Monday, August 31, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher in action

You can't blame me if the artist didn't capture a strong likeness of him. I only took a photograph of the mural. The uniform looks sharp, the arm's back just right, the teeth are extremely sharp (and white) and there's a determined look in the eyes. It's got to be a winning pitch.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

MONOCHROME: Why did the sea gull miss the taxi?

The gull probably missed the Tampa River Taxi because he was eyeing some fresh fish swimming by and wasn't even at the right dock. Bird-brain. Maybe he thought the boat was filled with anglers and by just standing tall and looking good they'd toss him a bite, slow and let him hop aboard. Whatever his excuse, he's reduced to watching them leisurely cruise by and head up the Hillsborough River. It's more likely he imagined it was the African Queen motoring by and he'd already seen the movie and wanted no part of the squabbling that lay ahead. (He might have been eaten in the exchange...or fed into the engine for fuel!)

Visit the world of incredible photographic artistry recorded in black, white and grays at
Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

No Points for Second Place

The Rutgers University crew team, 2008, left their tag on the wall just under Kiley Gardens in Tampa's downtown. The artwork left by the teams is intended more for opposing college and university rowing teams then for us so they may at times be somewhat cryptic. RU is Rutgers, but No Points for Second Place is pretty clear, even to the passengers on this passing boat on the river. Many of these I just cannot figure out but I don't think they care; that's not the point. Like it or not, the effort that went into completing this red, white and blue design, and careful lettering, had to have been a well-orchestrated team do the teams always end up with a right-brain artist crewing with them that can create these mural? And, I always ask, when do they do them that no one ever sees them at work?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Season 4, Episode 7

I actually had to wait several hours this afternoon for an actual sky to appear. Although dark and threatening storm clouds would have been great, it was a gray blank canvas. It was dark, totally overcast, and raining off and on for hours. After the storm and gray clouds moved away, giant white clouds began to fill the sky and the blue reappeared. It's a glorious evening in Tampa. This scene is of Marjorie Yacht Basin on Davis Islands.

Visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Law and a Box Truck: Tampa's Second Empire Architecture

I recently posted two examples of architectural styles that can be found in the Hyde Park Historic District. Prairie School style, made famous by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was selected for the Leiman House on South Newport, built in 1916. Just down the street toward Hillsborough Bay is the Morrison House, a late 19th-century Italianate Revival design, the oldest home in the district, built in 1879. Both are real architectural treasures in the district. This house, boldly emblazoned on the side of a box truck, is the Hutchinson House, listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. Built by Currie Hutchinson in 1908, it is an excellent example of Second Empire Revival style architecture. Renovated in 1976, it has served several owners and uses over its lifetime and at one time was even a fraternity house for students of the nearby University of Tampa. It was sold for office use and today is home to a law firm. The truck sits in their parking lot, right up close to the busy intersection of Platt Street and Plant Avenue. Theirs is not the only law firm in Tampa to utilize big box trucks for rolling (or stationary) billboards, but this is the only one that put a piece of Tampa's architectural history and heritage to work as a marketing tool. The house might as well be walking up and down the street dangling sandwich boards from its brick fireplaces and shouting the name of the firm to passing motorists.

It seems like an odd way to recognize and celebrate the architectural jewel that serves as one's offices, but I guess some in the legal profession need more then just reputation and referrals. And if the box truck doesn't work, they could always buy a 16-wheeled semi and emblazon it with the house and Second Empire furniture. Yep, that's probably the next tactical step in the marketing plan. I took a photo of the house itself so you can compare the two. The house must have been a real eye-stopper in it heyday. If you like the period mansard roof, then the design is spectacular. (Yes, the version of the house on the side of the truck does has every light on and the landscaping is a bit better.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Your Empty Bench Awaits

It cannot get any more inviting then this bench sirring empty alongside this peaceful stretch of the Hillsborough River. Up a ways for the office towers, traffic and seawalls of the downtown area, this spot is quiet and relaxing. It really is as nice here as it appears. The afternoon air is a bit hot (and humid) but an rain shower might come to cool things off. Maybe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Railroad bridge or work of great modern art?

