WHAT'S IN A NAME - Brorein Street and Bridge, Downtown Tampa

 

 
Brorein Street and the bridge over the Hillsborough River are named in honor of Carl D. Brorein Sr., (1895-1973), former president of the Peninsular Telephone Company.  The phone company was founded by Carl Brorein's uncle, William G.  Brorein.

The bridge was completed in July of 1959.


Carl David Brorein, Sr.


Brorein Street bridge construction, 1958

The new bridge allowed Tampa planners to make the Platt St. bridge one-way into downtown and Brorein St. one-way out of downtown.  The pirate ship Jose Gaspar made its last trip up the Hillsborough River and through the Brorein St. drawbridge in 1974.  In 1975, the South Crosstown Expressway fixed bridge over the river was built in between the Platt St. and Brorein St. bridges, and did not afford enough clearance for the Gaspar to pass.

 

 

William Gebhard Brorein

For over half a century, William G. Brorein was one of the most prominent characters in the development of Tampa, and a recognized leader in all matters pertaining to its moral and social standing, as well as public progress. During his time, in addition to the duties of conducting the affairs of Tampa's most extensive public utility enterprise, he was a leader of nearly every organization conducted for the general public welfare.

One of the most influential and valuable citizens of Tampa, W.G. Borein was a son of Gebhard and Sophia (Gracely) Brorein. He was one of several children, born on a farm near Marion, Ohio, on October 30, 1861. When he was five his parents moved from there to Logan, Auglaize County, Ohio, where they resided during his boyhood and where he helped to clear his father's farm while attending the district school during the winter. In the spring and summer of 1879, he attended the Ohio Norman University at Ada, after which he taught during the winter and attended the summer terms of that school until 1883, when he was elected superintendent of the Cridersville schools, a position he held for three years. During his residence at Cridersville he held his first office, being elected a member of the village council.  In 1886 he went into the mercantile business with  W. H. Butcher at Buckland, Ohio, where he engaged in general merchandising, manufacturing and the oil business until 1901.  On October 29, 1883, Brorein married Sarah E. Butcher at Wapakoneta, Ohio, and they had one daughter, Edna. 

Bronze bust of W.G. Brorein
W.G. Brorein, Notable Citizen of Florida, Founder Peninsular Telephone Company and its President since its inception, 1929
(1929 refers to the date of the bust.)

 

 

Brorein was three times elected clerk of Logan township, and when the village of Buckland was incorporated in 1892, was elected the first Mayor, receiving every vote cast.  He was reelected the following year, but resigned upon being elected to the Ohio General Assembly, having received the nomination by his party without opposition.  He served as a Representative in the Ohio Legislature (1893-1897), State Senator representing the 32nd District in the Ohio Legislature (1897-1901), and in 1895 was appointed by the Legislature a member of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition at Omaha.  Marion, Ohio was also the home of President Warren G. Harding, with whom Brorein would become a close personal friend, having served in the Ohio Legislature.   While in the Senate he served with President Harding, then in the Ohio Senate, being elected president pro-tem while Harding, as Lieutenant Governor, was president of the Senate.  Brorein was made chairman of the Public Works committee, and a member of the finance and other committees.  He took an active part in securing the passage of the bill partially abolishing capital punishment, and was the author of the bill enacted into law amending the general township school laws.  During the legislature career he not only took active interest in general legislation, but carefully looked after the interests of his county and district.

 

W.G. Brorein, circa 1910


 
W.G. BROREIN COMES TO TAMPA

It was about the time of the expiration of this period of service in the Ohio State Assembly that he learned of the growing importance of south Florida and perceived the possibilities of the development of the telephone interests of Tampa and Southwest Florida.  Up to that time, the industry was almost completely neglected, with only a few small exchanges and substantially no toll line service south of Jacksonville. The principal exchange that operated in Southwest Florida was that of the Bell Company at Tampa, with some 300 old-fashioned telephones in service. Brorein made a personal investigation of conditions in Tampa and the surrounding vicinity, and stirred the interest of some of his Ohio friends regarding the organization of a telephone company in Tampa.


Peninsular Telephone Co. employees, 1906

In early 1901, Brorein procured in the name of himself and his associates, a franchise for the installation and operation of a telephone system in the City of Tampa. The result was the formation of Peninsular Telephone Company.  He returned to Ohio and enlisted capital among the local friends who had learned to repose confidence in his integrity and business judgment during his years of business activity in their midst, and investing along with them the greater part of his personal holdings, he adopted Tampa as his home.

