I have lived in Tampa know for over 20 years and I had yet to get down to visit the Ybor City Museum State Park. This part of Tampa oozes with history! The buildings and the streets always remind you of it wonderful past. We decided to make it a girls day out and my friends Valerie and Marylou joined me in a day of discovery.
Of course a trip to Ybor is not complete without a meal at the Columbia Restaurant. The Columbia “is” Tampa history. Open since 1905 the Columbia is one of only 50 restaurants in the USA chosen as an All-American Icon. A visit to the Columbia is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Ornate hand painted tiles and exquisite iron works is seen throughout the building, inside as well as outside. Before lunch we stopped in the gift store so I could get a bottle of my favorite “1905 Dressing” and visited with the fella hand-rolling cigars.
Lunch was AMAZING as usual, we all tasted a bit of each others to see whose was best... no winners, all were wonderful! Marylou told us stories of many meals spent here in the past visiting with Cesar and listening to him stroll around with a violin many years ago.After lunch it was time to walk off some calories. Historical markers in front of the restaurant reminded us of the Krewe of the Knights of Saint Yago(the restaurant is their headquarters) and of the passing of the Rough Riders at that intersection in 1898. There are at least 8 other historical markers in walking distance from this spot!
We drove the short couple of blocks over to the Ybor City Museum State Park to experience a piece of the rich cultural heritage of Ybor City, one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida. The Museum is located in the 1923-era Ferlita Bakery. There is a wonderful journey through Tampa’s Cigar history on exhibit through the building. There is a short video I suggest you see prior to taking the walking tour. Here you will also find architectural drawings of some of Tampa’s most recognizable historic buildings, the ovens from the original bakery, a recreation of a cigar factory, and many collectible cigar boxes and artwork. Exhibit is very well done and full of information for all ages! Outdoors there is a lush Mediterranean-style garden and the “casita,” representative of a typical cigar-worker’s family home. You can tour the home and see it nearly as it was when it was occupied.
Across from the gardens you will find Ybor Centennial Park and the site of the first city-owned fire department (then the site of the Italian section of the city). In the park you will see the Immigrant Statue depicting a family.It is very heartwarming and thought provoking. Many came from Germany, Cuba, Italy, and Spain to have an opportunity to raise their families in a land that was free.
It had been a wonderful day of learning about Tampa’s history. Wonderful food and companionship made the day perfect. If you get a chance take a stroll through Ybor one sunny afternoon. You will find yourself going back in time to a simpler age and smiling.
For more information on Ybor City please visit: http://www.ybor.org/
Interested in learning more about the Real Florida? Check us out at www.notaclueadventures.com. We would love to show you around!
For additional photos from our trip please click here