The Lafayette Street Bridge - Part 1 of 4
 "Tampa's Lafayette Street bridge: Building a New South City"
by Lucy D. Jones, University of South Florida

When John Jackson laid out the first plan for Tampa, he named the streets for U.S. Presidents and
military leaders.  Lafayette Street was named for Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis
de La Fayette
, known to most as simply, "Lafayette." In the American Revolution, Lafayette served as a major-general
in the Continental Army under George Washington.  In Dec. 1963, Tampa City Council voted to rename Lafayette St. as Kennedy Blvd., honoring assassinated President John F. Kennedy, who had visited Tampa just a week before his death.


The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of dynamic social and political change for Tampa, a growing city on Florida’s west coast. These changes led Tampa’s commercial-civic elite to look beyond the law, the militia, and the church for ways to maintain their sense of order.

Over a period of three decades, three different bridges were built at the same place over the Hillsborough River, at Lafayette Street. Each time the bridge was built or replaced, it was for a different reason.

Tampa after the Civil War

At the end of 1865, Tampa resembled a ghost town. The majority of residents had left the city during the war (although a significant number eventually returned), the economic condition was dismal and there was no municipal government. The election of Edward Clarke as mayor on October 25, 1866 was unable to substantially improve conditions.

Clarke's administration was confronted with an empty treasury, yellow fever epidemics and frequent unrest in the city. The situation worsened with arrival of federal troops and administrators to impose the Reconstruction policies established by the U.S. Congress. Deeply resented by the population, soldiers and federal civil authorities were subjected to frequent harassment. In response, both federal military and civil authorities used their position to make life even more miserable for the resident population.

Edward A. Clarke, Tampa's 10th mayor
Term: October 25, 1866 – March 1, 1869


Tampa's Charter is Revoked, Becomes Unincorporated

The antagonism between federal authorities and Tampa residents was the foundation for John Lesley’s mayoral campaign in early 1869. He campaigned on a single platform that Tampa’s charter should be revoked by the state legislature due to the City’s destitute financial condition. The majority of residents agreed and Lesley was elected mayor on March 1, 1869. While a city clerk, treasurer and a city council was elected, the Lesley Administration did little more than wait until the state legislature revoked Tampa’s Charter due to a inactive government. On October 4, 1869, the state legislature responded as expected and revoked the City’s charter. When the news reached Tampa, Lesley and other City officials resigned their positions. The Hillsborough County government appropriated all City properties and assumed responsibility for providing educational and other principal services to Tampa’s residents.  After resigning, Lesley returned to his business ventures. Tampa’s status as a non-chartered city continued until 1887 when residents voted to re-incorporate the city.

John T. Lesley, circa 1885

Tampa’s total population decreased in the 1870s during Reconstruction, although some new settlers did arrive. These newcomers were interested in growing citrus, and looked for plots of land big enough for a grove. Therefore, even as the population went down, the city grew to cover a larger area. Plenty of land was open for homesteading, and the town expanded northward for the most part, with less development across the river.

Read about John T. Lesley at the Tampapix feature "The Final Battle for Fort Brooke."

Hayden's ferry crossing the Hillsborough River circa 1880s

Hillsborough River ferry boats

There was little need for a bridge over the Hillsborough River at the time. Before the railroad, transportation into and out of Tampa was by stagecoach and water, out into the bay and on then to the Gulf of Mexico. The few people who did need to cross the river used a ferry at the foot of Jackson Street, connecting with the Tampa to Brooksville Road, which was little more than a path through the woods. People crossed here if they wished to go overland to Safety Harbor or Clearwater.

The ferry consisted of a rowboat for foot passengers and a big flat barge for the accommodation of teams, cattle and horses. It was operated by a heavy cable which lay on the bottom of the river when not in use. When a team was to cross, a hinged platform was let down so that the end rested in the mud, and the horses had to drag their load up the steep incline onto the barge. The cable was then laboriously pulled up, and hand-over-hand the hard-worked ferryman pulled at it, the barge sometimes swinging out into the stream in spite of the efforts of the ferryman.

When the other shore was gained the hinged platform was let down on the other side and with much protest on the part of the horses and much urging from the driver, the plunge would be made down the incline into the mud if the tide was low, but onto hard sand if the tide was high.


