The Street Car Ride - 1908
  History Collection

The Street Car Ride…

_For many years as a Tampa cigar history researcher, I have been meeting with old Tampa residents and all of them tell me stories about the days when the street car was running through the streets of West Tampa to Ybor City . For 53 years the service, provided a way of daily commute to hundred of residents and workers. Entertaintment, social events, religious activities, and hundreds of other minor and major functions attracted a two way flow of people and goods. The serpentine track meandered through the thick brush and tangled swamplands along North Boulevard and Laurel Street, and if a rider was alert, he or she could catch a glimpse of an alligator or snake sunning itself in their habitat. “Before the street carwent into operation, few people braved the crude dirt roads or jungle style paths into the area. To move from Tampa to West Tampa by foot or by horse and buggy meant an adventure of doubtful safety and considerable danger”.

When listening to their stories we are taken back to an imaginary day about 100 years ago, traveling in time, and taking a ride in the street car…let's go...


West Tampa Streetcar No. 51 - ca. 1908


“By the end of the week of August 15, 1906, the Tampa Electric street cars are running from the farthest end of West Tampa to Twenty-Second Street in Ybor”. This article was in the Tampa Tribune 1906. - As you know West Tampa in its broadest sense was usually taken to mean not only the thriving municipality of that name on the west side of the Hillsborough River, but also a narrow strip of territory that lies within the corporate limits of the City of Tampa on the western margin of the Hillsborough River. This city is growing and like Ybor City is devoted to the Cigar Industry.

-Today is a fall day, late November 1908, a very cool morning and we expect a sunny day. It's about 9:00 in the morning, and I'm taking the West Tampa – Ybor City street car, where four cars are in operation by the Sulphur Springs Traction & Street Railway Co. Everyday each car is running on a schedule of 12 minutes. From 5:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night, seven days a week, for a single price of five cents. Today I'm going to the bank, I can see other passengers waiting; they look like cigar makers going to work and others to do their business in town. After a small wait the street car No. 51 arrives with the distinctive the bell sound. I see our conductors today are Mr. James White and Mr. Thomas M. Steuart. They are from New York and Chicago respectively and have a lot of years of experience as conductors.

...After paying the fare we take a seat and the ride start; at this time we are beginning at the Fortune Street Bridge stop, and see to the right of the street car line the large three story brick building which is the factory of Julius Ellinger & Co. at the corner of Green and Garcia Avenue . It opened on June 13, 1893, and was one of the cigar factories of the Havana-American Co., a producer of the choicest clear Havana cigars. This also was the first brick building in West Tampa and was sold later to J.W. Roberts on April 3, 1909. I can see on the left a frame cigar factory F. Garcia Brothers, at the corner of Arch Street and Garcia Avenue . It was opened originally by Barraco, Rico & Co. of Key West in March 25, 1895.

Garcia & Bros. Bldg. ca. 1908

El Arte Cigar Co. - ca. 1908

_ I can see that around these factories are many business, homes, restaurants, and tenements houses. Stretching out westward could be seen rows of houses similar in structures. Many of this are the residence of the cigar makers and families, almost everyone is related to the cigar industry one way or another in this days. As the car speeds westward you can see on the left the O'Halloran & Company, a three story frame cigar factory building, located at the corner of LaSalle Street and Oregon Avenue.In reaching 19th Ave. (Rome) we see a branch of the Atlantic Coast Line Railway, Co.

which provide access to the Port of Tampa . At the end of this line is a warehouse at Main Street & Rome is a depot and storage facility. Now we are passing by the tower tank which belong to the City of Tampa , this was sold last year to Tampa Electric, Co. for the amount of $ 4,000.00 in cash.

Proceeding west we see at the southwest corner of Green Street and Fremont Avenue. , another frame cigar factory, and is El Arte, (before was S&F Fleitas that also came from Key West in 1895). As we go along westward one could see the brick walls of the Berriman Cigar Co. located at the corner of LaSalle Street and Howard Avenue .

As move along we can see another splendid two story brick building, is the Municipal Building , was erected around 1900 at the corner of Albany and Main Street .At this time the Mayor is Mr. Peregrino Rey, of Cuesta Rey Cigar, Co. He is serving the unexpired term of Mayor Francisco Milian since his tragic death months ago. I think Mr. Rey will be elected mayor again, Mayor of West Tampa.

