Walking Tours Explore Downtown Tampa's History

Tampa's lively, diverse, sometimes illicit past is explored this month (April) during walking tours.

The tours are part of the Tampa Downtown Partnership's Do the Local Motion Program, which hosts regular walking tours of downtown Tampa. The historical piece is led by University of South Florida graduate students as part of an Urban Public History course.

The first tour on April 6 unveiled Tampa's illicit past, taking walkers past sites where Charlie Wall, the undisputed king of Tampa’s mob world ran underground operations for three decades.

On April 12 the theme is mid-century shopping. Walkers will take a stroll down Franklin Street and explore the sites where department stores and other shops thrived in the 1950s.  

In the Line of Duty on April 19 takes a look at the historical role of military and civil service monuments in public spaces. The walk covers Morgan Street and Madison Street while discovering plaques, statues and other monuments such as the Confederate soldier in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

The final tour, Frontier Tampa on April 26, begins with the founding of Fort Brooke in 1824 and traces the diverse racial, ethnic and social classes that helped grow the city. Sites include Indian mounds and early saloons, billiard halls, government buildings and an opera house.

The project gets students out of the classroom and provides hands-on skill development. Barbara Berglund, associate professor and associate chair for the USF Department of History, likens it to writing a seminar paper in a traditional history course. The tours have a story line, supporting evidence and research, but are conducted in real time and space using built environments. "It’s really helped them hone their analytical skills," says Berglund.

All tours are free and open to the public. The tours meet in Gaslight Square Park in Downtown Tampa, and take place from noon to 1 pm.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Barbara Berglund, USF Department of History

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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