Spanishtown Creek  
The first recorded non-native settlement in Tampa was at Spanishtown Creek around 1783 (today’s Hyde Park around the junction of Verne Street and Plant Avenue). It was said to be inhabited by a few Cuban fishermen and an eccentric Frenchman further down along the shore of Hillsborough Bay, decades before Fort Brooke was established. Up until the establishment of Henry Plant's railway and hotel in the late 1880s, this area was mainly farmland and homesteads. Jesse Carter lived on the west side of river across from Lafayette Street, and Robert and Nancy Jackson lived to the south of Carter. W. T. Haskins had a forty-acre homestead on the west side of the river adjoining Robert Jackson’s homestead. Jackson was a retired Army surgeon who served as a Hillsborough County probate judge before his death in 1865. The Haydens came to Tampa in 1866, bought some land from General Carter, and filed a homestead claim for the adjoining 60 acres. Jesse and Susan’s daughter Mattie married Donald S. MacKay, son of sea captain James McKay, Sr., and later uncle of Tampa mayor D.B. McKay. The Jacksons and the Haydens were among the prominent families of Old Tampa, and along with the Haskins, owned most of what would later become Hyde Park. The Haskins family, however, sold their land before Hyde Park was developed because of the inconvenience of crossing the river with children.


Robert Jackson and his 1860 Federal Census record in Florida


  Spanishtown Creek Historic Marker
After Plant's hotel was built in the late 1880s, small  neighborhoods began to to be platted directly south of the hotel, centering along Hyde Park Ave. (named after Obadiah H. Platt's Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood) and Plant Ave. Slowly this area started to become more developed. Below is the original plat map of the Packwoods Subdivision from 1892, from the Hills. Co. Property Appraisers site which shows the path of the creek at that time and how the lots and streets were to be laid out. At this site on a small stream was located the first settlement of Tampa Bay. Its inhabitants were Spanish-Cuban fishermen and straw hat makers. It is believed they settled here toward the end of the eighteenth century, during Spain's second rule of Florida. When the Americans arrived in 1824 and established Fort Brooke, these early settlers were living in palmetto thatched huts and carried on a brisk trade with wandering Cubans who sailed into the bay. Spanishtown Creek is the true genesis of Tampa.


  The Dismal Years - 1870s

A visitor said of Tampa in 1879, “This place looks discouraged from sheer weariness in trying to be a town.” Three years later, a visiting journalist reported that Tampa was “a sleepy, shabby Southern town,” yet one of its greatest assets was an “implicit confidence in its own prosperous future.” This spark of optimism arose from the rumored arrival of a railroad. Northerners coming to Tampa to plant citrus groves brought small amounts of capital, and gradually increasing land values, but the light at the end of the tunnel was truly a train.

Florida was one of the least populated southern states in 1880, having not emerged from its frontier days before it was engulfed by the Civil War. On Florida’s west coast, Tampa was a small town of just 720. A lack of capital and a lack of means with which to get capital summarized Florida’s economy, so when Henry B. Plant proposed extending his railroad to Tampa, the town’s leaders were glad to accommodate his wishes. When Plant asked for a bridge over the Hillsborough River, Tampa built it.

Above:  Three buildings that stood on the northwest corner of Franklin and Lafayette 1884, across Lafayette St. from "Tibbetts Corner."  The large three-story building in the center held the Branch Opera House on the second floor, owned by attorney Henry L. Branch and was Tampa's primary place for social, political, and civil affairs

On May 7, 1885, Tampa's leading businessmen and citizens met here to form the Tampa Board of Trade, the predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce.  The top people were on hand, and 27 of them were enrolled as charter members that first meeting. There were dentists, physicians, druggists, printers, painters, storekeepers, insurance and real estate men, watchmakers and jewelers. Dr. John P. Wall, a highly respected medic, Tampa mayor and an outstanding Floridian, was chosen to lead these boosters in their crucial first year. 

Hillsborough County High School held their graduation ceremony in the opera house in 1887

The ground floor of the opera house building housed the Wm. A. Morrison & George H. Packwood hardware store.  The building later became the "Ball Bros" opera house and was demolished in 1893 to make way for brick buildings including the First National Bank of Tampa. 

