyde Park Village 1606 W. Snow Ave.
Tampa Theatre Marquee
The theatre is one of Tampa’s oldest buildings, and the iconic sign in front of it has become a symbol of an entire city. Tampa Theatre’s ups and downs – it closed in 1973 and was set to be demolished but was purchased by the city and reopened to the public in 1977 – mirror those of the city itself. Now run by the non-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation, the theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s surprising, then, that the current marquee is not the original – it was replaced in 2004 as part of the theatre efforts to maintain the glamour and splendor of its heyday.
Where to find it: Tampa Theatre 711 N. Franklin St.
Lightning Bolt Statue
Though the sculpture was finished in front of what is now Amalie Arena shortly after the Tampa Bay Lightning began playing there, artist Jonathan Borofsky wrote on his website that he was more inspired by the lightning in the Tampa night sky than the team. Either way, Lightning fans have embraced the 70-foot painted steel sculpture as a permanent reminder of the impact their team has had on the city.
Where to find it: Amalie Arena 401 Channelside Dr.
Jose Gasparilla II
Its arrival signals Tampa’s favorite holiday and is a year-round reminder of our city’s (possibly exaggerated) origins. Commissioned by the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in 1954, the 165-foot long ship is the second to bear the José Gasparilla name. The first José Gasparilla, originally a cargo ship named the William Bisbee, served YMKG from 1936 to 1952. Both ships helped solidify Gasparilla as Tampa’s premier annual event.
Where to find it: Tarpon Weigh Station 344 Bayshore Blvd.
Four Green Fields Thatched Roof
Drive down Platt Street, and just before you hit Bayshore you’ll notice that one of these things definitely does not look like the other. That would be Four Green Fields, a little white stucco cottage with a thatched roof and South Tampa’s oldest Irish pub. According to the pub, it is the only authentic thatched roof pub in the U.S. McGhee & Co. Roof Thatchers, based in Virginia, built the roof when Four Green Fields first opened in 1992 and still comes to town from time to time when its reeds need cleaning up.
Where to find it: 205 W. Platt St.