Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County and is located on the west coast of Florida, on Tampa Bay near the Gulf of Mexico. The population of Tampa in 2011 was 346,037.
The current location of Tampa was once inhabited by indigenous peoples of the Safety Harbor culture, most notably the Tocobaga and the Pohoy, who lived along the shores of Tampa Bay. It was briefly explored by Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, but there were no permanent American or European settlements within today's city limits until after the United States had acquired Florida from Spain in 1819.
In 1824, the United States Army established a frontier outpost called Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, near the site of today's Tampa Convention Center. The first civilian residents were pioneers who settled near the fort for protection from the nearby Seminole population. The town grew slowly until the 1880s, when railroad links, the discovery of phosphate, and the arrival of the cigar industry jump-started Tampa's development and helped it to grow into an important city by the early 1900s.
Today, Tampa is a part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area. For U.S. Census purposes, Tampa is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The four-county area is composed of roughly 2.7 million residents, making it the second largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the state, and the fourth largest in the Southeastern United States, behind Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The Greater Tampa Bay area has just over 4 million residents and generally includes the Tampa and Sarasota metro areas. The Tampa Bay Partnership and U.S. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the Greater Tampa Bay Market experienced a combined growth rate of 14.8 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 3.9 million and hitting the 4 million people mark on April 1, 2007. A 2012 estimate shows the Tampa Bay area population to have 4,310,524 people and a 2017 projection of 4,536,854 people.
Tampa has a number of sports teams, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League, and the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. The Tampa Bay Rays in Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League play their home games in neighboring St. Petersburg, Florida.
In 2008, Tampa was ranked as the 5th best outdoor city by Forbes. A 2004 survey by the NYU newspaper Washington Square News ranked Tampa as a top city for "twenty-somethings." Tampa is now ranked as a "Gamma" world city by Loughborough University. According to Loughborough, Tampa ranks alongside other world cities such as Phoenix, Santo Domingo, and Osaka. In recent years Tampa has seen a notable upsurge in high-market demand from consumers, signaling more wealth concentrated in the area. Tampa hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The word "Tampa" may mean "sticks of fire" in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived south of today’s Tampa Bay. This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months. Other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks".
Toponymist George R. Stewart writes that the name was the result of a miscommunication between the Spanish and the Indians, the Indian word being "itimpi", meaning simply "near it". The name first appears in the "Memoir" of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive. He calls it "Tanpa" and describes it as an important Calusa town. While "Tanpa" may be the basis for the modern name "Tampa", archaeologist Jerald Milanich places the Calusa village of Tanpa at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, the original "Bay of Tanpa". A later Spanish expedition did not notice Charlotte Harbor while sailing north along the west coast of Florida and assumed that the current Tampa Bay was the bay they sought. The name was accidentally transferred north.
Map makers were using the term Bay or Bahia Tampa as early as 1695.
Not much is known about the cultures who called the Tampa Bay area home before European contact. When Spanish explorers arrived in the 1520s, they found a ring of Tocobaga villages around the northern half of Tampa Bay from modern-day Pinellas County to Tampa and Calusa villages along the southern portion of the bay in modern-day Manatee County.
Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa to look for gold and possibly start a colony. Neither conquistador stayed in the region for long once it became clear that the local riches were only abundant fish and shellfish. The native inhabitants, who derived most of their resources from the sea, repulsed any Spanish attempt to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism.
The newcomers brought a weapon against which the natives had no defense: infectious disease. Archeological evidence reveals a total collapse of the native cultures of Florida in the years after European contact. The Tampa area was depopulated and ignored for more than 200 years.
Seasonal residents and U.S. control
In the mid-18th century, events in American colonies drove the Seminole Indians into the wilds of northern Florida. During this period, the Tampa area had only a handful of residents: Cuban and Native American fishermen. They lived in a small village at the mouth of Spanishtown Creek on Tampa Bay, in today’s Hyde Park neighborhood along Bayshore Boulevard.
In 1821, the United States purchased Florida from Spain (see Adams-Onís Treaty), partly to reduce Indian raids, and partly to eliminate a refuge for escaped slaves from neighboring Southern states. One of the first U.S. actions in its new territory was a raid which destroyed Angola, a settlement built by escaped slaves and free blacks on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay.
The Treaty of Moultrie Creek (1823) created a large Indian reservation in the interior of the peninsula of Florida. As part of efforts to establish control over the vast wilderness, the U.S. government built a series of forts and trading posts in the new territory. "Cantonment Brooke" was established on January 10, 1824, by Colonels George Mercer Brooke and James Gadsden at the mouth of the Hillsborough River on Tampa Bay, at the site of the Tampa Convention Center in Downtown Tampa. On January 22, 1824, the post was officially named Fort Brooke.
