TAMPA — Thousands of drawings by an influential Tampa architect once thought lost will have a permanent home.
Cardboard tubes containing architectural renderings by M. Leo Elliott were discovered in a South Tampa attic about a month ago.
The work could take years and still needs funding, but a partnership between the Tampa Bay History Center and the USF School of Architecture and Community Design could eventually have the drawings available for researchers, architects, history buffs and anyone else interested in looking at them.
"We are at the very beginning of all of this," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History Center, where the drawings were recently moved.
The drawings will be digitally archived into a searchable online database. The physical plans will be stored in large, flat envelopes at the history center.
The papers show the original intent of the buildings, which might otherwise have been lost through renovation and refurbishing. Because of the volume of drawings, they also show an evolution in building design and construction, Kite-Powell said.
The drawings were discovered after being kept for about 20 years in a consulting firm's attic.
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 at Carastro & Associates. The tubes sat there until the company had work done on its air-conditioning system recently.
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.
Trent Green, an associate professor of architecture at USF, said it is important to preserve Elliott's work.
"This is rare to have this much documentation," Green said. "It appears that he was very meticulous in recording his projects." An aged filing card system filled with hundreds of yellowed cards attempts to catalog the drawings.
"A lot of times, this kind of work gets thrown out because people don't realize it's a resource for the next generation to study and learn from," Green said.
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or [email protected]