The Cass Street Bridge, 500 feet in length and built in 1926 at a cost of $400,000, was added as a river crossing to relieve some traffic on the Lafayette, later named, Kennedy Street Bridge. It connected Tampa’s main downtown with West Tampa. It is closed for 8-months for structural repairs and should reopen in October. (After state inspection it was found to be “structurally deficient.”) The railroad bridge, which is shown in the open position, sits beside the Cass Street Bridge; it was constructed in 1915. The bridge allowed railcars to travel south from Tampa’s downtown area, across the Hillsborough River, to Port Tampa. The street and bridge were named for General Lewis Cass. As interesting as a railroad bridge may be, the man who the street was named for is far more interesting if you love history. Until I took this shot I had no idea who Cass was. Born in 1782, during our struggle for independence from England, Cass served as a military officer, governor of the Michigan territory, United States Senator representing the state of Michigan, Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, and Ambassador to France. My guess is the street was named for him because of his post as secretary of war and the Indian Removal policy that was a major issue at that time. He ran for president on the Democrat party ticket in 1848, but lost the election to Zachary Taylor. From 1857 until 1860, when Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, he served as Secretary of State under President James Buchanan. He died in 1866.

The bridge, named for such an accomplished politician and statesman, has acquired a brilliant, unusual and un-statesmanlike patina. I think much of the color and decoration has been added over the years by our illustrious university and college crew teams who row up and down this stretch of the river in their skulls. I featured the Laurel Street Bridge on June 23 that showcased some of their wild and extremely colorful and creative crew art. The Laurel Street and Cass Street Bridges, and this railroad bridge, are all listed as Historic Bridges of the United States.

This bridge is called the ACL Bridge because it was built to carry the trains of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. For bridge engineering fans out there, it is a “truss bascule” design; as we less educated should know, that refers to the large, weighted portion raised up on the right side (that looks to be a very large canvas and amazing work of modern art.) These giant weights act as a counterweight to the bridge span and continuously balance it as it is raised to allow boats to go through. (Bascule is French for seesaw and balance.) According to the bridge design sites, this is the most common type of movable bridge. The Laurel Street Bridge, just up the river from Cass Street, is also a bascule design.

If any of you are movie fans, and are real good at your trivia, the 2004 movie “The Punisher” was filmed in Tampa. It starred John Travolta, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Roy Scheider and Thomas Jane as the Punisher. Part of the car chase scenes were filmed on the Cass Street Bridge.

As construction of the new Tampa Museum of Art nears completion, it’s fitting that a modern masterpiece – the sides of the counterweights for the bridge - might be within a few yards of the blank exhibit walls of the new museum. I wonder if they have contemplated featuring them in a show. It could be quite a blockbuster. (Or at least it would certainly be talked about.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tampa' Downtown from the banks of the Hillsborough River

This is the view of Tampa's downtown looking south across the Hillsborough River from Plant Park toward the Kennedy Street Bridge (originally the Lafayette Street Bridge).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Monochrome Weekly: Shrouded in Moss

A canopy of ancient oaks entangled with moss silently shroud the crumbling walls and stones of Oaklawn Cemetery, Tampa's oldest burial ground.

Visit the world and incredible photographic artistry recorded in black, white and grays at
Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homes of Tampa's Hyde Park: Leiman House in the Prairie School Style of Architecture

Hilda, one of my loyal followers, has a wonderful blog, My Manila, all about her spectacular country, the Philippines. (You must visit her!) She read my post yesterday at Tampa Florida Photo about Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, a U.S. National Historic District. I showed a night view of the fountain and shopping district, Hyde Park Village, and mentioned some of the nice restaurants nearby. Hilda suggested showing some of the homes that I mentioned, that include a wide variety of architectural styles. The 860 acre district includes 1,695 structures built between 1879-1933. The oldest and best preserved of Tampa's early neighborhoods, it is a fascinating and even eclectic mix of homes, shops, schools, churches and even apartment buildings.

It's tough to decide, but I think this is my favorite of all of the homes. The Henry Leiman House - many of the homes retain the names of either their first owners or the name that is most closely associated with ownership - is an outstanding example of the Prairie School style of architecture made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright. The home was built in 1916 and was designed by architect M. Leo Elliott. Located at 716 South Newport Avenue, at the corner with West Inman Avenue, it is an imposing structure incorporating all of the elements most closely associated with the Prairie School. Wright's style was said to be a " horizontal extension of the prairie, an integration of building and site, with cantilevered eaves and
terraces with planters flowed into open spaces centered about massive fireplaces. Horizontal bands of windows, contrasting horizontal trim, low roof pitch, and geometric details were distinctive features."

Mr. Leiman, who entertained often in the home, was the owner of Tampa Cigar Box Company, a necessary and very lucrative enterprise when Tampa's factories were making tens of millions of cigars each year and shipping them in boxes throughout the world. He cultivated and used trees from his own acreage in Ybor City and on the Hillsborough River to manufacture the boxes. The house shows just how well Mr. Leiman could afford to live. The house is two stories, stucco over frame construction, with almost 6,000 square feet of space. Walls cover and enclose the raised front terrace patio. The closeup above left shows the main entrance into the terrace and a
trompe l'oeil mural on the wall. (Note the fountain and the dog peeking out at guests who enter.)

