CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA
HERITAGE AND HISTORY

Central West Florida heritage and history begins with the early native Americans who dwelled in the area 12,000 years ago.  Most of these ancient tribes disappeared after the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500's.

Central West Florida History

Florida history is full of articles about Henry Flagler and his extension of the Florida East Coast Railway from St. Augustine all the way down to Key West.  Henry Plant is not as well known to Florida history, but he had a similar impact on the development in this other coast of Florida and he is an important part of Central West Florida heritage and history.

Tampa was a small fishing village on the Hillsborough River when Plant's railroad came to town in the 1880's.  He built the Tampa Bay Hotel between 1888 and 1891. The hotel was designed to surpass all other grand winter resorts. At a cost of $3 million, the 511-room giant rose to a flamboyant height of five stories, surrounded by ornate Victorian gingerbread and topped by Moorish minarets, domes and cupolas.

During the Spanish American War, the U.S. Army used the facilities as a staging area for the invasion of Cuba. Among the soldiers who stayed there was future American president Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.  Florida history and American history quite often intersect like this.

The Tampa Bay Hotel is now the home of the University of Tampa and the visible centerpiece of Central West Florida heritage .

In addition to Tampa, Central West Florida heritage and history includes the populated areas of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota. This region of Florida has 8 counties, ranging from rural Desoto County to Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. Some of these are the most rural and culturally southern areas remaining in the state.

It is also known as the western part of the I-4 Corridor. Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach are all growing toward each other along this corridor. Some day it will probably all resemble one big city just as south Florida does along I-95 from West Palm Beach to south of Miami.

Central West Florida is a very urban region with large populations in Tampa and St. Petersburg. With Busch Gardens in Tampa and with Orlando only an hour or less away, this area is also a rival to Miami and Orlando in the Florida tourism industry.  Like Central Florida, the region also has vast agricultural operations. Groves and farms predominate in the eastern part of the region away from the coast.

Central West Florida heritage is culturally diverse. The northern and eastern counties are rural and more southern. Brooksville has a statue of a confederate soldier in front of the City Hall. Cowboys with Stetson hats and hand rolled cigarettes can still be found around town in Arcadia.

Central West Florida heritage in Tampa includes the Cuban cigar industry that flourished here more than 100 years ago. Ybor City, named after Cuban cigar king Vicente Martinez Ybor, is a working neighborhood with fine lodging and restaurants.

The southern part of Central West Florida -Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice - is culturally more like the American midwest than the rest of Florida. Cattle and farm fields sprawl across the landscape.

Before the interstate highways, US-41 fed transplants into west coast Florida from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota. Their New England counterparts took US-1 down the east coast to Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

My grandparents retired to Venice in 1962. They drove down from Indiana in their beat up 1953 Chevy BelAir. US-41 was the way they came. I guess my Hoosier grandparents were part of Florida history. I guess we all are because the State has changed so fast and most of us Floridians are from someplace else.

Until recent years, it was rare to hear a New York or Boston brogue in Central West or Southwest Florida. That all changed after the completion of I-75 and I-95. The completion of those major interstate highways made it easier for people up north to escape the snow and drive to either coast.

The New England brogue is now showing up in Central West Florida. The Midwestern twang is also now more common in East Central and Southeast Florida than before the new interstate highways. Florida has always been the melting pot of the United States. That is the Central West Florida heritage as well.

Fishing is a Central West Florida heritage that binds people together from all parts of the world. Each region of Florida has its own best fishing spots, both fresh and salt water. The beach communities west of St. Pete are staging points for a lot of great charter fishing.

Central West Florida Heritage Sites

Here is a list of 225 Central West Florida heritage sites listed by county. The County Seat is also listed.  Here's a neat trick for you:  highlight any of the sites below, then right click and it will take you to the site's webpage on the internet.

