In 1897, writer, social commentator, and beisbolero (baseball player) Wenceslao Gálvez y del Monte ("Wen Gálvez") published a small, first-person narrative entitled Tampa: Impresiones de Emigrado. The work critically observes Tampa and its residents. It is one of several turn-of-the-century, Spanish-language publications giving an account of Old Tampa–from its dusty roads to its marble facades.
In the early days of Tampa, you could stand on the banks of the Hillsborough River, and if the wind was blowing just right, you might smell the thick aroma of cedar permeating the air. As cigar factories from Palmetto Beach to West Tampa hummed with workers, several ancillary businesses sprouted to support the booming industry. Restaurants and boarding houses kept workers fed and housed. At the same time, other companies manufactured the equipment and tools necessary to produce quality hand-rolled cigars.
Billy Sunday has been downtown preaching for the past couple of days, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed,” I began, pausing for the dismissive mumbling and laughter to clear the room. “Indeed, the aptly named Mr. Sunday has come to town to save your wretched souls…at least that’s what he says. Mr. Sunday has a bit of what you might call a colored past.
It's Saturday night, and everyone's waiting for the numbers to come in. Several little white balls will be selected, each ball bearing a number. A substantial monetary return is available if your ticket matches the selected ball. Sound familiar?
For many people, the history of Ybor City ends after the first few decades of the twentieth century, the cigar-making community's golden era. Following a series of devastating changes–the rise of mechanization and the decline of the hand-rolled cigar industry, World War II, government-driven urban renewal, and the separation of the district from downtown and south Tampa by an elevated highway and toll road–the once-vibrant community gradually emptied of residents and businesses. Stalwarts like the Columbia Restaurant continued, but Ybor grew to resemble a ghost town mostly until a new form of life filtered in.