The building on the left was Emery, Simmons & Emery's Boots and Shoes store, managed by and later owned by David S. Macfarlane, brother of Hugh Macfarlane. .The store was opened in 1884 and became D.S. Macfarlane & Co in 1886 when he bought the business from Emery, Simmons & Emery. In 1895 the store became "Macfarlane & Glenn."

The opera houase later became the "Ball Bros." opera house and was demolished in 1893 to make way for brick buildings including the First National Bank of Tampa.

The building on the right  was the Binkley Building.  On the ground floor, Mrs. Fannie C. Binkley operated her dry goods store and on the 2nd floor was the office of Tampa Real Estate & Loan association operated by Frederick A. Salomonson and John H. Fessenden.

Branch's Opera House ad from 1885


Morrison & Packwood hardware store ad, 1885
Located on the first floor, under the opera house


H. B. Plant's Railroad Comes to Tampa
When Henry B. Plant first built his railroad to Tampa in 1884, he didn't want to extend the railroad over the Hillsborough River. Every mile of track built was just that much money out of his pocket. The port at Tampa was shallow and inconvenient, but when Plant heard that the Corps of Engineers was recommending dredging a ship channel in Old Tampa Bay rather than Hillsborough Bay, he quickly arranged to extend his railroad to Black Point where he built a wharf out to deep water.

Black Point became Port Tampa. To get the railroad tracks across the Hillsborough River, Captain John McKay built a railroad drawbridge at Cass Street for Plant.

Below: H. B. Plant and the second Cass St. railroad bridge in 1921, before the traffic bridge was built alongside it.  The original railroad bridge was a swing bridge (the center span rotated horizontally on a pivot.)




1885 etching looking south toward the mouth of the Hillsborough River.  On the right, the area that would become Hyde Park, on the horizon, the grassy islands that would become Davis Islands.











This photo, taken before 1889, bears a remarkable resemblance to the etching above, and may have been used by the etching's artist as his/her subject.

Tampa's Agreement With Hayden's Ferry and Bridge Proposals

In March 1885, the Tampa town council chartered Hayden’s ferry crossing on the river at Jackson Street, stipulating that "the lessee of any such ferry shall keep a good ferry, flat, capable of ferrying over safely a six-mule team and a wagon loaded with not more than 5,000 pounds weight, stock animals, and goods across the Hillsborough, and two good skiff boats for crossing foot-passengers...He shall put across all persons and their property at any hour of day or night...After 9 o'clock P.M. he may charge double ferriage."  Hayden had the right to operate a ferry, but Tampa reserved the right to build a bridge across the river, free or otherwise. The town was growing.  Soon after the railroad arrived, public and private interest in a bridge increased.

Jesse Hayden's ferry boat landing on the Hillsborough River, 1887.
At left, looking across the river at the Tampa side from the ferry ramp at Spanishtown Creek (soon to be Hyde Park.) Photo from the State Archives Florida Memory collection  At right, looking downstream (south) toward the grassy islands in the bay. Image from "Tampa Town, 1825 - 1886: A Cracker Village With A Latin Accent" by Tony Pizzo, 1968
Another ferry was operated by Jim Hooper further upstream at Fortune Street.


Conflicting Proposals for Bridges

On February 2, 1887, Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski and the city council met with Colonel James E. Ingraham who represented Henry Plant’s South Florida Railroad, to discuss plans for the construction of a bridge across the Hillsborough River and a hotel on the opposite bank. John Ingraham proposed that the South Florida Rail Road Company and the Town of Tampa together build a bridge over the river, preferably near the railroad’s property. Keenly aware of the economic benefits to Tampa of a bridge and major hotel as well as the railroad, the proposal was approved by Tampa's Town Council and Vicente M. Ybor and Eduardo Manara of Ybor City.  A month later, Ingraham’s request complicated the Hillsboro Cooperative Ferry Company’s lease renewal. The lease was renewed, but with the provision that if the contemplated bridge across the river was actually built by the city and South Florida Railroad Co., the lease would expire.


On the strength of these proposals, Glogowski successfully lead a coalition of city council members and many Tampa residents to lobby the state legislature to incorporate Tampa as a city. This incorporation was essential in order for the city to obtain the necessary funds to improve the city’s water and sewage systems, police and fire departments, and other public works. Several months later, on July 15, 1887, the state legislature passed an act that incorporated Tampa’s as a city. It was also Herman Glogowski’s last day as mayor until his re-election in March 1888.

