Thursday, June 25, 2009
Ascend the staircase to Florida blue skys: The Palace of Florence rules proudly on Tampa's Davis Islands
I admit that I have been drawn to this building for many years, long before its complete restoration in 2003. The old world look and intriguing towers reminded me of castles I liked to play with as a kid. What boy can resist castles and knights in shining armor (or young damsels?) The Palazzo Firenze (Palace of Florence) was part of David P. Davis' original plan for his ambitious, and mostly realized 1920s dream for the development of the two small islands in Tampa's Hillsborough Bay. Located at 45 Davis Boulevard, it was designed by Athos Menebun. It is understood that its design was taken from the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Looking now at photographs of the palazzo in Florence, it does share many of the elements of the tower and fortress-like design. Built in 1293, the Palazzo Vecchio became the seat of town's government and the home of the Medici family. It has been the seat of the municipal authority in Florence since 1872. It is a gorgeous part of the town's skyline today and a mighty big target when you're designing an apartment building on a near empty, sandy spit of land in the Hillsborough Bay. At the height of the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, architects were trying to design distinctive and luxurious structures for Davis Islands and they dreamed of a grand design to fit the developer's equally as grand dreams and ambitions. The 600+ year-old design of the Palazza Vecchio fit that dream. This photograph of the tower and exterior staircase show the terra cotta, wrought iron and stucco materials used throughout the building. Rather than Florentine officials and Medicis, Tampa's Palace of Florence features eight apartments in the 3-story building . Completed in 1926, at a cost of $350,000, it was restored in 2003 and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is also received Local Landmark Status. Looking up from this vantage point, one can't help but want to climb the outside stairs to see what is up there and check out the view of the islands, Tampa and the bay. Great spot for watching the sun set.