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Tampa buildings, over 100 years old, might be razed

One building was once the Tampa Tribune’s home. The other was built by the newspaper and celebrated as an architectural achievement.
Two people stroll under two signs that advertise “The Tampa Morning Tribune” at the newspaper's former home at 514 N. Tampa St.
Two people stroll under two signs that advertise “The Tampa Morning Tribune” at the newspaper's former home at 514 N. Tampa St. [ Times (2020) ]
Published Jan. 4

TAMPA — The Tampa Tribune’s final home, on Parker Street, was razed and replaced a few years ago with apartments after the newspaper was purchased by the Tampa Bay Times in 2016.

Now, one of its early homes — which is also linked to Clara Barton — plus another century-old building with a connection to the newspaper might have similar fates.

Kolter Group purchased 514 N. Tampa St. and the neighboring 520 N. Tampa St. last month.

The Times was unable to reach Kolter Group by email or phone. But, according to a Tampa Bay Business Journal article that Kolter Group posted to their website, they plan on demolishing the structures and erecting up to 200 condos.

Current tenants, such as First Watch, will remain open most of this year. Construction would begin in 2023.

These two century-old buildings - 514 N. Tampa St. and 520 N. Tampa St. - might be razed.
These two century-old buildings - 514 N. Tampa St. and 520 N. Tampa St. - might be razed. [ Paul Guzzo ]

Dennis Fernandez, the city of Tampa’s architectural review and historic preservation manager, said “neither the city nor my division has received a demo request as of yet” for those buildings.

Neither is designated as a local historic landmark. But, under city statute, permission to demolish any building that is 50 years or older needs an OK from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Once demolition is requested, the commission will schedule a public hearing. Residents can then request the buildings are designated local landmarks. That could protect them from being razed.

The commission can recommend that City Council rules on the request if they believe the buildings fit local designation criteria.

Still, historic preservationist Del Acosta recently told the Times that he can’t recall the city ever forcing historic designation upon a property owner.

Typically, a property owner requests the historic landmark status.

Part of the history of 514 N. Tampa St. is painted on the side of the brick building.

“Tampa Morning Tribune,” reads what historians refer to as a ghost sign, defined as fading, hand-painted advertisements on a building which promote a business or organization that is no longer there.

The Tampa Bay History Center’s Rodney Kite-Powell said that building was originally Hotel Arno and erected in 1895, the same year the Tampa Tribune was established.

It “is among the oldest still standing in downtown Tampa,” he said. “There are a handful of others, but not many, and few have any protection from demolition.”

Hotel Arno on N. Tampa Street in 1900. The Tampa Tribune purchased it five years later.
Hotel Arno on N. Tampa Street in 1900. The Tampa Tribune purchased it five years later. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]
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Clara Barton was among those who stayed at the Hotel Arno, according to Times archives, doing so for at least one night during the time when her Red Cross used Tampa as a base for efforts in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

The Tampa Tribune purchased Hotel Arno in 1905 and converted it into their headquarters, Kite-Powell said.

The Tribune remained there through 1924, according to city directories, and then relocated a block away to 602 N. Tampa St.

Prior to that move, the Tribune bosses considered making 520 N. Tampa St. their new headquarters.

That four-story structure was erected in 1912 by the Tribune for another business and was designed by Bonfoey and Elliott, the architectural firm behind Old City Hall and the Centro Asturiano building.

“Two bright young men of prepossessing appearance, aristocratic air, running over and bubbling out at the sides with enthusiasm, influence, affluence and energy, persuaded The Tribune management to build for them a new building to be occupied by their” Tarr Furniture business, the Tribune reported in 1912.

“The building will be the principal structure on Tampa St., both in size and appearance,” the Tribune reported. “It is of artistic design, of Roman bond brick, trimmed in Georgia marble and terra cotta.”

Related: Tampa Heights tries to save historic building from FDOT wrecking ball

Newspapers throughout Florida and beyond hailed it as an architectural achievement.

“One of Tampa’s biggest assets,” the Pensacola Journal wrote.

“Another illustration that Tampa and Florida are prospering,” Macon Telegraph reported.

“The most modern in Florida,” the Nashville Democrat said.

It was so popular that the Tribune had second thoughts about leasing it to the furniture store.

Tarr Furniture Company and Tampa Tribune building on the 500 block of N. Tampa Street in the 1920s.
Tarr Furniture Company and Tampa Tribune building on the 500 block of N. Tampa Street in the 1920s. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]

“Shortly after signing the lease, they regretted it and wanted to keep it for their benefit to move the paper operations into,” said Chip Weiner, whose book Burgert Brothers: Another Look contrasts old and modern Tampa through photographs.

Neither Tampa Street building is in that book, but will be featured in the follow up, he said.

The Tribune honored the lease but announced that they would move into the building when Tarr’s contract was up.

They never did.

“It later was the site of a short-lived bingo parlor,” Weiner said. “Then Haverty’s furniture.”

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