Herman Glogowski, Tampa's  21st, 23rd, 25th and 27th Mayor.

Born: April 29, 1854   
: December 3, 1909
1st Term:
Aug 13, 1886 – July 15, 1887
Second Term
: Mar 8, 1888 – Mar 6, 1889
Third Term: Mar 5, 1890 – Mar 4, 1891
Fourth Term: Mar 4, 1892 – Mar 10, 1893


Salomonson Proposes a Toll Bridge at Whiting St.

In July 1887, Frederick A. Salomonson, who had earlier represented the Hillsboro Cooperative Ferry, presented the Town Council with a petition from a group of citizens asking for permission to build and operate a drawbridge at the foot of Whiting Street.  The petition was referred to the Council’s Committee on Wharves, Bridges, and Ferries, which was favorable to Salomonson’s petition to build a toll bridge.  But the City Attorney declared that such an ordinance authorizing the bridge would be ultra vires (beyond the legal authority of the council), since the power was not expressly granted in the city’s charter. So in August 1887, the Committee on Wharves, Bridges, and Ferries recommended a revised ordinance with regard to Salomonson’s proposed bridge. City council minutes note “the Committee also called attention to the fact that steps had already been taken to have a free bridge established and they were of the opinion that if a charter for a toll bridge was granted now it might have a detrimental effect on the project of a free bridge.”  In early September 1887, Councilman Biglow asked the Council to begin efforts to build a free foot and wagon bridge over the river at Lafayette Street, a suggestion that had the support of the Wharves, Bridges, and Ferries Committee.  On October 4, 1887, the City Engineer submitted a report of his survey of the Hillsborough River, whereupon the Council decided to advertise for bridge plans and bids.


F. A. Salomonson would go on to serve  three terms as Mayor of Tampa
1893-94, 1895-96, and 1904-1906.
Photo from "Tampa, Florida: It's Industries and Advantages" at the University of Florida Digital Collections.


The Hillsborough County courthouse, 1890s, at Franklin St. and Lafayette, built in 1892, designed by John A. Wood, and built by
W. H. Kendrick

Yellow Fever Disrupts Plans
While a yellow fever epidemic in the Fall of1887 wreaked havoc in the town council’s normal operations, by December, plans for the bridge were back in the works. In January 1888, the town council appointed a committee of three councilmen to meet with the Board of County Commissioners regarding ways that the two groups might work together to build such a bridge. Other issues facing the council at this time were getting streetlights and building a water works system.

King Iron Bridge Company Awarded Bridge Project

On April 23, 1888, the Town Council received a letter from Mr. John A. Wood and Associates (i.e., Henry Plant), of New York City, asking to purchase a plot of land on which to build a hotel. A month almost to the day after Wood’s letter to the council, the Committee on Wharves, Bridges and Ferries reported that they had received three proposals for the bridge over the Hillsborough River, and accepted that of the King Iron Bridge Company. Two weeks later, the County Commissioners agreed to pay one third of the cost of the new bridge




  The H. B. Plant Transportation System

H. B. Plant's railroad, wharves and hotels at Port Tampa; the Port Tampa Inn and St. Elmo's Hotel, circa 1900
See this image full size

Plant’s transportation system included both trains and steamships for passenger transport. Hotels were a logical extension of this system. The shallow draft of Tampa Bay made Tampa's main port inaccessible for the larger ships of the day, so Plant built a new port several miles away.  When Plant extended his railroad tracks to Port Tampa, he also built in 1885, an inn at the wharf for passengers since there were no previously existing hotels nearby.  Not to be confused with the Port of Tampa, Port Tampa City was the lands west of today's Manhattan Avenue to Tampa Bay and everything south of the old east-west railroad track north of McCoy Street.  Locals sometimes refer to it as anything "south of Gandy" although this is not exactly true, as there are several other distinct neighborhoods across the Tampa peninsula besides Port Tampa.


