Sunday, April 27, 2008

Florida News Stories

"Blast from the past: Who owns history?" (Tallahassee Democrat, March 9, 2008) Columnist Mark Hinson ponders his Southern heritage, free speech, and others mysteries of history at a reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Natural Bridge. "Unless you're Tooter Turtle and have access to a time machine, who really knows what anyone was thinking at Natural Bridge in March 1865? All I know for sure is that Civil War re-enactors love loud things that go bang and ka-boom."

"Agreement pending on state purchase of Natural Bridge battlefield" (Tallahassee Democrat, April 27, 2008)

"For sale: House of spies -- $22 million will buy a grand Coral Gables home used by the CIA -- and an island outpost" (Miami Herald, April 20, 2008) "The house at 6312 Riviera Dr. in Coral Gables is grand by almost any measure. It has a 33-foot long living room with dragons carved into its marble fireplace, vases that once belonged to Umberto I, King of Italy, a dance patio, mini-Olympic pool, an elevator, a tidewater pond, more than a dozen bathrooms, two roomy boathouses and a pedigreed architect. Batista once considered buying it and Billy Graham left behind a signed Bible."

"Stuart B. McIver, 86: Revered regional historian" (Miami Herald, April 25, 2008)

"An Epic of the Everglades" A glowing review of Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend, by Peter Matthiessen, in the New York Review of Books.

"Mullets get some air at the Flora-Bama" (Press-Register, April 27, 2008) "By 1 p.m. Saturday, about 300 fish had already been flung. To that point the farthest toss had been registered by Powder Springs, Ga., resident Adam McDaniel, who slung a mullet 183 feet and 9 inches." (I found a link to this report on the Interstate Mullet Toss on the Dave Barry Blog.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts in a Parking Garage

History is everywhere you go, if you just stop and look. This week I encountered history on the third level of a parking garage in downtown Tampa.

The William F. Poe Parking Garage is not itself particularly historic (yet), although it is named after a former Tampa mayor. It does, however, have a great view of the Hillsborough River and the University of Tampa campus, including the former Tampa Bay Hotel.

The white tent in the lower left corner of the photo was the groundbreaking for the new Tampa Museum of Art. I wasn't there for the ceremony, but Brass Bowl was if you want a ground-level perspective.

I was there to do some research at Tampa's downtown library. This is the main branch, where they keep the city directories, Sanborn maps, vertical files of newspaper clippings, local history books, and other goodies. The official name of this building is the John F. Germany Public Library. Who is John Germany and why is a library named after him? Germany grew up in Plant City, and became a prominent Tampa attorney. His influence was great in finding the money and political will to build a new central library in Tampa in the 1960s (The original early-twentieth-century Carneige library had been outgrown). In a podcast from WUSF (Florida Stories, August 2007), you can hear Germany talking with his son about his role in this effort. The library's website also provides information about Mr. Germany.

In this photograph I took from the parking garage you can see the walkway that connects the garage with the library and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, you can see the newer addition on the west side of the library, and you can see the original 1965 main part of the library. There's a oval domed auditorium between the two buildings that is part of the original design. The library's website also has interesting photographs of the library's construction. The lots around the library site have really changed in the past 40 years.
So there you have it. Just looking over the wall at the parking garage I saw the river, the Tampa Bay Hotel, Tampa's second main library, a reminder of John Germany, and a glimpse of the future with the construction of a new art museum.
(As an extra tidbit, the Library of Congress website offers a podcast of a lecture by Shannon McDonald titled "The Parking Garage and Its Impact on Urban Planning.")

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rivers of the Green Swamp

Rivers of the Green Swamp is an anthology of essays about the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, Peace, and Ocklawaha rivers -- four of the rivers of the great Green Swamp of central Florida. Contributions from students and professors in the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida - St. Petersburg are supplemented by contributions from Florida authors such as Bill Belleville and Lee Irby.

There will be a book signing and reading reception Wednesday April 23 at 6pm in the courtyard between the Williams and Snell houses on the USF St. Petersburg campus (map and directions). Proceeds from book sales help with future USF St. Pete and Tampa Bay Writers Network events and projects, help that is especially critical due to recent state university budget cuts.