CITRUS: Inverness

  1. Crystal River Archaeological State Park
  2. Crystal River Indian Mounds
  3. Fort Cooper
  4. Fort Cooper State Park
  5. Historic Hernando School
  6. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
  7. Museum of Citrus County History - Old City Hall
  8. The Old Courthouse Heritage Museum
  9. Withlacoochee Trail State Park
  10. Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins
  11. Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

DESOTO: Arcadia

  1. Arcadia Historic District

HERNANDO: Brooksville

  1. May-Stringer Heritage Museum
  2. South Brooksville Avenue Historic District

HILLSBOROUGH: Tampa

  1. 22nd Street South Redevelopment Corp.
  2. Alafia River State Park
  3. American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship
  4. Bay Isle Commercial Building
  5. Camp Bayou Nature Preserve
  6. Centro Asturiano de Tampa
  7. Cigar Maker's House Museum
  8. Cracker Country at the Florida State Fairgrounds
  9. Downtown Plant City Commercial District
  10. Downtown Plant City Historic Residential District
  11. Egmont Key State Park
  12. El Centro Espanol of Tampa
  13. El Circulo Cubano de Tampa
  14. El Pasaje Building
  15. Federal Building US Courthouse
  16. Floridan Hotel
  17. Fort Foster
  18. Glover School Site
  19. Grand Central District
  20. Hampton Terrace Historic District
  21. Hillsborough River State Park
  22. Hillsborough State Bank Building
  23. Historic Turkey Creek High School
  24. Hutchinson House
  25. Hyde Park Historic Districts
  26. Kress Building
  27. Little Manatee River State Park
  28. Main Street Zephyrhills, Inc.
  29. Masonic Temple # 25
  30. North Franklin Street Historic District
  31. North Plant City Residential District
  32. Old Lutz Elementary School
  33. Old Schoolhouse
  34. Old Tampa Free Public Library
  35. Old Union Depot Hotel
  36. Pioneer Village Museum
  37. Plant City High School Community Center
  38. Plant City Union Depot
  39. Plant Hall at University of Tampa
  40. Quintilla Geer Bruton Archives Center
  41. Ruskin Women's Club
  42. Seminole Heights Residential District
  43. St. James House of Prayer Episcopal Church
  44. Standard Oil Service Station
  45. Taliaferro House
  46. Tampa Bay History Center
  47. Tampa City Hall
  48. Tampa Heights Historic District
  49. Tampa Police Memorial
  50. Tampa Theatre
  51. Tampania House
  52. Union Railroad Station
  53. West Tampa Historic District
  54. William E. Curtis House
  55. Ybor City Historic District
  56. Ybor City Main Street
  57. Ybor City Museum State Park
  58. Ybor Factory Building

MANATEE: Bradenton

  1. Anna Maria Island Historical Museum
  2. Beth Salem
  3. Braden Castle Park Historic District
  4. Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway
  5. Bradenton Carnegie Library
  6. Cortez Historic District
  7. De Soto National Memorial
  8. Family Heritage House
  9. First Manatee County Courthouse
  10. Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum, Inc.
  11. Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
  12. Lake Manatee State Park
  13. Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site
  14. Manatee Village Historic Park
  15. Midway Subdivision Historic District
  16. Palmetto Historic District
  17. Portavant Temple Mound at Emerson Point Park
  18. Robert Gamble House/ Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial
  19. Seagate
  20. Shaw's Point Archaeological District
  21. South Florida Museum
  22. Whitfield Estates -- Broughton Street Historic District
  23. Whitfield Estates Lantana Avenue Historic District
  24. Women's Club of Palmetto

PASCO: Dade City

  1. Amtrack Station
  2. Baker House Museum
  3. Church Street Historic District
  4. Downtown Dade City Main Street
  5. Greater New Port Richey Main Street, Inc.
  6. Hacienda Hotel
  7. Jeffries House
  8. Pasco Fine Arts Council and Center
  9. Pioneer Florida Museum and Village
  10. St. Leo Abbey Historic District
  11. Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park
  12. West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library
  13. Zephyrhills Depot Museum
  14. Zephyrhills Downtown Historic District