_By September 1908, a lot of progress has been made in the paving of the streets. Now Main Street is paved eastward in the direction of Tampa , where it will meet the paving at Ellinger City . West Tampa authorities are eager to complete the paving project which would form a loop reaching the large cigar factories with better access. This could also be of value in protection against fire, allowing the fire wagon to reach the fires sooner.

It's now November 1908, and West Tampa boasted of having 15 miles of the finest brick paving to be found in the country.


Cuesta Rey Bldg. - ca. 1908

_Now were are back in the street car and at the corner of Walnut St. and Francis Ave. is the building of Bustillo Bros. & Diaz cigar factory. Now we are turning the corner and there is a three story cigar factory of Cuesta-Rey & Co. could be seen at the corner of Howard Ave. and Ponce de Leon St. ( Beech St .) It was erected in 1885 for the Havana-Key West Cigar, Co. which was the second brick factory to be built in West Tampa .

After making the loop we reach Armina Ave. where we can see the factory of Andres Diaz, a four story brick building that was constructed on the corner of Havana Ave. and Kathleen St., completed in May 15, 1908. The Calixto Lopez building took a little more and was completed on September 1, 1908 at the corner of Gomez Ave. and Abdela Street .

A year ago (1907) the factories of Garcia & Vega ( Armina & Katheleen) costing $ 20,000 and Celestino Vega $24,000 were built on Armenia Ave. & Cordelia St. They were constructed of brick three stories high with a cellar.

We are now traveling south on the Armenia Avenue loop, at same distance to the left we can see the new Morgan Cigar, Co. it just opened last year (1907) and they produce the label “Juan De Fuca” that looks is going to be a hot seller. Farther down we pass the factories of L.Sanchez & Co., J.M. Martinez ( May 1905), after a quick stop at each of them we arriving at the A. Santaella & Co.

( March 1904) cigar factory at the corner of Chestnut St. and Armenia Ave., this is an important stop. The cigar factory of A. Santaella & Co. like many of the factories in the Tampa area, shipped large quantities of high grade cigars to san Francisco and the West Coast. In march of 1906 a car load of Optimo cigars were shipped by A. Santaella & Co. to Seattle , Washington and from there to Nome Alaska to be used by the gold miners. The San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906 was a great blow to the cigar industry in Tampa .

...We are now back on the ride at the western end of Chestnut St. were it meets Roosevelt Ave. ( Mc Dill ) And we find the West Tampa Municipal Park ( Macfarlane Park) in the process now of being develop. The park is located five to ten minutes walk from the center of West Tampa; and easily reached by street car. Right now there planting handsome trees and decorative shrubs and flowers. At the present I can see a large force of men for months grading, leveling, removing trees, planting others and trying to completed the construction of the park on time. At this time the park will be named, “ Mac Farland Park .”

Main Street (West Tampa)looking east ca. 1906

_I see that in the middle there creating a pavilion in octagonal shape to accommodate a large number of people. Also a baseball diamond, bandstand, tennis court and other attractions will be added to the park. When completed it is going to be great.

_Continuing the loop that takes us to the main intersection of the city, Howard Ave, and Main St. , we find a row of business establishments, some branch houses of local companies from Tampa and Ybor. As far as I can see, where the factories are, the street car follows, at this rate within a year this ride be longer. The production of cigars had increased and real estate is booming, and the work market is high. The basic language across the cities (West Tampa & Ybor) is Spanish, but I see an increse in the number of Italians and Afro-Americans in the last few years moving to the area. In February 19, 1906 the Bank of West Tampa opened for business, (in the corner of Howard Ave. & Main St .) which if you recall is my stop. The blooming city of West Tampa is considered the most prosperous in the state, is a peaceful and law abiding city an ideal area to live and work. Next time I would take you on a ride to the east side of the river, to Ybor City.

_Well my stop is coming and this will end our ride in our street car tour through a city that has achieved a phenomenal growth and prosperity. Now the street cars are no more, but they are not forgotten….don't you think.



Reference: Tampa Tribune (1908) - Florida Historical Society & "Cuidad de Cigars" - Westampa by A. Mendez

Top__.___Street Car Route Map.........West Tampa Time-line



Trademark & copyrights reserved©GHC -1995 - 2016