The town of Port Tampa City was established in 1885 at the end of Henry B. Plant's railroad line.  To help bring visitors and residents to this new development, Plant's built the St. Elmo Inn and Port Tampa Inn at the end of his rail line. The Port Tampa Inn was larger in the center of the photo above.  Port Tampa was the primary port of embarkation for the Spanish-American War in Cuba. In June 1898 Port Tampa and the city of Tampa hosted more than 33,000 visitors including military officers, enlisted men, nurses, civilian clerks, teamsters, packers, stevedores, war correspondents, tourists, and a host of foreign military observers. Wartime notables who passed through Port Tampa included Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, the Buffalo Soldiers, Clara Barton of the American Red Cross, Richard Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, and Frederic Remington. Port Tampa became less important when several dredging projects made the Port of Tampa accessible to all shipping.





All of the hotels operating in Tampa by the late 1880s were rather ordinary. Apparently inspired by fellow transportation magnate Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Henry Plant decided to build a lavish resort near the Tampa terminus of his railroad. Plant bought fifteen acres on the west side of the Hillsborough River from the Hayden family and in July 1888, the Tampa Bay Hotel’s cornerstone was laid.


Tampa Bay Hotel construction, circa 1890

Plant’s selection of the Tampa Bay Hotel site was quite deliberate. The hotel was to be a resort, an exotic tropical wonderland. The sophisticated elite would not want to travel thousands of miles only to mix with the working classes. He chose a large piece of land near his railroad depot, yet separate from the town.  In the case of Tampa, the hotel was such a boon that the council readily agreed to several concessions, including low, fixed-rate taxes and a promise that the city would build a bridge over the Hillsborough River at Lafayette Street.

See University of Tampa at Tampapix and
The Birth of a University at Tampapix



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With the completion of the Tampa Bay Hotel and its Moorish spires in 1891, the until-recently backwater town of Tampa entered the Gilded Age. Plant’s hotel and railroad system brought tourists flowing into and through the fledgling city from the Northeast and the Midwest. Local products such as citrus, lumber, and phosphate flowed out of Tampa on the same system of rails and steamers.





Read an article published Feb. 8, 1891 by a New York Times writer whom H. B. Plant invited to the Tampa Bay Hotel for a private, advance viewing before the grand opening.  William Drysdale describes riding in Plant's private railroad car and the hotel in vivid detail.


The King Iron Bridge Company

The King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company, of Cleveland, Ohio, was a prominent American bridge company in the late nineteenth century. The company was the largest highway bridge works in the U.S. during the 1880s, and played an important role in the nationwide development and construction of the metal truss bridge, a unique product of American engineering and construction technology. Although the King Iron Bridge & Mfg. Co. was not organized under that name until 1871, the company originated in 1858 when Zenas King began his work as a bridge builder.  With rapidly growing railroad lines all across the nation, iron bridge manufacturing was a competitive business. In response to new technology and ardent competition, bridge companies patented their own designs and innovations. The company was disbanded in the 1920s.


Zenas King, founder of the King Iron Bridge Company, had a manufacturing plant in Cleveland where stock parts and designs were made, ensuring rapid fulfillment of customers’ orders. The company shipped bridge parts by rail to the construction site for assembly. While King’s bridge works used well-engineered designs and the manufacturing process was efficient, what truly put his company ahead of others was his sales force. He created a large web of agents and representatives who placed bids for the company all over the country, wherever a new bridge contract was advertised.

The company’s 1888 catalog claimed parentage of 10,000 bridges, with 350 new orders each year.  In 1883, King and other bridge company owners created a general pool fund. A percentage of each highway bridge contract was deposited into the fund, and member companies received a share of the proceeds proportionate to the size of the company. This type of fund, or cartel, was illegal following the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act and 1897 and 1898 Supreme Court rulings. The Tampa bridge contract would have been part of this pool.

Construction of the the 591' steel arch of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, 1915, completed 1917.






War Dept. Expresses Concern to Mayor Glogowski

In December 1888, Captain W. M. Black, Captain of Engineers for the U.S. Army, wrote to Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski about the navigational obstruction being created by the bridge across the river. Black requested that drawings and plans be submitted to the Secretary of War. An agent of the War Department arrived in Tampa to investigate the situation; the council quickly assembled a committee to confer with the government.


