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Why do they call it that? Seminole Heights LIVE on the road!

1:32 PM, Apr 13, 2011   |    comments
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Basements? In Tampa? They exist in this neighborhood! Plus, we solve the mystery of the big white tower that stands next to I-275 just north of downtown Tampa.

We took The Morning Show LIVE to the Seminole Heights Garden Center on Wednesday, April 13th!

Photo Gallery: 10 News Live in Seminole Heights

Thank you to these great businesses and groups: Seminole Heights Sunday Morning MarketMake It Burn custom gas and fire installations, Seminole Heights Community Gardens, The Canadian Drugstore, Seminole Presbyterian Church, the City of Tampa, and the Tampa Bay History Center.

Thanks to these outstanding restaurants and cafes: Viitals Healthy Lifestyle Cafe & Specialty BakeryElla's Americana Folk Art Cafe, and Nicko's Fine Foods diner.

Thank you to these outgoing neighborhood organizations: Business Guild of Seminole Heights, the Hampton Terrace and Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Associations, and the South Seminole Heights and Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Associations.

For more on the upcoming market on Mother's Day at Hillsborough High School, visit the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market website.

Why do they call it Seminole Heights?

Step into Nicko's Fine Foods in Seminole Heights and you'll cross the same threshold as the King himself. Yes, Elvis Presley once ate at this diner.

The booth where the sideburned singer sat is still decorated with Elvis elements set up in a sort of shrine.

But even the man in the blue suede shoes probably didn't see what owner Nick Liakos shows only a select few.

Liakos led us through the kitchen, around a corner, and down a flight of stairs into... the basement.

Yes, a basement, in Tampa.

It has showers, sinks, a whole office, and more.

The "Heights" in Seminole Heights isn't just a catchy name. This area north of downtown Tampa sits several feet above sea level.

That means there's dry dirt deep enough underground to make room for basements. You'll find them in several of the bungalow-style houses that are the signature of Seminole Heights.

The "Seminole" in Seminole Heights, of course, comes from the name of Florida's most famous Indians.

The Hillsborough River wraps around much of the neighborhood, and just across the river stands a towering mystery. It's a tall, white tower with a top that looks like it might belong on a castle.

It's the Sulphur Springs Water Tower. For decades, that area was home to a water park and attraction fed by springs.

Folks from all over Tampa would pay a nickel a person to ride the streetcar to the park and splash in the refreshing water. The water tower stored water for the park, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, and also served as a distinctive icon for the area.

"Seminole Heights has another distinction. It was considered a streetcar suburb," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

The history center in Tampa's Channelside area sits along the tracks of today's TECO Streetcar Line. Well, waaay before the interstate -- even before most folks owned cars -- trolley lines like that were the best way to get downtown to work.

It was "crazy to walk to work" from a neighborhood as far from downtown as Seminole Heights, Kite-Powell said. "But streetcar? You're there like that! That's why a lot of those homes don't have garages -- because people originally didn't have cars."

While the streetcar connected this community, another peoplemover split it in two.

Interstate 275 was built right through the middle of Seminole Heights in the 1970's.

Hanging onto that neighborhood spirit has been a challenge ever since.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We'll be featuring 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 "Why do they call it that?" plus links to photos and maps from Tampa Bay's past at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Connect with 10 News multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm
on Facebook | twitter @graysonkamm | or e-mail at this link

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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