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Major events in Tampa's history to be subjects for Riverwalk monuments

Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman unveil renderings of the monuments that will be built along the Tampa Riverwalk as funds are raised.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman unveil renderings of the monuments that will be built along the Tampa Riverwalk as funds are raised.
Published Jul. 18, 2015

TAMPA — The group that helped create the Riverwalk wants to pay tribute to three of the most significant events in Tampa's history.

Friends of the Riverwalk unveiled concepts Friday for monuments honoring the introduction of the cigar industry to Tampa, the connection of Henry Plant's railroad to Tampa's port and World War II.

"We call these transformational events in Tampa's history," said Steven Anderson, Friends of the Riverwalk president. "Things that really made a huge difference then and still make a difference in the fabric and the economy of Tampa."

The trio of tributes would become the latest to be added to the Historical Monument Trail, which began as an idea 10 years ago and now includes 18 monuments. The selection of the three events was made by the same eight historians who chose the existing monuments. Three artists — Steven Dickey, Michael Parker and Jamie Lee Sealander — then labored for over a year on the design concepts revealed Friday.

"Our objective has been to create iconic, beautiful, extraordinary works of historic art," Anderson said. "Works that educate, inspire and instill pride in and among the people who see them."

Anderson said completing the designs will take "awhile," and he said when all of the money is in hand only then will construction begin. Each monument will be constructed as the money is raised for it individually.

Anderson estimates each will cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

"We're not going to compromise on the art, we're not going to compromise on the materials, and we are not going to compromise on the size," he said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said these "iconic symbols" will drive heritage tourism and make the county more memorable.

"Friends, open your wallets," she said. "We're linking our past with our future."

The cigar industry is "the event that transformed Tampa from a small fishing village to a multicultural city," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History museum and a member of the selection committee. The design concept is a life-size diorama depicting scenes from cigar factory life, with a series of transparent cigar labels along the vertical edges of the base, which would be backlit.

The connection of the rail to the port would be depicted by three large iconic objects: an anchor, a rail spike and hammer. These would be mounted on a three-tiered circular pedestal.

The top tier would feature a map of the rail routes to and from Tampa with water flowing through them. The middle tier would show rail routes coming into the city in 1915 — with the names of major shipping hubs along the edge — and the bottom tier would show the products transported, with their placement corresponding to the places they were shipped.

The World War II monument would acknowledge the impact of aviation and the money it injected into the Tampa Bay area, as well as the role of women. The design concept shows three airplanes — a B-17, B-26 and B-29 — taking off, historical photographs at their bases with three-dimensional bronze statues emerging from the images.

"Tampa was nearly a third-world city," said Doris Weatherford, a historian and member of the selection committee, referring to the cultural and economic transformation brought about by the war.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn recalled the stories of immigrant families who came "oftentimes with nothing but the clothes on their back, and who gave us the amazing foundation upon which we stand."

"What this does is give us a constant reminder of how we got here, who we our, of our story as Tampanians, and we have to give gratitude to those who came before us," he said.

Contact Anne Steele at asteele@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400. Follow @annemariesteele.

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