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With the high-rise condos, a modern museum and the new Curtis Hixon Park, hints of downtown Tampa's past are fading.

But a few signs remain. Literal signs.

They once advertised businesses here. But as more buildings rose, the painted signs gave way to neon lights and modern badging.

Look up, and you'll find remnants and flecks of paint on old brick buildings, some of them more than 100 years old.

"Those painted signs are turn-of-the-century," said Rodney Kite-Powell, a historian at the Tampa Bay History Center. "People would just paint their business on the side of the wall."

The signs were often painted on the sides of buildings, but as more businesses settled downtown, they blocked that advertising from view.

For instance, the paint advertising the Tampa Harness and Wagon Co. on Franklin Street was revealed after a fire engulfed the building next door.

Here is a sampling of old signs that give a glimpse into downtown Tampa's first booms and busts. - Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or

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SH Kress and Co.

811 N Franklin St.

Built in 1928

Then: The five-and-dime was at the heart of the downtown retail district.

Now: The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 1983. It now sits vacant, windows broken. Weeds grow through the mortar holding the bricks together.

* * *

The Tampa Morning Tribune

514 N Tampa St.

Built in 1900

Then: You can almost make out the words "Railroad, Steamboat and commercial pr(ess)" through the faded paint.

Now: The Dohring Group, an appraisal company, owns and uses the office building.

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Tampa Harness and Wagon Co.

1007-1009 Franklin St.

Built in 1900

Then: Thomas Henderson started the company in 1897. The building is one of the oldest downtown.

Now: The building sits vacant. Vines grow along the side wall.

* * *

Martino Mortgages

1207 Franklin St.

Built in 1900

This building was once the old Pollard Hotel, but Martino Mortgages has existed here for more than 50 years, according to this historic-looking sign, which still exists today.

* * *

Cameron & Barkley Co.

Mill Supplies Machinery

107 S Franklin St.

Built in 1908

Then: The machinery company opened an office in Tampa after it started mining phosphate in the area.

Now: The building is the home of Hattricks Tavern, a sports bar a few blocks north of the St. Pete Times Forum. The lettering from the old sign is faded and only slightly visible today on the side of the building.