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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Cigar workers at turn of century
Turn-of-the-century cigar factory in Ybor City. Courtesy: Special Collections Library, University of South Florida

Ybor City Historical Site

In spasms of prosperity and bust, immigration and Americanization, New Age punk and Old World spunk, Ybor City, a colorful section of the City of Tampa, has fluctuated wildly from the years of revolution and labor unrest in the 1890s to decades of war and out-migration in the 1940s to urban renewal and decline in the 70s, to a burst of revitalization in the 90s. Change is the only constant in Ybor City history.

The founding of Ybor City in 1885 signaled a new era for Tampa. The infusion of capital and labor into Tampa's slumbering economy following the opening of the railroad in 1884 galvanized the city. In particular, Cuban cigar makers served in the vanguard of the great trek to Ybor City; over 3,000 Cubans had settled in Ybor City by 1900, making Ybor City synonymous with the finest Cuban cigars.

The Great Depression eroded Ybor City's hold on the premium cigar trade, and saw the Americanization of the children of immigrants. World War II marked the watershed of Ybor City. When hundreds of young Latin Americans returned from military service, they abandoned Ybor City and used their G.I. Bill benefits to move into the new suburbs of West Tampa. As the Latinos moved out, African-Americans moved in. Ybor City became a case study of turbulent urban renewal. Nearly 1,000 families were displaced during a massive urban renewal in the 1960s, and Ybor City continued to languish during the 70s. But an influx of investment capital during the past two decades has spurred rehabilitation of old buildings. Today Ybor City has become Tampa Bay's great public space. Project documentation includes a report and photographs.

Originally submitted by: Jim Davis, Representative (11th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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