The Territory of Florida had grown enough by 1845 to become the 27th state.
Four years after statehood, on January 18, 1849, Tampa had also grown enough to officially incorporate as the "Village of Tampa". Tampa was home to 185 inhabitants, not including military personnel stationed at Fort Brooke. The city's first census count in 1850, however, listed Tampa-Fort Brooke as having 974 residents, inclusive of the military personnel.
Tampa was reincorporated as a town on December 15, 1855, and Judge Joseph B. Lancaster became the first mayor in 1856.
Tampa during the Civil War
During the American Civil War, Florida seceded along with most of the southern states to form the Confederate States of America. Fort Brooke was manned by Confederate troops, and martial law was declared in Tampa in January 1862. Tampa's city government ceased to operate for the duration of the war.
In late 1861, the Union Navy set up a blockade around many southern ports to cut off the Confederacy from outside help, and several ships were stationed near the mouth of Tampa Bay. Blockade runners based in Tampa were able to repeatedly slip through the blockade to trade cattle and citrus for needed supplies, mainly with Spanish Cuba.
Union gunboats sailed up Tampa Bay to bombard Fort Brooke and the surrounding city of Tampa. The Battle of Tampa on June 30 and July 1, 1862, was inconclusive, as the shells fell ineffectually, and there were no human casualties on either side.
More damaging to the Confederate cause was the Battle of Fort Brooke on October 17 and October 18, 1863. Two Union gunboats shelled the fort and surrounding town and landed troops, who found blockade runners hidden up the Hillsborough River near present-day Lowry Park Zoo and destroyed them. The local militia mustered to intercept the Union troops, but they were able to return to their ships after a short skirmish and headed back out to sea.
The Reconstruction period was hard on Tampa. With little industry, and land transportation links limited to bumpy wagon roads from the east coast of Florida, Tampa was a fishing village with very few people, and poor prospects for development. Throughout its history, Tampa had been affected by yellow fever epidemics borne by mosquitoes from the surrounding swampland, but the sickness was particularly widespread during the late 1860s and 1870s. The disease was little understood at the time, and many residents simply packed up and left rather than face the mysterious and deadly peril.
In 1869, residents voted to abolish the city of Tampa government. The population of "Tampa Town" was below 800 in the official 1870 census count and had fallen further by 1880 (see demographics, below).
Fort Brooke, the seed from which Tampa had germinated, had served its purpose and was decommissioned in 1883. Except for two cannons displayed on the nearby University of Tampa campus, all traces of the fort are gone. A large downtown parking garage near the old fort site is called the Fort Brooke Parking Garage.
In the mid-1880s, Tampa's fortunes took several sudden turns for the better. First, phosphate was discovered in the Bone Valley region southeast of Tampa in 1883. The mineral, vital for the production of fertilizers and other products, was soon being shipped out from the Port of Tampa in great volume. Tampa is still a major phosphate exporter.
Henry B. Plant's railroad line reached Tampa and its port shortly thereafter, finally connecting the small town to the nation's railroad system after years of efforts by local leaders. Previously, Tampa's overland transportation links had consisted of rutted sandy roads stretching across the Florida countryside. Plant's railroad made it much easier to get goods in and out of the Tampa Bay area. Phosphate and commercial fishing exports could be sent north and many new products were brought into the Tampa market, along with the first tourists.
The new railroad link enabled another important industry to come to Tampa. In 1885, the Tampa Board of Trade enticed Vicente Martinez Ybor to move his cigar manufacturing operations to Tampa from Key West. Proximity to Cuba made importation of "clear Havana tobacco" easy by sea, and Plant's railroad made shipment of finished cigars to the rest of the US market easy by land.
Since Tampa was still a small town at the time (population less than 5000), Ybor built hundreds of small houses around his factory to accommodate the immediate influx of mainly Cuban and Spanish cigar workers. Ybor City's factories rolled their first cigars in 1886, and many different cigar manufacturers moved their operations to town in ensuing years. Many Italian and a few eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived starting in the late 1880s, opening businesses and shops that catered to cigar workers. By 1900, over 10,000 immigrants had moved to the neighborhood. Several thousand more Cuban immigrants built West Tampa, another cigar-centric suburb founded a few years later by Hugh MacFarlane. Between them, two "Latin" communities combined to exponentially expand Tampa's population, economic base, and tax revenues, as Tampa became the "Cigar Capital of the World".