Born in Wilhelmsbruck, Germany, Herman Glogowski immigrated to the United States in 1867 where he spent about twelve years working in New York City’s garment industry. In late 1882, he moved to Gainesville, Florida and, in the summer of 1883, he married Bertha Brown. The couple had four children: Walter, Nat, Bernie and Tillie. The following year they moved to Tampa where Glogowski opened a men’s clothing store on Washington Street. A strong believer in civic duty, he became involved in local politics and, in August 1886, was elected Mayor of Tampa for his first term.

When the Tampa Bay Hotel was completed, Herman Glogowski laid the cornerstone of the hotel on July 26, 1888.  Glogowski declared a holiday and hundreds of citizens celebrated the moment.  He regarded the construction of the hotel and the railroad to Tampa as the two finest achievements of his Administration.


After his fourth and final term as mayor, Glogowski returned to his clothing store on Washington Street which he continued to manage until his death.


The life of Herman Glogowski, "one of the best known men of Florida," ended tragically on December 3, 1909, he was 56. The buggy in which he was riding collided with a truck at an Ybor City street corner, as the former Tampa mayor and leading civic booster was showing a visiting salesman around the city.


See "Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski: Jewish Leadership in Gilded Age Florida" by Mark Greenberg





Tampa’s response to Glogowski’s death illustrated the high regard in which the city held its leading citizen. The United States flag atop City Hall flew at half mast as a funeral procession six blocks long carried the casket from his home to the Jewish cemetery. Mounted police, Masons, city officials riding in carriages, firemen in uniform, and friends and family accompanied the hearse.Herman Glogowski is the only person to serve four non-consecutive terms as mayor.



See "Cornerstone for the Tampa Bay Hotel Laid 100 Years Ago--But Where Is It? by Hampton Dunn



Construction Begins

The Bridge is Completed

The King Iron Bridge Company began construction soon after the contract was awarded. In June 1888, the Wharves, Bridges, and Ferries committee appointed an inspector of woodwork and piling for the new bridge; in August, the City Engineer was authorized to buy wood and iron braces for the bridge. In August, pestilence struck the city again.


The King Iron Bridge Company asked the city for a time extension on their contract, citing the “prevalence of yellow fever,” but the request was denied. In October, the King Iron Bridge Company informed the mayor that since pile locations were being changed by order of the City Engineer, the city should bear the cost of the alterations. The City Engineer’s reply was that no mistake had been made since he was following King’s plan.

Work on the iron truss swing bridge progressed rapidly, and by February 1889, the approaches were ready to be filled with shell. Signal lanterns were purchased, and the city advertised for a bridge keeper. The bridge tender would be needed soon, since the King Bridge Company notified the City Council in late February that construction was finished, and the bridge was ready for inspection. The council voted to form a Committee of the Whole (a committee comprised of all of the members of the council) to inspect the bridge. The county commission, the city engineer, and Mr. T.L. Martin of the South Florida Railroad Company were invited to come along. The Committee’s inspection was completed in early March 1889, and the bridge was accepted and opened to the public. Covington, in Plant’s Palace writes “. . . Mrs. Jesse Leonardi had her husband drive to the bridge and after riding across in a horse drawn buggy claimed to be the first woman to cross the bridge while riding in a vehicle.”

The first Lafayette Street bridge and the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1890.
Place your cursor on the photo to see more of the bridge.


A swing bridge is a movable bridge that has as its primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring, usually at or near to its center of gravity, about which the turning span can then pivot horizontally as shown in the animated illustration to the left. The Lafayette Street bridge's support ring can be seen under the center of the iron truss-supported portion of the road.  Small swing bridges as found over canals may be pivoted only at one end, opening as would a gate, but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot. The Columbus Drive bridge pivots nearly from its end.  In its closed position, a swing bridge carrying a road or railway over a river or canal, for example, allows traffic to cross. When a water vessel needs to pass the bridge, road traffic is stopped (usually by traffic signals and barriers), and then motors rotate the bridge approximately 90 degrees horizontally about its pivot point.