   

 

 

At the time, many thought that the powerful Bell monopoly would quickly absorb the newly formed, independent Peninsular Telephone Co.  In the beginning, there was a hard fight, but Brorein won the fight with a surprising outcome.  Brorein's Peninsular Telephone soon bought out the giant Bell Company and took over the entire Tampa service, not only developing the local system but also the long distance system with operations in Tampa, Bartow, Sarasota, Mulberry, Plant City, Bradenton, Winter Haven, Largo, Lakeland, Palmetto, Port Tampa, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Haines City, Lake Wales and Frostproof. 

 


The first home of Peninsular Telephone Company was a two-room office in the Roberts Building, at the corner of Zack Street and Florida Avenue, in downtown Tampa.  Peninsular moved into this building in 1901, soon after its organization by W.G. Brorein. Shown standing in the telephone company doorway is Mr. Brorein, 1914.  This site is now the Franklin Exchange tower in front of the old Federal Courthouse.
Place your cursor on the photo to zoom in on Mr. Brorein.


 

The total number of subscribers of this system at the time of installation did not exceed 800.  By 1919, the Tampa system had been completely rebuilt and an automatic system installed.  By 1922 its subscription list was approximately 20,000 subscribers, 10,000 of which were on the Tampa main and several sub-exchanges, and the remainder on the fourteen other exchanges operated at the above mentioned towns and cities. 

 

Visitors touring the switching room, 1918

 

 

 

 
All these exchanges and other communities were connected by a system of more than 2,000 miles of metallic toll circuits, extending throughout the counties of Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Pinellas, with connections with all other toll lines and exchanges throughout the state, as well as connection with the Bell system giving long distance service throughout the country.

With a record of success in his private business and of public-spirited and unselfish devotion to the interests of Tampa and Florida, Brorein stood in the front rank of Florida citizenship.  W.G., as he was most familiarly known, was a man of versatile character and amazing energy,  He was a friend to all and to every worthy thing or cause. 


Second home of Peninsular Phone Company, at 610 Morgan St. and Zack St., circa 1920.

 

 

In Brorein's day, no public service was more calculated to make for the unpopularity of its management than the telephone. Yet, every year of his management of Peninsular increased his popularity throughout the field of its operation.

Photo:  Peninsular Telephone Co. workers inspecting a newly laid cable, 1926.

Between the company itself and the public there existed an attitude of cooperation and friendliness that was unusual for a public service corporation to receive; the company was extolled editorially by at least one leading daily journal of Tampa as a model corporation whose business practices have always placed community interests first, and whose methods of fair dealing were worthy of the commendation of the entire community.  As president of the Florida State Telephone Association for many years, he was largely instrumental in securing the enactment by the Florida Legislature of those laws placing the telephone properties of the state under commission regulation as to rates, and other matters connected with their operation in which the telephone patrons and public generally could be interested.

 

In Tampa he was in the forefront of civic affairs, always willing to devote his time and money to any good cause.  Borein was a member of the Knights of Pythias.  He was President of the Tampa Board of Trade (1916-1918), the predecessor to the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, and of the Tampa Rotary Club (1918-1919).  At this time and into the 1920s for several years, the president of the Tampa YMCA and also the Tampa Associated Charities.  His most notable work in Florida was his position as the president of the South Florida Fair Association and it is largely due to his personal efforts that the Florida State Fair was such a success, attracting national and international attention.

W.G. Brorein making the first transatlantic
call on the Peninsular system, 1927.

He served as a member of the Charter Board that drew up the City's new charter in 1919 under which the government of Tampa was operated.  He was appointed by the Legislature as chairman of the Florida Centennial Purchase Exhibition Commission; as chairman of the commission appointed by Governor Trammell in 1917 to investigate the needs of the Institution for Feeble Minded, and upon whose recommendation to the Legislature the present Institution for Feeble Minded was established at Gainesville. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias and a member and active worker in the First Christian Church of Tampa.

 

W.G. puts the finishing touches on a sign commemorating the 35 year anniversary of the founding of Peninsular, 1936.

 

The United States DeSoto Expedition Commission was established by a joint resolution of the Seventy-Fourth Congress on August 26, 1935, to commemorate the quadricentennial of the expedition. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was charged with appointing a commission to carry out the mandate of the Congress. Among others, Roosevelt appointed W. G. Brorein as a committee member. 

There was a saying "if you want something done get a busy man to do it" and this is another adage exemplified by Brorein.  As would be expected, the demands upon Brorein's time to maintain the high standard of service the company had at all times maintained, would have been sufficient to prevent most men, even of the highest ability, from engaging in other activities; but not so with W.G. Brorein.

