Historic Seminole Heights  ....located in the heart of Tampa

 

Seminole Heights is a historic Tampa neighborhood that had it’s beginnings in the early 1900’s. If there was a beginning point it was in 1911 with T. Roy Young’s 40 acres and a subdivision 3 miles north of downtown Tampa that he called Seminole Heights. Young’s enterprise, the Seminole Development Corporation encompassed a rectangle bordered by Hillsborough Avenue, Central Avenue, Wilder Avenue and Florida Avenue. To the north of this new community was the Sulphur Springs, a resort area 5 miles north of Tampa that had begun attracting northerners to it’s reportedly therapeutic springs.  A trolley line had been built connecting the city with Sulphur Springs making convenient travel to the “suburbs” possible and inviting. The trolley made it possible to commute from home to work. Young recognized and took advantage of this potential.To build in Young’s  subdivision started at $5,000, a sizable sum in the second decade of the 20th century.  Soon other developments followed. By 1912, the Mutual Development Company owned by Milton and Giddings Mabry and the Dekle Investment Company owned by Lee and James Dekle surveyed and platted land adjacent to Seminole Heights forming the Suwanee Heights and North Seminole Heights subdivisions respectfully. Bounded by Henry Avenue, Hillsborough Avenue, Central Avenue and Florida Avenue, Suwanee Heights was also a restricted subdivision (like Seminole Heights) but started at a much more modest price of $1,400.  The Dekle Investment Company, unlike the other two developers, was not interested in building homes but rather selling the platted lots and assisting in the financing of those that wanted to build their own homes.  (With these little historical nuggets you can notice the differences as you travel north through the Seminole Heights Historic District.)  Of course, with this development came the merchants seeking an opportunity to provide welcome goods and services to the new residents. Many of those early business storefronts are still standing even if the original businesses have faded away.

Much like the first decade of our 21st century, Florida experienced a real estate boom from about 1918 to 1928.  Development came to areas north, east, west and south of the original subdivisions of Seminole Heights and Suwanee Heights.  In the decade following World War I all six dairies to the south and west shut down, the farms platted into new subdivisions.  Some were never quite developed before the real estate bubble of the 1920’s burst.  The peak of construction in the area was 1925 to 1928.  There was very little construction in 1929 and that would remain true until the mid-1930’s.  A visit to the old city directories at the John F. Germany Library  and you will see numerous new homes were recorded as vacant through out the darkest days of the Great Depression.  Development again began in the mid-1930's as new construction began once again in the Lakewood Manor area east of Nebraska Avenue, that area today is the Hampton Terrace National Register Historic District. 

Seminole Heights is today largely defined by the neighborhood’s bungalow architecture.  The neighborhood’s bungalows reflect various influences from the high-style Craftsman and Arts & Crafts to Florida Cracker and Florida Vernacular architectural influences.  This is not surprising when one considers that Bungalow Architecture was the dominant style of the first quarter of the 20th century and the style was easily adaptable to local materials and influences.  Among Tampa  neighborhoods, the bungalow became the leading style in Hyde Park and Seminole Heights.  It was a style that rejected the elaborate embellishments of Victorian, Gothic Revival and other late 19th century and sought a return to more natural, organic, or simplistic aesthetic.   Not so unlike many who today find themselves drawn to these vintage sentinels of a less complicated time of front porches, traditional neighborhoods, and community.

Another style reflected in the early development of Seminole Heights is Mediterranean Revival.  The popularity of Mediterranean Revival was only about 15 years, it is a style that dominates the historic homes of some Tampa neighborhoods and is the sole historic style reflected in the city of Temple Terrace.  However, in Seminole Heights the presence of Mediterranean Revival homes is scattered and generally they are modest in scale.

Prefabricated homes are another element in historic Seminole Heights.  While most people today have never heard of ordering a home through a mail order catalog, it was a common an popular practice prior to World War II.  Both Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward operated sizable kit home businesses.  But there were other companies like HonorBilt, and Quickbilt as well, there is a Quickbilt home a 5510 branch Ave.  The number of these homes in Tampa will never be known, most construction information lost with the passage of time and changing ownership but some maintain their original characteristics.  These homes were both modest one story and spacious two story homes.  Combing through the on line archives of these companies might just yield a historical surprise.

Communal structures such as churches and schools of Seminole Heights’ early development tend to reflect high style,  Gothic Revival, an architectural style that came to be associated with church architecture finds a home in Seminole Heights, examples of which can be seen in the Seminole Heights United Methodist Church, Hillsborough High School, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and Broward Elementary.

Through out Seminole Heights you can find connections to the history of the City of Tampa.  The Mutual Development Company founded by the brothers of Dale Mabry  who died in World War I and for whom Dale Mabry Highway is named.  The founder of Seminole Heights went on to establish other enterprises including Young’s Termite and Pest Control.  The Dekle family had it’s hand in various construction enterprises including Jetton-Dekle Lumber Co. and Ingram-Dekle Lumber Co., names that live on in the names of Tampa streets.  The Lesley plat subdivision connects to the descendants of Confederate Major Lesley, 12th Mayor  of Tampa.  Curtis street, named for William Curtis who was a nurseryman and developer in the area. The Curtis house at 808 E. Curtis, is a Dutch Colonial home that dates from 1906 and is on the National Register of Historic Homes.  Other more contemporary notables with roots to Seminole Heights is former City Council and County Commission  member, Jan Platt who grew up on W. Giddens and former 3 term Mayor, Dick Greco who grew up on Shadowlawn.

 

For updates or changes:
HistoricSeminoleheights@gmail.com
 

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