Over the next several days I will post more homes here and at Tampa Florida Photo. (I hope the skies will cooperate and go back to their typical blinding clear blue.) My next post at TFP will feature the Morrison House, built in 1879, the oldest house in Hyde Park.

Go to Tampa Florida Photo HERE to see the oldest home in Hyde Park, the Morrison Home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Skywatch Friday #58

Nope, the rain never came. Looking at these dark and ominous clouds, it seemed like a sure bet that we were in for a real heavy downpour.

The scene is of Old Water Street in Tampa's downtown. When Tampa was first laid out and platted by John Jackson in 1847, this street was named Water Street. It was the southernmost street in small town Tampa and ran along the water, today’s Garrison Channel. Over the years, from our city’s earliest days, as Tampa grew from a small military outpost, Fort Brooke, to the present day, many different businesses have occupied this land. Because of its location, cargo shipping terminals, grain processing plants, warehouses and docks crowded up against the waterfront for most of those years. By the 1990s, it sat pretty much vacant and forgotten, rusting buildings and decaying docks the only reminder that thriving businesses once operated here. Just across from Water Street was the fast developing and now successful Harbour Island, itself once empty and weed-filled, strewn with falling-down warehouses and grain elevators. But not anymore. What a great place to live, whether it’s in an apartment, condominium or one of the gated sections of beautiful luxury homes, all surrounded by water and sitting just across the bridges within walking distance of downtown's businesses, museums and entertainment.

To the immediate right in this photo, between the street and the water, lies Contanchobe-Fort Brooke Park, a part of the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department. Contanchobe, the name given this area by the natives who inhabited this part of Florida for thousands of years, means "where the water meets the land.” Today, this area is known as Channelside. Where there was once a waterfront that was all but ignored can now be found a rapidly expanding urban center of life and activity. Down the left side of the street run the TECO Line electric streetcars connecting this point with Ybor City. On the left in the photo, shrouded by the menacing storm clouds is the home of the aptly name Tampa Bay Lightning. The building, originally named the Ice Palace when it opened in 1996, sits between Channelside Drive, which it faces, and Old Water Street. The street was renamed Ice Palace Drive by the city in ’96 and then, as part of a marketing agreement in 2002 with the St. Petersburg Times, which acquired the naming rights to the Ice Palace, it was again renamed and became the St. Pete Times Forum Drive. (That’s an exhausting and almost comical story about city street naming, isn’t it. And this story is about just one street in Tampa…and a very short one at that, just a quarter mile long.) To be fair and give you a more complete picture, the St. Pete Times Forum is a very successful venue. Along with the Lightning hockey team which calls the Forum home, and 2004 Stanley Cup Championship, other entertainment events held in the Forum include music concerts, NBA exhibition games, University of South Florida basketball and NCAA Tournament games, tennis, professional wrestling, boxing, figure skating, circuses and rodeos.

Looking east, straight ahead in the photo, is the new Tampa Bay History Center, which opened in January of this year. Because of the street’s history and the significance of the opening of the museum, the street was renamed – I’m sure for the very last time – Old Water Street. So, we’re all the way back to 1847. And the looming storm clouds in the sky that probably don’t look any different than they did when Native-American tribes, the Seminoles and the Miccosukee, lived, hunted and fished from this spot for hundreds of years and soldiers of the C.S.A., Confederate defenders, kept watch in the 1860s for approaching U.S. Naval ships and Union troops during the Civil War. Same pounding rain and sticky hot weather. Except on this day, it didn’t rain a drop. Not even a drizzle.

Visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What does the monkey say to the frog?

I'm pretty sure these ceramic garden stools are wondering what they are doing sharing an antique settee in what had been, many years ago, a hotel room. The frog is sporting an Alice in Wonderland-look in his scrunched top hat, while his primate companion is proudly wearing what appears to be a bellhop's cap. Both are perfectly attired for their original roles. They served as sturdy, yet low, stools for the walkways and gardens which filled 150 acres of land around the original Tampa Bay Hotel on the banks of the Hillsborough River.

