Overview/History of Tampa, FL

The Name Tampa

So, what does Tampa mean? The origin of this name is unfortunately unknown with two different stories being told. When Fort Brooke was established, “Tampa Town” was the name it went by, before it was eventually shortened to Tampa.

Another tale speaks of a Spanish shipwreck survivor, Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, who crashed on the coast of the town in 1575. He was held captive to Calusa for 17 years. Hernando first used the name “Tanpa” which was actually the Tanpa of Calusa that is 65 miles south to the current city.

The word Tampa could be from Calusa language that means “sticks of fire.” It could be referring to general lightning strikes during the summer months. It could also mean “the place to gather sticks” or the miscommunication between Spanish and Indians on the word “itimpi” which literally meant “near it.”

The Beginning

Tampa, Florida, has a long history dating as far back as 500 B.C. Tampa was also part of Juan Ponce de Leon’s epic in search for the truth of the myth: The Fountain of Youth. Archeologists and other experts couldn’t accurately pinpoint where he landed, but in 1513, he gave this beautiful island a name: La Florida.

Today, Tampa serves as the county seat of Florida with a population estimation of more than 380,000 in 2018. It is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area with a mix of Spanish, Italian, Cuban and Tampanian locals. Tampan is a term that refers to locals, but the usage has been decreasing since local authorities decided that it may sound insulting.

The Tampa Bay area was made up of Calusa village and Tocobaga before the arrival of Spanish explorers. They claimed the land in the 16th century, but communications with locals were not established on a positive tone. Discussions and meetings between the Spanish and locals often ended up violent. As Spanish explorers left, they spread European diseases which were one of the major causes the cause of the downfall of local communities.

For the next few decades, the Tampa Bay remained unpopulated and lacked permanent settlements until the United States claimed it in the 1800s. In the year 1824, the US Army established a frontier known as Fort Brooke. The fort was built as a defense against the Seminole population. Currently, nothing is left of the Fort Brooke except for two cannons set on display in the University of Tampa.

After the establishment of the Fort

In the 1880s, the city saw significant improvement with over 30,000 people moving into the city. The growth of cigar production in the 1900s also significantly improved the city’s economy thanks to its strategic location close to the shore it was able to attain phosphate easily

Railroad plants were also established in the town and within days, people came back bustling into the boomtown. Even today, phosphate is still part of their economy.
Today, Tampa, FL is a bustling city with events like Gasparilla Pirate Festival held every year.

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