Tampa Bay Hotel
In 1891, Henry B. Plant built a lavish 500+ room, quarter-mile (400 m) long, US$2.5 million eclectic/Moorish Revival-style luxury resort hotel called the Tampa Bay Hotel among of manicured gardens along the banks of the Hillsborough River. Plant's resort featured a race track, a heated indoor pool, a golf course, a 2000-seat auditorium, tennis courts, stables, hunting and fishing tours, and electric lights and telephones in every room, plus the first elevator in town and exotic art collectibles which Plant had shipped in from around the world.
The Tampa Bay Hotel was relatively prosperous for about a decade. The resort hosted thousands of guests and many celebrities of the era, but was only filled to capacity during the Spanish-American War (see below). Henry Plant died in 1899, and his heirs sold the facilities to the city of Tampa in 1904. The city operated the hotel and used the grounds as a community gathering place until 1932, when the resort was closed, remodeled, and reopened as the University of Tampa a year later.
Mainly because of Henry Plant's connections in the War Department, Tampa was chosen as an embarkation center for American troops in the Spanish-American War. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were among the 30,000 troops who waited in Tampa for the order to ship out to Cuba during the summer of 1898, filling the town to bursting and delivering another huge boost to the local economy.
The discovery of phosphate, the arrival of Plant's railroad, and the founding of Ybor City and West Tampa—all in the mid-1880s—were crucial to Tampa's development. The once-struggling village of Tampa became a bustling boomtown almost overnight, and had grown into one of the largest cities in Florida by 1900.
Early 20th century
During the first few decades of the 20th century, the cigar-making industry was the backbone of Tampa's economy. The factories in Ybor City and West Tampa made an enormous number of cigars—in the peak year of 1929, over 500,000,000 cigars were hand rolled in the city.
In 1904, a local civic association of local businessmen dubbed themselves Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (named after local mythical pirate Jose Gaspar), and staged an "invasion" of the city followed by a parade. With a few exceptions, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been held every year since.
Bolita and organized crime
Beginning in the late 19th century, illegal bolita lotteries were very popular among the Tampa working classes, especially in Ybor City. In the early 1920s, this small-time operation was taken over by Charlie Wall, the rebellious son of a prominent Tampa family, and went big-time. Bolita was able to openly thrive only because of kick-backs and bribes to key local politicians and law enforcement officials, and many were on the take.
Profits from the bolita lotteries and Prohibition-era bootlegging led to the development of several organized crime factions in the city. Charlie Wall was the first major boss, but various power struggles culminated in consolidation of control by Sicilian mafioso Santo Trafficante, Sr., and his faction in the 1950s. After his death in 1954 from cancer, control passed to his son Santo Trafficante, Jr., who established alliances with families in New York and extended his power throughout Florida and into Batista-era Cuba.
The era of rampant and open corruption ended in the 1950s, when the Senator Kefauver's traveling organized crime hearings came to town and were followed by the sensational misconduct trials of several local officials. Although many of the worst offenders in government and the mob were not charged, the trials helped to end the sense of lawlessness which had prevailed in Tampa for decades.
Mid to late 20th century
Tampa grew considerably as a result of World War II. Prior to the United States' involvement in the conflict, construction began on MacDill Field, the predecessor of present day MacDill Air Force Base. MacDill Field served as a main base for Army Air Corps and later Army Air Forces operations just before and during World War II, with multiple auxiliary airfields around the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties. At the end of the war, MacDill remained as an active military installation while the auxiliary fields reverted to civilian control. Two of these auxiliary fields would later become the present day Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, MacDill Field became MacDill AFB.
During the 1950s and 1960s Tampa saw record-setting population growth that has not been seen since. This amazing growth spurred major expansion of the city’s highways and bridges bringing thousands into the city and creating endless possibilities for Tampa business owners who welcomed tourists and new citizens alike into their neighborhoods. It was during this time period in the city’s history that two of the most popular tourist attractions in the area were developed – Busch Gardens and Lowry Park. Many of the well-known institutions that play an important role in the economic development of the city were established during this time period.
In 1956, the University of South Florida was established in North Tampa, spurring major development in this section of the city and offering many new job opportunities. Tampa continued to expand as new hospitals, schools, churches and subdivisions all began appearing to accommodate the growth. Many business offices began moving away from the traditional downtown office building into more convenient neighborhood office plazas.
Four attempts have been made to consolidate the municipal government of the city of Tampa with the county government of Hillsborough County (1967, 1970, 1971, and 1972), all of which failed at the ballot box; the greatest loss was also the most recent attempt in 1972, with the final tally being 33,160 (31%) in favor and 73,568 (69%) against the proposed charter.
East Tampa, historically a mostly black community, was the scene of several race riots during and for some time after the period of racial segregation, mainly due to problems between residents and the Tampa Police Department.