If you've followed my Tampa blogs, read my posts and seen some of my photos of the city, you've noticed that I am a great fan of our marvelous Tampa Bay Hotel. I have featured shots of the incredible Moorish-style minarets that sit atop the building silhouetted against a Tampa sunset. And closeups of them in black and white. The photographic possibilities of the outside of the huge building are endless. From Victorian filigree to massive, leaded-glass doors, an entire class in photographing architectural and historic subjects could be based here. I especially like some of the ceramic garden stools, the ones that are as fun and elaborate of these two creatures. They were placed all throughout the grounds and I understand they provided a place for proper ladies of the Victorian era to stop and rest as they wandered the garden paths.

The hotel was built and furnished for roughly $3 million dollars in 1891, and ceased operating as a hotel altogether in 1932. But in the intervening years it has come to have a life that the first owner could never have imagined. Today, it is restored and expertly maintained and operates as both a museum and as part of the University of Tampa. The Henry B. Plant Museum, named for the man who had the vision, and the wealth from his railroad empire, to build the lavish resort hotel, first opened as the Tampa Municipal Museum in 1933. Today, the original hotel building, a quarter mile long and sitting on just a part of the hotel's original 150 acres of tropical landscaping, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The museum, which became the Henry B. Plant Museum in 1974, is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

When it opened over a century ago, the hotel and grounds included 21 buildings incorporating a golf course, bowling alley, casino and an indoor heated swimming pool. Photographs of the casino show a large, Oriental-style building right on the riverfront. Sadly, it is long gone. There were even tennis courts. During its operating period, the hotel housed hundreds of well known celebrities. When the Spanish American War broke out with Spain, the United States Army used the hotel as its headquarters. Colonel Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, now so closely associated with Tampa's history, had a suite of rooms and trained his men on the hotel property. (Soldiers preparing to embark for Cuba lived in tents nearby and were transported by train to Port Tampa where they boarded ships. The history of the city and the hotel during the war is extremely interesting and is well documented. Writers and newspapermen of the day came from all over the country and even some foreign countries to cover the war. (Visit the University of South Florida's Special Collections for digitized copies of The Sunland Tribune, HERE. A good article from the journal about how the media of the day covered the military and the war can be found in the 1998 edition.) Other hotel guests included Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane and the Prince of Wales. Babe Ruth even stayed here and signed his first baseball contract in the main dining room, Fletcher Lounge. The Writing and Reading Room, click on it at left, is the most historic and authentic of the rooms in the museum. It looks almost exactly at it did in the 1890s. Gentlemen would gather here to smoke Tampa's fine handrolled cigars, read newspapers and complete their correspondence home or to offices in Northern cities. During the Spanish American War, I imagine generals and their staffs would meet here to discuss plans and strategy. While the military minds enjoyed their privacy, ladies could have been out in the gardens trying to decide upon which of the stools, the frog or the monkey, to rest upon. Wow, times have really changed. But, the hotel looks just the same.

Click HERE to visit the Henry B. Plant Museum website.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Watery Wednesday

Boat traffic certainly slows at night even though the sun has set and the air is cooler. As dusk settles in over the city and waterways boats of every size make their way for home. This boat is passing Harbour Island and the Tampa Convention Center and fast approaching the Platt Street Bridge and the mouth of the Hillsborough River.

HERE to see other wet and Watery Wednesday images from around the world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Itch your Porsche 356

I am crazy about the art form called trome l'oeil. I posted another portion of this wall on Sunday at Tampa Florida Photo and liked the scene so much I just had to show more of the artist's creation in much greater detail. The entire scene, painted on the side of an auto audio and home theater store, includes three garages containing a MINI, a Mercedes 300 Gullwing and this one of the Porsche 356. The artist, Dr. Doodle, has painted himself on the top right sitting on a wood plank, paint brush in hand. The entire scene is on a flat, stuccoed wall and is a totally handpainted, faux picture. It amazes me that an artist can create such exquisite illusion with just paint, skill and talent. The realism is so much fun to behold. Go to the artist's webside, Dr. Doodle, HERE, if you want to see more of his work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Old Computer with Divine Life

A very large mock-up of a IBM-style computer - circa 1990s - and its wild and colorful, almost psychedelic monitor screen, is positioned on the roof of a thrift store. It stands a good 6-feet or so. Probably in the hope, and with the expectation, that the computer's life would be enriched in some unexplainable way (and store sales would rise), it is joined by the solemn and prayerful figures of Mary and Joseph. My guess is that at some time in the past, as the thrift store received and sorted through its donations, the creche-type plastic figurines arrived. With wonder in his eyes, and marketing glee in his heart, the owner took them to the roof and carefully positioned them to either side of the weathered, obsolete computer CPU and monitor display. The colorful used car pennants were added later as a delicate touch to the unfolding manger scene. Strange and crazy as it is to behold, the tableau almost seems acceptable. On some level. Almost. It has been up there quite a while so apparently no one has objected.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monochrome Weekly: Wall of Flames

A small plastic sign on the wall of this custom car shop stated that this was a "Garage Sale." Personally, I like the bright flames on the wall but I doubt they're for sale. (Would they look OK on the family car?)

