Why do they call it that? Explorer or murderer?

7:25 AM, Oct 5, 2011   |    comments
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Christopher Columbus

Was he a brave explorer or a murdering thief? Columbus Day is coming up next week, and a busy Tampa road has his name on it.

Why do they call it Columbus Drive?

You know the rhyme about this famous discoverer! C'mon, say it with me...

In nineteen hundred and forty-two... some people wanted to name a street after you!

What? That's not the version you learned?

Well, that's what was on the minds of the people who Christopher Columbus' famous name on this Tampa road.

"Columbus Drive is, of course, named for Christopher Columbus -- the man who sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Interesting -- his rhyme has different words than mine.

"In 1942, to celebrate the anniversary of that, Michigan Avenue was renamed in his honor [to] Columbus Drive," Kite-Powell said.

He's quick to point out that some see Columbus as a bold explorer, whose vision to head west helped end the Dark Ages and eventually create the greatest nation on earth... ours.

But others see him as a scumbag, who murdered and pillaged and stole a New World that already belonged to millions of other people.

"He didn't 'discover' the New World, of course... when he got here, people were already here. They discovered it who knows how many years before," Kite-Powell said.

"He's credited as the guy who kind of 'found' the New World for the Europeans.

Regardless, the Michigan-to-Columbus name change was official in 1943.

So, the street was was no longer Michigan Avenue.

That meant a school along that road -- Michigan Avenue Grammar School -- would have now been on Columbus Drive.

Keeping the name for the school would have been confusing for grownups, let alone little kids.

The school needed a new name!

And what did they pick? A different one of America's most controversial hero-slash-villains. They renamed it after Robert E. Lee.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Columbus Day is this Monday, October 10th, 2011.

It always happens on the second Monday in October, which is coincidentally the same day Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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