The Tampa Bay History Center offers guided walking tours of some of Tampa’s most historic sites and neighborhoods. Follow along on a recent docent-led tour of the once thriving African American business district along Central Avenue. The neighborhood is now home to ENCORE! Tampa, an urban designed community built around a musical theme in honor of the area's rich African American history.
A recent Tampa Bay History Center-led tour started in Central Tampa on a cool Saturday morning in the Urban Lux shopping Center at Tampa Park Plaza, one of the last Black-owned shopping centers in what was once known as the Harlem of Tampa. Photos by Janine Quarles
Tour guide Ersula Odom-McLemore gives some background on the history of the area while standing in front of African Extravanganza, a local Black-owned market for African fashion accessories, arts, crafts, books, and other novelty items. Photos by Janine Quarles
Just past Nuccio Parkway in an African American neighborhood formerly known as Central Park Village, the tour guide points out the Jackson House, a former black-owned boarding home that hosted famous performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. Photos by Janine Quarles
The tour stops at an area called The Scrub during the late 1860-1880s. The scrub-palmetto landscape, later known as Central Park Village, housed the families of African-American domestic workers, factory workers, skilled laborers, and their families. Photos by Janine Quarles
Remnants of The Scrub remain as tourists learn about the many uses of the “cabbage palmetto.” The hard bark could be used for building structures, the palms for strengthening and binding structures, and inside, a spaghetti-like plant that is edible. Photos by Janine Quarles
The main event of the walking tour is Perry Harvey, Sr. Park, which chronicles the journey of African Americans in Tampa as they pursued education, religion, entrepreneurship and economic advancement, arts and culture, and Civil Rights. Photos by Janine Quarles
Tour guide Ersula Odom-McLemore stops in front of the Gateway Sculptures by artist James Simon and prepares to lead the group through the park. Photos by Janine Quarles
LIFETILES and real, moving images by Rufus Butler Seder tell the story of events over time starting during the era of Reconstruction and moving through the Civil Rights Era. Photos by Janine Quarles
Leader’s Row is a walk-through exhibit that details the Central Avenue business district layout and leaders. Photos by Janine Quarles
Henry Joyner was Central Avenue Business District’s last business owner, closing his doors to The Cotton Club in 1974. Photos by Janine Quarles
Perry Harvey Sr. was a local labor leader who organized the International Longshoremen’s Association 1402, which was known for improving working conditions for longshoremen, and also advocated for education for African American children. Photos by Janine Quarles
Ending on North Scott Street, the tour stops at the original home of Allen AME Church, chartered in Ybor City on Seventh Avenue in 1891 and moved to Scott Street in the early 1900s. Its current location is in Ybor City on North Lowe Street. Photos by Janine Quarles
St. Peter Claver Catholic School is named after the Spanish Jesuit priest known as the patron saint of slaves. The original school built by nuns on Morgan Street opened on Feb. 12, 1894, and was burned down 10 days later by opponents. Photos by Janine Quarles
Last original homes from the The Scrub. Photos by Janine Quarles
Timeline Pavers narrate past to present, detailing factors like Urban Renewal that assisted in the destruction of the Central Avenue Business district and gentrification of a historically African American neighborhood. Photos by Janine Quarles
For more information and to sign up for a tour, visit the Walking Tours page
on the Tampa Bay History Center website.
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