The History of Davis Islands

August 19, 2014 | South Tampa Magazine | Categories: City, Editorial, History | Tags: Big Grassy Key, D.P. Davis, Davis Islands, History of Davis Islands, Little Grassy Key, Marjorie Park, Peter O. Knight

The History of Davis Islands: 33606

Boundaries: Located off Bayshore Boulevard, it’s south of downtown and west of Harbour Island.


History: Created from two man-made islands atop two swampy islands at the mouth of the Hillsborough River once known as Little Grassy Key and Big Grassy Key, Davis Islands was first established in the 1920s by D.P. Davis. The son of a steamboat captain, Davis purchased the land right before the Florida Land Boom for a reported $350,000. It’s rumored that Bayshore Boulevard’s residents fought the development of the island for years, claiming that development was impossible on top of the swampy mudflats. Davis proved them wrong. He dredged the islands and forged them together to create a resort with luxury hotels, a golf course, airport and expensive residential property. It’s said that on opening day in October 1924, all of the 300-plus prepared lots sold for more than $1.5 million.


What’s In A Name: The neighborhood is named after D.P. Davis, who developed the island

Predominant Architectural Styles: Mediterranean Revival was Davis’ original development of choice to create community similar to a “Venetian paradise”

Historic Landmarks: Peter O. Knight Airport and Marjorie Park

Home Value: A 2,788 SQ FT Davis Islands home built in 1925 that sold for $20,000 in 1968 sold for $315,000 in November 2010.


D.P. Davis is said to have vanished at sea with no explanation while sailing to Paris with his friend and his mistress.

Because a canal fully separates the island, it’s technically considered an archipelago, hence why its proper name is a pluralized “Islands.”

Nearly 100 million cubic feet of sand is said to have been dredged from the bay to create Davis Islands.


875: The total number of acres that comprised Davis Islands after Peter O. Knight built his airport.

The city of Tampa says Davis Islands originally consisted of three islands, but “with the construction of the airport, the end of one canal was filled in to make enough land area for a runway, connecting the two largest islands at their southern ends, thus reducing the archipelago’s island count to two.”

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*Photos courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library