PINELLAS: Clearwater

  1. Alexander Hotel
  2. Anclote Key Lighthouse
  3. Anclote Key State Park
  4. Andrews Memorial Chapel
  5. Arcade Hotel
  6. Belleview-Biltmore Hotel
  7. Boone House
  8. Caladesi Island State Park
  9. City Hall and Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center
  10. City Hall Annex
  11. Clearwater Main Street Joint Venture
  12. Cleveland Street Post Office
  13. County Courthouse and Administration Building
  14. Don Ce Sar Resort and Spa
  15. Downtown Largo Main Steet Association
  16. Duchess
  17. Dunedin Historical Society
  18. First United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg
  19. Florida Holocaust Museum
  20. Florida International Museum
  21. Fort De Soto Batteries
  22. George N. Cretekos
  23. Green-Richman Arcade
  24. Gulfport Historical Museum
  25. Harbor Oaks Residential District
  26. Historic Sunken Gardens
  27. Honeymoon Island State Park
  28. John C. Williams House
  29. Johnson Building
  30. Jungle Prada Mound Park
  31. Kelly Hotel
  32. Louis Ducros House
  33. Moccasin Lake Nature Park
  34. Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopalian Church
  35. N.K. Symi
  36. Old Belleair Town Hall
  37. Old Palm Harbor Main Street
  38. Old Tarpon Springs City Hall
  39. Palm Harbor Historical Museum
  40. Panama Canal Museum
  41. Pass-a-Grille Historic District
  42. Pinellas County Historical Museum
  43. Renaissance Vinoy Resort
  44. Roser Park Historic District
  45. S.H. Kress and Co. Building
  46. Safety Harbor Mound at Philippe Park
  47. Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History
  48. Safford House
  49. Science Center of Pinellas County
  50. Snell Arcade
  51. South Ward School
  52. St. Nicholas III
  53. St. Nicholas VI
  54. St. Petersburg High School
  55. St. Petersburg Lawn Bowling Club
  56. St. Petersburg Museum of History
  57. St. Petersburg Public Library
  58. St. Petersburg Woman's Club
  59. Studebaker Building
  60. Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks at Dodecanese Blvd
  61. U.S. Open Air Post Office
  62. Union Academy
  63. Weedon Island Preserve

SARASOTA: Sarasota

  1. African American Culture Center
  2. American National Bank Building
  3. Appleby Building
  4. Armada Road Multi Family District
  5. Bay Haven School of Basics Plus
  6. Bee Ridge Woman's Club
  7. Belle Haven Executive Suites
  8. Blackburn Point Bridge
  9. Burns Court Historic District
  10. Ca' d'Zan - John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
  11. Caples'-Ringlings' Estates Historic District
  12. Christy Payne Mansion
  13. City Waterworks
  14. Colson School of Art
  15. Crisp Building
  16. Crowley Museum and Nature Center
  17. DeMarcay Hotel
  18. Dr. C.B. Wilson House
  19. Eagle Point Historic District
  20. Edgewood Historic District
  21. El Patio Hotel
  22. F.A. DeCanizares House
  23. Florida Studio Theatre
  24. H.B. William House
  25. Harding Circle Historic District
  26. Historic Spanish Point
  27. Indian Mound Park
  28. Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
  29. Johnson Schoolcraft Building
  30. Lemon Bay Woman's Club
  31. Miakka Schoolhouse
  32. Municipal Auditorium - Recreation Club
  33. Myakka River State Park
  34. Oscar Scherer State Park
  35. Osprey Archaeological and Historic Site
  36. Osprey School
  37. Phillippi Estate Park
  38. Rigby's La Plaza Historic District
  39. S.H. Kress Building
  40. Sarasota County Courthouse
  41. Sarasota Herald Building
  42. Sarasota High School
  43. Sarasota Opera House
  44. Sarasota Times Building
  45. Southside Elementary School
  46. U.S. Post Office - Federal Building
  47. Venezia Park Historic District
  48. Venice Archives and Area Historical Collection
  49. Venice Main Street, Inc.
  50. Warm Mineral Springs
  51. Worth's Block

You can learn more about these Central West Florida heritage sites by cutting and pasting into a Google search box.  Learn more about Tampa History on our website.

Much of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at Amazon.com.

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