Hyde Park Booms

After the Lafayette Street Bridge was built, residential development on the west side of the river boomed. Whereas it had once been difficult to cross the river, the only means being a ferry with no regularly scheduled service, now a modern iron bridge zipped man and beast alike from one side to the other. Obediah H. Platt of Hyde Park, Illinois, bought 20 acres of Robert Jackson’s estate and subdivided it. Lots sold quickly, and a middle-class residential community formed on the west side of the river. The easy commute to the central business district attracted professionals and businessmen. The City of Tampa annexed the area between South Boulevard, Grand Central (a major east-west road on the west side of the river that connected with Lafayette Street near the Tampa Bay Hotel) and the river as Upper Hyde Park in 1899.  After Henry Plant’s death in 1899, his assets were sold off during vicious family fights over the terms of his will. In 1902, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad bought the Plant system of railroads, and in 1905, the Tampa Bay Hotel became the property of the City of Tampa.
Read about the founding of Hyde Park at Tampapix Nancy Jackson on the porch of her last home at 205 Platt Street. She is surrounded by her four sons, left to right, William P. “Captain Bill”, Oscar, Robert A., and John B. Jackson.


Hugh Macfarlane, West Tampa and the Fortune Street Bridge

With the arrival of the railroad, Tampa grew at an astonishing rate, its population increasing an incredible 668 percent between 1880 and 1890. The Lafayette Street Bridge did not remain the only general traffic bridge over the Hillsborough River for long. In 1892, Hugh C. Macfarlane took 200 acres of land he owned on the west side of the river and marketed it as a cigar factory town. A crucial first step was to provide access to his new development called West Tampa. So in 1892, with the help of other investors, Macfarlane built an iron swing bridge at Fortune Street.  One of the original members of the Tampa Board of Trade as well as Tampa’s city attorney, Macfarlane used his connections to persuade people to build factories in West Tampa.

Hugh Campbell Macfarlane, the “Father of West Tampa,” built the first cigar factory on the corner of Howard Avenue and Union Street in 1892. A native of Scotland, Macfarlane immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1865. He studied law and practiced in Boston and New Orleans before he settled in Tampa in 1883.

In September 1892, Jones & Cooper (acting for Macfarlane), along with L.B. Skinner, petitioned the city council for permission to build a bridge over the Hillsborough River, connecting Fortune Street to the east and Arch Street to the west. This bridge was to be strong enough to carry a fifteen-ton load, and be wide enough for both streetcars and vehicles. Passage over the bridge would always be free, without expense to the City of Tampa, although the right to charge street railways or omnibus lines was reserved. The petition was granted. Developers immediately began advertising land for sale on the west side of the river, near the new bridge. Since a street railway would run over the bridge to West Tampa, these developers anticipated that more cigar factories would locate in West Tampa once the bridge opened. The commercial-civic elite saw the bridge, paid for with private funds, as a good business strategy, and supporting the city’s economy was equivalent to good citizenship. Macfarlane’s experience with the Fortune Street Bridge would later color his response to the city’s proposed replacement of the old Lafayette Street Bridge.

Read more about Hugh Macfarlane and the park named for him in West Tampa at Tampapix


The original 1892 Fortune Street bridge being dismantled to build a new bridge, 1926.
The pivoting bascule trusses can be seen on the right.  In order to open, the span rotated at the center, 90 degrees to the road.
Learn more about this bridge and its history here at Tampapix


For Tampa, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of dynamic change, at times chaotic. The city’s population grew astronomically every decade, with huge influxes of minority and immigrant labor. The city’s leaders felt forced to look for means beyond the law, the militia, or the church to maintain a comfortable sense of social order.

First Lafayette St. Bridge        Second Lafayette St. Bridge       Third Lafayette St. Bridge      The Bridge Today - Kennedy Blvd.

Tampapix Home

"Tampa's Lafayette Street bridge: Building a New South City" by Lucy D. Jones, University of South Florida
"Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski: Jewish Leadership in Gilded Age Florida" by Mark Greenberg
"Cornerstone for the Tampa Bay Hotel Laid 100 Years Ago--But Where Is It? by Hampton Dunn
Tampa Town, 1824-1886: The Cracker Village with the Latin Accent, by Anthony P. Pizzo
City of Tampa - Mayors from 1856 to Present
A Guide To Historic Tampa by Steve Rajtar
King Bridge Company Museum
Bridge Companies

Port Tampa

Historic photos courtesy of
USF Special Collections Digital Archives
University of Florida Digital Collections, George Smathers Library
Florida Memory Project Photograph Collection, State Archives
Burgert Brothers Collection, HCPLC

Library of Congress Digital Collections