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Why do they call it that? Ybor City and Davis Islands

10:53 AM, Apr 21, 2010   |    comments
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  • Davis Islands developer D.P. Davis is shown in this image from the collection of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.
  • The two main islands that would become Davis Islands are shown before the project began in this image from the collection of the University of South Florida.
  • V.M. Ybor's cigar factory in Ybor City is shown in this image from the collection of the University of South Florida.
  • Dredging is partly complete on the Davis Islands development in this image from the collection of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.
    

Tampa, Florida -- Some call it Davis Islands, while others leave off the "s".  Even city signs have it both ways.  So who's right, and who was Davis?  Plus, the founder of Ybor City didn't exactly name the town after himself.

Why do they call it Ybor City?

"Ybor City's named for Vicente Martinez Ybor, who came to Tampa in the 1880's with a friend of his, a guy named Ignacio Haya," explained Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"Both of them owned cigar factories elsewhere, in Key West and in Havana, Cuba. But they were looking to move their factories to a different location to get away from some of the labor problems."

Tampa's century-long reputation as the cigar capital of the U.S. began with those two men. The Tampa Bay History Center chronicles that era in an exhibit that looks like an old Ybor City cigar shop and is home to a cool model that lets visitors peer inside and check out how a cigar factory like Ybor's worked.

Ybor built a cigar factory. Haya built one, too. So why isn't it Haya City?

"Ybor bought more land than Haya did," Kite-Powell said. "So Ybor got to call the place 'Ybor.' "

But even that name is strange in a way. "His name was Vicente Martinez Ybor. And his proper last name was 'Martinez' -- that was his father's last name," Kite-Powell said.

So maybe the town should have been called "Martinez City."

Why do they call it Davis Islands?

During Florida's land boom in the 1920's, developer D.P. Davis decided to turn Big Island and Little Grassy Key into the top-of-the-line place to live in Tampa.

He sold lots through a fancy storefront, and the swanky neighborhood was literally dredged up out of Tampa Bay.

Despite what some signs and some neighbors say, it's Davis Islands -- with an "s."

"There really are more than one island on Davis Islands. There are two islands today: there's the main island and there's a little island called Riviera Island," Kite-Powell said.

"There also was a third island, originally, when D.P. Davis built the project. It was down at the south end. But when the airport was built in the 30's, the canal that ran through and basically created that third island was blocked up, right at South Davis Boulevard.

"So, three islands became two. But, still, as the development was originally called Davis Islands, and there still are multiple islands, the official and correct name is 'Davis Islands.' "

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. on 10 Connects.

Check out Grayson's other "Why do they call it that?" stories:
Tampa and Courtney Campbell Causeway
Dale Mabry Highway and Thonotosassa
Hillsborough County and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard
Wimauma and the Howard Frankland Bridge
Pass-A-Grille and Gandy Bridge
Bearss Avenue and Pinellas County

Connect with 10 Connects multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm on Twitter as @graysonkamm, on his Facebook page, by e-mail at this link, or on AOL Instant Messenger as screen name GraysonConnects.

Grayson Kamm, 10 Connects

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