WEST TAMPA — For more than 100 years, the gazebo on the hill at Macfarlane Park has been the focal point of family picnics, birthday parties, political forums and countless hours of idle play for generations of West Tampa children.
It had deteriorated in recent years, showing gaping holes in its rotting ceiling, and Jerry Scaglione feared that the neighborhood would lose its landmark. He and fellow members of the Macfarlane Park Association appealed to the city, which recently added an entire new roof to the structure.
"This is like the diamond in the park. This is our jewel,'' Scaglione said.
The original pavilion, built of wood, opened on April 25, 1909, the same year that West Tampa founder Hugh C. Macfarlane donated the land for the park. It was replaced years later by a stucco-over-block structure, which was refurbished in 1957, the same year the terrazzo floor was added.
"I remember the political events here, the barbecues and spaghetti dinners,'' said Scaglione, 56, who grew up playing in the park.
Marietta Maniscalco, 54, who attended nearby Villa Madonna Elementary and Tampa Catholic High School, remembers all the birthday parties. They would have cake from Olympia Bakery and pizza from Alessi Bakery.
"I have just wonderful memories of running up and down that hill, having potato sack races,'' she said. "That was the park to go to.''
James Leone, 76, who lives in the same West Tampa home he was born in, has been a patron of the park all his life. He still takes his daily walk there, climbing the stairs to the gazebo as part of the routine. He remembers the picnics and parties, even a 1981 processional to the gazebo staged by his church, St. Joseph's Catholic, to honor Our Lady of Fatima.
"It's really a precious thing,'' he said.
The city spent $61,100 in capital improvement funds to replace the roof on the gazebo, said Greg Bayor, director of parks and recreation. Work started in February and is complete except for the installation of the ceiling light fixture, which he said is scheduled for next week.
The next goal, Scaglione said, is to repair the terrazzo floor, which has long cracks, badly patched, running through it. He said perhaps the city and the association could work together to fund the repairs.
"You can't get rid of the cracks,'' he said, "but at least you can cover them better.''
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.