For more than 20 years, the cardboard tubes gathered dust.
Hiding inside them were thousands of designs by renowned Tampa architect M. Leo Elliott.
The papers were recently uncovered in an attic at a South Tampa consulting firm.
Elliott, who died in 1967, designed old Tampa City Hall, the Centro Asturiano, the Tampa Yacht Club and Bryan Elementary School. He also designed many South Tampa, Bayshore and Davis Islands homes, including the Leiman-Wilson house in the Hyde Park Historic District.
"There was hardly a section of the city as it existed then that he didn't have some influence on," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History Center. "The scope that it is going to show, that really is one of the neatest things. It is a whole other resource that has come to light for preservation and the city's history."
Fred Crakow of Carastro and Associates, where the drawings turned up, says the tubes came in years ago.
A former partner of Elliott's apparently got them while collecting old plans for GTE, which later became Verizon. The GTE plans were part of a large collection that wound up in the attic at Carastro and Associates.
There the tubes sat for more than 20 years, until the company recently had work done on its air conditioning system.
An aged Rolodex filled with hundreds of yellowed cards attempts to map the drawings.
"It's a drafting style you don't see these days," Crakow said. "Some of the details, the pencil work is just incredible."
The firm hasn't yet decided what to do with the documents.
Temple Terrace preservationist and architect Grant Rimbey likens the discovery to that of the Atocha, the famed underwater shipwreck found by Mel Fisher.
"It's a pretty amazing story that they survived at all," Rimbey said.
Tampa historians draw comparisons with the Burgert Brothers photographs, which documented much of Tampa through the late 19th and mid 20th century.
Kite-Powell is excited about the find.
The drawings show the original intent of the buildings, which might otherwise have been lost through renovation and refurbishing.
"The Burgert Brothers certainly preserved images of the city," he said. "These drawings may do the same thing in different detail."
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or email@example.com.