For more information and an order form, click on the image below or go to the Tampa Bay Writers Network website.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Interesting Website -- FSU Heritage Protocol

Florida State University's Heritage Protocol website has links to many interesting articles and images from the school's past. (And that's saying something coming from a UF alumni.) The project's mission statement is "... to locate, identify, record, assist in the preservation of, and promote knowledge about the heritage of Florida State University and its predecessor institutions. Students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and friends have expressed this heritage through published, unpublished, audio, and visual materials, memorabilia and ceremonial objects." Former Seminoles are encouraged to participate in this effort.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Old Seminole Heights, New Documentary

Last night was the premiere of "SEMINOLE HEIGHTS: An Intimate Look at the Early Years," a documentary about one of Tampa's historic neighborhoods. Produced by Suzanne Prieur of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and written and directed by Gene Howes of Cigar City Pictures, this 50-minute film played to a sold-out audience at the Tampa Theatre. Yep, sold out. A documentary. About a historic neighborhood. No, it is not a little theater. It's a very involved bunch of people who live in Seminole Heights.

It's a good documentary (and I'm not saying that just because I make a brief appearance). I thought they did a good job of balancing the places and personal stories, and bringing in connections between what was going on in the world at large and what was happening locally. The story moved along at a good speed, and the images were amusing. So, if you get a chance, buy a copy of the DVD -- proceeds will help pay for the next documentary to be produced, covering the years after 1945.

(photos: crowds and marquee at the Tampa Theatre for the premiere of the Seminole Heights documentary, April 17, 2008)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Renewing West Tampa

This weekend was the First Annual Renew Tampa event, highlighting connections between historic preservation and environmental conservation. Part of Renew Tampa was a two-day schedule of speakers and an expo hall of architects and builders, which was held at the historic Berriman-Morgan cigar factory in Tampa (click here for Tampa Tribune's special report on the Berriman Morgan factory, including an interesting interactive graphic of the building and its history). The factory is currently being renovated by Jammal Engineering.

In past decades, after cigars were no longer made within its walls, the Berriman-Morgan factory stood empty. Interstate 275 cut the factory off from the rest of West Tampa, and today the interstate is being widened, bringing the highway right up to the factory lot.

Cigar factories are not heavy industrial sites, and so neighborhoods grew up around them, with houses immediately across the street. It was Old Urbanism, with home, work, school, and stores all within walking distance. Or if not, you could hop on a streetcar to get there. Looking out the windows of the Berriman-Morgan factory, a few remnants of this pattern of development can be seen.

After the event, I drove home, cutting through West Tampa on Howard Avenue. As I passed by Baker & Co., I stopped and turned around and went back. It's an antique / nostalgic general store in a restored historic brick building. They have a tea room for group events, and you can buy rose-scented soap, nickel candy, or bleacher seats from Wrigley Field.

Behind the store is this funny little house, one of a string of similar funny little houses on the block. This is a common pattern in West Tampa, where the entire neighborhood wasn't built at one time by one developer like suburbs are today, but where a small developer or single landowner owned a few city lots and built a few houses using the same design. These then generated rental income, an investment.

Going back to the store's parking lot, this is what you see:

This is the Centro Espanol de West Tampa, built as a branch of the El Centro Espanol in Ybor City, a social club and mutual aid society for Spanish immigrants in Tampa. In recent years, the fate of the Centro Espanol de West Tampa building has been up in the air, but today it is the temporary home of the Tampa Museum of Art. The museum itself has been in the news a good bit, but the short end of it is that the collections are being housed here while a new museum building is being built downtown.

I stopped in, but I hadn't realized the museum closed at 4 on a Saturday. I apologized to the woman at the desk for coming in 10 minutes before closing. That's fine she said, it'll only take you five minutes to go through the gallery anyhow. Oh-kay....
So I went ahead to the gallery, which is around a post and through what looks like a tiled cafeteria. There's lots of white. And the exhibit was mostly pen and ink or charcoal, just occasional color. But it was pretty good, what there was.
Websites showing renovation of Centro Espanol de West Tampa:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Florida News Stories

"The Strawberry Schools" (Tampa Tribune, April 6, 2008): "We started in April and ended in December. The three-month break from January to March was timed for when the strawberries ripened. Children were needed to help pick the crops. On small family farms, everybody had to work to make a living."

