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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

An Unforgettable Journey in Tampa & Ybor City


Second floor of the Cuban Club, built in 1917.

Our Insider's Tour: Tampa wrapped up last Saturday after three days of exploring, discovery and fun. For those of you who weren't able to join us, here's a recap of the tour's highlights!

Clockwise from top left: Cuban Club Foundation President Patrick Manteiga, Florida Trust CEO & President Melissa Wyllie, Dr. Gary Mormino, historian and author Sarah McNamara and Preserve the 'Burg Executive Director Manny Leto.

Welcome Reception

The tour began with a welcome reception at the majestic Circulo Cubano or Cuban Club, built in 1917 as a community center for immigrants of Cuban descent. The building was designed by Tampa architect M. Leo Elliott and added to the National Register in 1972.


Participants had to the opportunity to hear from the Cuban Club Foundation's President and publisher of the newspaper La Gaceta Patrick Manteiga and learn about Tampa's history and architecture by famed historian and author Dr. Gary Mormino.


Tour of Ybor City

Preserve the 'Burg Executive Director Manny Leto led next morning's tour of Ybor City. He talked about the city's beginnings, the first Cuban exiles and the towering figure of José Martí, the boom brought by cigar manufacturing and subsequent bust of the 1930s, Ybor City's preservation and redevelopment to this day and much more.


Manny Leto talks about José Martí and the early days of Ybor City.
The cigar vault at El Reloj.

J.C. Newman Cigar Factory

At the next stop, participants explored El Reloj, a historic cigar factory owned and operated by J.C. Newman company. Highlights included visiting the cigar vault where Cuban tobacco and antique boxes filled with hand-rolled cigars are kept, learning about cigar production, handling tobacco leaves and witnessing master hand-rollers at work.

The Scrub

The tour continued at the Scrub, Tampa's historic African American neighborhood, where participants visited St. James Episcopal Church, founded in 1895, and the Johnson brothers' homes, the only traditional shotgun houses that survived after urban renewal moved into the area in the 1950s.

St. James Episcopal Church.

The Johnson brothers' homes.

University of Tampa and H.B. Plant Hall Museum

H. B. Plant's 1898 hotel now houses the University of Tampa and the H. B. Plant Hall Musem.

The following day began with a tour of the University of Tampa and H. B. Plant Hall Museum, which originally served as H. B. Plant's luxurious 1898 hotel, built to cater to the passengers of his steamboats and railroads. Representatives from Rowe Architects and Specialized Services Group, who have worked extensively to preserve and restore the building, joined the tour to share their experiences and answer questions on preservation and restoration methods, tools and techniques.


Aboard a water taxi to Armature Works

View of Tampa's waterfront from the water taxi.

Hopping on a water taxi, the participants experienced Tampa's waterfront and its glittering waters in the summer sun before landing at Armature Works, the 1910 Tampa Electric’s streetcar warehouse turned mixed-use event space. A great example of preservation and adaptive use, Armature Works houses an extensive food court, where the Insider's Tour group enjoyed lunch.



Farewell at Columbia Restaurant.

A farewell at Columbia Restaurant

The tour ended on a bright note with a farewell dinner at the 1905 Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. After a delightful dinner, drinks and desert, it was time to say goodbye.


Farewells are always bittersweet, but we're cheered up with plans for the next tour - and we're looking forward to seeing all our friends again next year! Thank you to everyone who joined us for this fun adventure!





We are grateful to the sponsors who made this event possible:




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