Getting to Know Tampa
Tampa, whose name means “stick of fire” in the Calusa language, began as an Indian fishing village beside Fort Brooke, established in 1824 to keep a watchful eye on the local Seminole Indians. Located at the head of Tampa Bay, it remained a small and isolated trading post until 1884 when Henry B. Plant brought his railroad to town and started a steamship line between Tampa, Key West, and Havana, Cuba.
After the railroad arrived, Plant dredged the Hillsborough River, on which the city stands, to allow seagoing vessels to dock and Tampa became a booming port. Two years later, Cuban cigar-makers led by Don Vincente Martinez Ybor migrated from fire-ravaged Key West to Tampa and founded Ybor City, a neighborhood of Tampa. Not satisfied to just build a railroad to Tampa, Plant, like his rival Henry Flagler on the east coast, built elaborate resort hotels that attracted rich vacationers to Tampa's sunny climate. Even though Tampa's economic boom slowed during the Great Depression, Tampa's port remained one of the busiest in the country.
Tampa has been touted as “the Sports Capital of the U.S.A.” The Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees do their spring training here in March. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football from August to December, National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning plays hockey in winter, and jai-alai plays all year.
Today, the Tampa Bay area has become the busiest and most congested part of Florida's west coast. The city thrives as corporate towers rise almost overnight next to restored historic buildings. But even with the hustle and bustle of business, the blue-green waters of Tampa Bay provide a serene backdrop for the city itself.