"Bring back Jack!" (St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2008): "If we lived in Florida, we'd reach out the back door and pick oranges for breakfast. We'd catch fish in the canal behind the house. Coconuts, Bea! We'll have our own coconut tree!''

"Historic fishing shacks of bygone days" (The News-Press, March 29, 2008): "Norton’s shack — where he fished for mullet and pompano by night and tended nets by day, where he waited for boats to bring food and where he ultimately died — still stands in Pine Island Sound more than 80 years after it was built. "

"The Ghosts of Al Lang" (Tampa Tribune, Special Report) Al Lang Field and Spring Training in St. Petersburg

"Ruth And Gehrig At Home In St. Petersburg" (Tampa Tribune, March 23, 2008) ""I think a lot of people here sit on this rooftop and wonder what was going on back then in those penthouse suites," says Marsha Reynolds, a Flori-de-Leon resident and co-chairman of its Heritage Committee."

"As Kissimmee celebrates its 125th anniversary, its identity is changing" (Orlando Sentinel, March 24, 2008) "But as ranches give way to housing developments, the small community that turns 125 years old this week is struggling with an identity crisis: balancing the cow-town image (and the jokes that come with it) while trying to shift toward a more sophisticated reputation as a cosmopolitan town next to Walt Disney World."

"Flavor of Key West supports a struggling Florida industry" (Herald Tribune, March 16, 2008) "At the Eaton Street Seafood Market in the historic district, a long glass case displayed a who's who of the city's seafood scene: plump piles of pinks (the local shrimp) snuggled next to a yellowtail snapper, a mound of stone crab claws and fresh slabs of grouper."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Old House Lagniappe

For you old house fans, here's a Dutch Colonial Revival cross-gambrel house in downtown Clermont, Florida. That's Lake Minneola in the background. I just happened to be passing by there this weekend, and somethng caught my eye, perhaps the pink!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Amuse Yourselves

Here are some digital resources and collections to browse through over the weekend:

SI Vault: "54 Years of Sports Illustrated History"

Digital Library of the Caribbean: "The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) is a cooperative digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean. dLOC provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections."

George Eastman House: online photographic collections

Making of America: from Cornell University Library

University of Washington Digital Libraries (believe it or not, they have lots of images related to fishing in Florida, and the Keys. Just use "florida" as a keyword for an initial search.)

New York Public Library Digital Gallery: lots of stereoviews of Florida

Digital Library of Georgia

If you find something interesting, please let the rest of us know what it was!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Upper Tampa Bay Park

The Upper Tampa Bay Park offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, from canoeing and fishing to hiking and picnicing. This public park is located at the very northern end of Old Tampa Bay, where Double Branch empties into Mobbly Bay.

Tampa Bay is an estuary, and in Upper Tampa Bay Park you can see this clearly for yourself, from the open bay waters, to the mangroves and marshes, and on up stream to inland creeks. In just a short walk on the Eagle Nature Trail (yes, named appropriately for the birds that live around here), you can experience several different environmental settngs: hardwood hammocks, freshwater marshes, salt barrens, mud flats, saltwater marshes, and mangroves. Shallow waters close to shore teem with young fish, while their larger brethern lurk in deeper waters, dodging the lures and bait of fishermen. Creatures you might encounter include fiddler crabs, deer, bobcats, racoons, snakes, and birds. And lots and lots of lizards rustling in the palmetto leaves.

The park is very well laid out, and manages to combine nature trails, a canoe/kayak launch, a nature center / educational building, picnic pavilions, playground, sand volleyball court, restrooms, and convenient parking without seeming like everone is falling over each other. This is a popular place for school field trips. The nature center includes live animals (turtles, snakes, and a bee hive) as well as interpretive displays. One panel explains how the park came to be, deriving from the 1960s Bay Port Colony development and environmental review of dredge and fill permits (You can click on the photo below for a larger view).

Entry is free, but donations are welcome and are used to pay for improvements such as the canoe launch. Remember to take and use insect repellant to ward off mosquitos and noseeums.