TAMPA — To refinance his West Tampa home, Octavio Jones’ property had to be surveyed to confirm the boundaries.
That process included looking over the property’s plat, the map of how the neighborhood was originally parceled.
In doing so, Jones, a former Tampa Bay Times photographer who freelances for this and other publications, noticed something strange about the portion of Armenia Avenue that runs by his home.
On the plat from 1907, the West Tampa thoroughfare was spelled Armina Avenue.
“Wait, what?” he said. “Is the plat or all the street signs in West Tampa misspelled?”
Armenia Avenue was originally Armina Avenue, but there is no official record documenting the change.
“No one really knows what happened or how it changed,” the Tampa Bay History Center’s Rodney Kite-Powell said. “But you can certainly see how perhaps someone was making a new street sign and thought Armina was a strange word that must have been misspelled.”
Armenia is the name of one of the world’s oldest nations, whereas Armina is an obscure name.
Online sites that define baby names have several takes on the meaning of Armina — Italian for “army man,” Latin for “noble” and German for “warrior maiden.” An armina is also a type of sea slug.
Armina Avenue was named for the Armina Cigar Company, which was incorporated in 1892.
The primary owner of the company was “Hugh C. Macfarlane, the powerful lawyer who founded and developed West Tampa,” according to a 1993 Tampa Tribune column penned by the late history writer Leland Hawes. “A 40-by-60-foot, three-story building housed the factory at Armina and Walnut Street.”
A Weekly Tribune article from 1892 reported that Macfarlane’s partners, N.B.K. Pettingill, Herman Smeal and August Lindcamp, were “Philadelphia gentlemen” who have “plenty of means at their disposal and are well known citizens of the Quaker City.” The article also described them as ”gentleman to the manor born, highly respected and stand in the front row as citizens of pluck, push and enterprise. We predict for the new company a successful business career.”
It did not last long, nor did the street named for the company.
A tornado destroyed that building, according to Hawes, so the company moved to Armina Avenue and Pine Street. “After another move, the company was dissolved in 1897.”
By 1913, Armina Avenue had been changed to Armenia Avenue “on one of the semi-official maps of Tampa,” Kite-Powell said.
Hawes wrote that 1915 and 1920 maps showed it as “Arminia Avenue” but a 1918 city directory “made the switch to Armenia Avenue.”
Armenia is not the only West Tampa street with a different spelling than originally intended.
“Beach Street was originally spelled Beech Street with two E’s like the tree,” Kite-Powell said. “Again, we don’t know why it changed, but it could have been because someone thought it was misspelled.”
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Susan Fernandez of South Tampa Title, which assisted Jones with his survey, said the story of Armenia is why it is “always fun to find the history of your home. You never know what you will learn. Street names change. Martin Luther King was not always MLK. Kennedy was not always Kennedy. Streets are originally platted with one name for a reason and then changed for another.”
Still, there are records and stories behind why Buffalo Avenue was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in honor of the civil rights activist and why Lafayette Street and Grand Central Avenue were renamed John F. Kennedy Boulevard to honor the president whose motorcade drove on Grand Central four days before he was assassinated.
How did Armina become Armenia?
“Add it to the list of Tampa mysteries,” Kite-Powell laughed. “We have plenty.”