"The story of the other city"
 
 

 

 

Hugh C. Mc Farlane

 

 

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West Tampa City Seal

 

 

 

 

Blas O'Halloran

(7th Mayor of West Tampa )

 

 

 

O'Halloran Cigar, Co.

 

 

 

 

George N. Benjamin

(2nd Mayor of West Tampa)

 

 

 

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___It was, in brief, a city that was conceived, flourished and grew, and passed out of existence in twenty-nine years. Paradoxically, while the city can still be found, it is no longer theoretically, a city.

___With such preamble, we proceed to briefly outline the story of the other city, West Tampa. The beginnings was April 22, 1892 when a parcel of land owned by Hugh C. Mac Farlane was surveyed and platted. The land was two blocks wide and five blocks long and from here West Tampa emerged.

The man behind the dream ...

___But who was Hugh Campbell Mc Farlane, little is know about his childhood. Some sources maintain that he born in Grosomylouf, as suburb of Glasgow, Scotland, while others insist that he was born in Pollock Shaws, Roenfroshire, England. It is generally accepted, however, that his date of birth was December 28, 1851. The son of James D. Mc Farlane and Ann Campbell. In 1865, when Hugh was fourteen, his family immigrated to Fall Rivers, Massachusetts were he completed his early education. By 1870 his family moved to Stearns County, Minnesota, then he enrolled in St. John's College in St. Paul. Later he returned to Massachusetts, and enrolled in the Boston University of Law. After graduation, he established a law practice in his old home town of Fall River.

___Marrige and parenthood quickly followed. He married a "Miss Brown", and soon thereafter a son, James, was born. This was an unhappy married, and soon broke up. After his divorce, Mac Farlane dissolve his legal practice, and moved to New Orleans. After less than a year and for unknown reasons in March 1884 he decide to moved to the Gulf Coast's and to the boom new town, Tampa. Tampa and Mc Farlane perfectly matched. His youth and sense of adventure ideally suited the raw frontier town as it slowly took on the veneer of sophistication that the growth, fueled by Henry Bradley Plant's railroad and the nascent cigar industry, demanded. At the time the city welcomed newcomers who could contribute its progress, and Hugh Mc Farlane easily accommodated himself and bustle of this"New South City".

___During the first two years he was active as a defense attorney in several sensational murder cases and apprised his considerable skill in persuading jurors to see his client's points of view. He was very active in 1885 and joined the just created Board of Trade and served as a publicist for the city. His association with prominent Tampans produce considerable benefits, and in 1886, The Tampa Tribune announced his appointment as City Attorney. During this time, he entered the social and economical life of the city with a zeal. He married a few years later a local bell, Francis I. Pettingill. Later the couple became parents to a son, Howard, and a daughter, Mary. His first son James, was a frequents visitor in the Mc Farlane household and eventually moved to Tampa permanently in 1906. He was years later mayor of Tampa.

___Mc Farlane saw a tremendous potential in Tampa's economic growth. He saw real estate transactions as the fastest way to acquire great wealth. On November 27, 1886, less than two years after his arrival, John Alexander Graham, a resident of Manatee County, sold him 120 acres of swampland located west of the Hillsborough River for $ 2,000 dollars. The same parcel six month early had been sold for a paltry $120 dollars. The physical markers of this parcel were from Spruce St. in the north to Laurel in the south and was bounded by Ysmael Avenue (Armina/Armenia) on the west and Gasper (Albany) on the east. Pino Avenue (Howard Avenue) split the property from north to south, and Main Street split it again east to west. The timing was perfect, it coincided with the rise of the cigar industry in Ybor City, and the constant flow of Cuban and Spanish immigrants into the area. Shortly after that the city of West Tampa was conceived, but a great deal of time, labor, and money was needed before it would be born. One of the major problems to face in creating a viable town was the its access to the railroads and port terminals which funneled people and raw tobacco into the city. The Hillsborough River was a barrier that had to be bridged, and Mc Farlane intended to do just that. It cost $30,000 dollars the new iron draw bridge, and was completed in 1893 in eighteen months of construction and it was called the Fortune Street Bridge. Was then that the develop of West Tampa pick up steam. The commercial district centered around the intersection of Main Street and Pino Avenue (Howard Avenue).

The dream comes true ...

---Many early commercial buildings soon rose along the axis of this major streets, and the city's public buildings followed suit. The most popular street proof to be Pino Avenue (Howard Avenue), for cigar factories, such as the one owned by Del Pino Brothers. At the time Mc Farlane was offering to construct buildings and to donate land for the cigar factories to those proprietors who might want to establish their businesses in the new city. Was then that Antonio Del Pino arrived about that time, the first to accept his offer.

__Which was the first cigar factory of West Tampa; the first cigar was made on July 15, 1892. Mac Farlane and his associates convince the Del Pino brothers to move their factory from Key West to West Tampa. But persuading manufacturers to come to a new town was not an easy task, particularly when other areas nearby had already been established. A year later the factory of the Del Pino Brothers was closed, problems to get workers and raw materials, and economical problems were consider the reasons. By April 30, 1894 the O'Halloran Cigar, Co. also from Key West, occupied the factory building. (This building burn in October 3, 1901) In this case the company found a ready labor force and workers were lure to the city. The reason was that Mc Farlane constructed housing that could be rented or purchased with a small down payment & generous financing terms. To connect Tampa with the City of West Tampa the Fortune Bridge was built. By 1895 the population of West Tampa grown to 3,500 and 30 factories while there were only 18 factories in Ybor City. The city grew prospered from 1895 to 1925; at one point there were over 190 factories in full operation. From his incorporation on May 18, 1895, stood as a municipality for 29 years. Cubans, Spanish, Italian, and Anglos were elected to office and had a voice in the development of the city. The first mayor of West Tampa was Fernando Figueredo (1895-1896).

___The cigar industry brought an industrial army of 20,000 people who earn and spend in Tampa over 12 millions dollars every year, and her growth during that period create that there was not a vacant store or office to be found. The village of West Tampa converted to a city, and occupied now 10 square miles. West Tampa was known as the "Home of the Clear Havana Cigar. With top manufacturers names such as Bustillo Bros., Antonio Santaella, Cuesta & Rey, Leopold Powell, Lopez & Hermanos, Celestino Vega, Gonzalez & Fisher, Garcia & Vega, Andres Diaz, Pendas & Alvarez, Balbin Brothers, W.T. Morgan and hundreds more.

___By 1924 Mc Farlane and West Tampa officials agreed that the time had come to join forces with the City of Tampa; and an annexation proposal was agreed to by the two municipalities; which came in effect on January 1st. 1925. Hugh C. Mc Farlane said: " We have transform this swampland to a humming, buzzing& prosperous center for years to come. There have been two cities for 30 years, but always the intentions have been one. But over all we need to thank those cigar workers, because they made this possible. Thanks to the cigar industry".

___There were others prominent men and women who were important part in the development of West Tampa among them, George Nelson Benjamin, Phillip Collins, John Higley Drew, Alonzo Charles Clewis & Hugh Brady. And with Mr. Hugh C.McFarlane are consider by historians the forefront fathers of the city...the other city, West Tampa.

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Reference: "A City Made to Fit an Opportunity" by Arcenio M. Sanchez - 1995. Also extract from the Vol.2 of the West Tampa Centenial Magazine - 1995 - "Ciudad Cigars" Armando Mendez - 1994 - "Once Upon a Time in Tampa" - W. Reyes, Ph.D.

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09-18-2015