 

 

PTC operators, 1930s

W. G. Brorein died on December 12, 1937.  His nephew, Carl David Brorein, who had been serving as Vice President of Peninsular, became President in 1938, as well as assuming some of the other positions W.G. had held, including his membership on the DeSoto Expedition Commission.

PTC secretarial pool, 1941

PTC long distance operators, 1948

 

Woman making a call to the Audichron, 1941. "40 YEARS of PROGRESS in serving you."

The lower portion of the "Clearwater" sign reads, "The equipment behind the glass panel costs approximately $700.  Hundreds of similar units handle the Clearwater area's near load of 23,000 calls daily."

The unit in front of the woman shows the caller "what takes place you dial a telephone."  By calling 78659, this switching equipment connected the caller to the "Audichron" on the floor to the right.

The Audichron was an automated "talking clock" that gave a recorded announcement and the time.  The old Exchange National Bank in Tampa used one, which callers could access by dialing 622-1212.

See and hear a working Audichron

Read about the Audichron and the manufacturer

   

 

Carl David Brorein, Sr.

Carl Brorein was born in Buckland, Ohio, on Nov. 3, 1895.  He was a son of W.G. Brorein's brother, Jacob Frederic Brorein and his wife, Cora Butcher Brorein.  Carl attended the University of New Mexico where he received his A.B. degree in 1917.  In February of that same year, he married Miss Ethel Kieke.  In June 1917, he entered into the service for WW1 and served as a Captain in the 1st Marine Corps Aero Company, Squad C at Curtis Field, Miami and Reed Field, Quantico, VA.  Carl's military service ended in June, 1919.

Carl came to Tampa in 1920 and joined his uncle W.G. Brorein at the Peninsular Telephone Company where he became the company's corporate secretary.  Technology was transforming American society and Tampa's Exchange Club sought to be on the cutting edge. One lecturer in 1923 spoke about “electronic theory,” showing the degree to which Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr had altered mankind’s understanding of the universe. When Carl D. Brorein became club president, members were soon introduced to the “intricacies and operation of the automatic telephone,” ushering in the revolution of telecommunications. The club even held a “long distance call contest,” won by Frank Bowyer, with a grade of 100% plus. In 1923, the ability to dial a telephone was a rare skill.

Carl D. Brorein, Sr. 1929

 

 

Carl then became the assistant to the General Manager of Peninsular, and by 1935 he was General Manager and Vice President.  He was elected President of the company in 1938. Carl was also Director of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Vice President and Director of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce, President of the Florida Telephone Association and U.S. Independent Telephone Pioneers Association, President of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce and the Florida State Fair Association, and member of the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.    Carl lived with his wife Ethel and four children Carl Jr., William, Marjorie, and Robert at 4503 Sylvan Ramble in Tampa and was a member of the Palma Ceia Golf Club. 

Peninsular switching room, 1941

   

 

All the latest technology in telephone switchboards at Peninsular, 1948

 

Carl D. Brorein, Sr. placing the first call on new coaxial cable linking Tampa and Orlando, 1952

 

 

 

 

On Nov. 18, 1953, the 50 millionth telephone in service in the U.S. was placed in service on the desk of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Participating in the ceremony was president of AT&T Cleo Craig, president of the US Independent Telephone Assn Warren Clay, chairman of the FCC Rosel Hyde, and president of the National Assoc of Railroad & Utilities Commission C.L. Doherty.  To the right of the president are Doherty, Clay & Craig.

Afterward, a banquet was held in the Presidential Room of the Statler Hotel, with Carl D. Brorein, Sr. as the toastmaster.

The "50 Millionth Telephone in Service in the Nation" was a Western Electric 500 set with a gold finger wheel and gold finger stop with gold lettering on the dial. The gold trim along the bottom of the set is made up of 48 stars, which was one for each state at the time.

See Manufacture Discontinued for other presidential phones.

In late 1957, General Telephone bought Peninsular in a merger that resulted in Carl Brorein continuing as President of General Telephone of Florida and director of its parent company, General Telephone & Electronics (GTE).

   

Peninsular Telephone Company at Zack and Morgan Street, 1953.  Two floors were added to the original 4-story building and a 12-story skyscraper built adjacent to it.

 

In November of 1960, Carl announced his retirement after 40 years of service with the combined companies, and became Chairman of the Board in a consulting capacity. In the mid 1960s, he was Director of the Crosstown Expressway Authority as well as chairman of the Committee of One Hundred in 1961.  Carl Brorein, Sr. died December 25, 1973 in Tampa.

 

 

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