Go see the world and incredible artistry of black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chocolate and Blueberries: Perfect breakfast combination.

This was the scene in the morning at Indigo Coffee in Hyde Park Village. I'd had a coffee earlier so the cup is hot chocolate with thick whipped cream. It is scrumptious and as chocolate as I can take. The muffin is filled with fresh blueberries and drizzled with a sugary coating. (I'm sure it's very healthy.) If you wonder if there was a choco/sugar high after this relaxing time in the Village, that would be a resounding, yes! Although it's humid, it's a pretty day without a storm cloud in sight. The perfect, lazy Saturday to sit for a while by the fountain (which is still without water because of our shortage and use restrictions) and watch a great variety of people strolling, biking and simply enjoying the setting. My favorite thing though, is watching the young 90-lb. moms navigate their huge, 6,000-lb. SUVs into tight parking spaces, and load and unload little ones without once stopping their cell phone conversations. They practically need a step ladder to just unbuckle junior from his car seat. It's a hoot.

I posted a photo of the new mansion being built by New York Yankees ballplayer Derek Jeter a couple of day ago HERE. If any of you want to see a shot I got from across the bay of the home under construction on Davis islands, I've included it here. Click and enlarge it to get a better sense of its size. I'm guessing that the homes on either side are in the range of 5-7,000 square feet. His 31,000 square feet makes theirs look like guest cottages.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Skywatch Friday #57

A good solid storm system is moving east across central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico. Rains, some pretty heavy at times, have filled our skies and soaked our yards (and streets) all day. This was taken during a break in the clouds and showers.

Visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Bachelors Pad Fit for a King: Derek Jeter’s New Mansion on Davis Islands

Derek Jeter, the star of the New York Yankees baseball team, will soon have space for a very nice collection of cars in the six garages he is having built. The garages and the driveway wrapping around out front should be plenty of space for friends and family who are certain to drop by his new, rather large, almost 31,000 square foot home on Davis Islands. I shot three separate photos and "stitched" them together with Windows Live in order the get the whole house in one frame. The house, still under construction today, is huge. Homes on the street are very, very nice, in amenities and size, but this one stands out from the rest. Some of his neighbors aren’t terribly excited about the humongous home he is having built but most seem to be taking it in their stride. The all-star Yankee ballplayer is building a literal mansion with seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms on a spectacular lot on Hillsborough Bay. Jeter already owns a very nice bachelor’s pad in Tampa’s Avila which has five-bedrooms and five-bathrooms. This place certainly dwarfs that house and will be Tampa’s largest private residence. He paid $7.7 million for the property alone and when it’s completed the English manor-style waterfront residence should be worth an additional $6-7 million. As he is currently earning $21.6 million a year, I guess he can afford to spend a small portion on a new, bigger address. As you can see, there is a center section, the main part of the house, and then wings with the garages on either side. There will be a pool on the water. He just got permission to wall the property with a 6-foot fence combination of stone and iron. If he didn’t, I’m certain his portico would be filled day and night with paparazzi, autograph seekers and celebrity hounds trying to catch a glimpse of him and his latest girlfriend, whoever that might be on that particular day. As I was looking for a bit of background on the house itself, I read a piece that commented on how wise it was for Jeter to build such an over-the-top mansion without benefit of a wife or girlfriend…to offer her advice, opinion and desires. That said, I wonder how long he will really live here. Good question.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Minnows & Monsters UNITE!

Minnows and Monsters specializes in making custom fishing rods to the customers' specifications. They are a full-service fishing tackle shop that's been in business for over ten years and offer knowledgeable advice, expert repairs and some fine products. They sponsor local tournaments and even hold seminars for serious fishermen who just can't get enough of all things fishing. And, no, they do not sell minnows, monsters, or bait of any kind. (But their store does sit right beside a Hong Kong nail salon if you can think of any connection whatsoever.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menacing Sky Meets Dancing Shadows

I was losing the light fast as the sun slid down the face of the buildings and cast shadows across the still water. Lights were coming on at The Shops of Harbour Island on the right and the Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown. In the center is the bridge to the island. The night air was humid but not a breath of wind even caused a ripple on the water.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Monochrome Weekly

Thank you Aileni for selecting my post of the windsurfers. I couldn't be more proud or happier then to be featured along with such outstanding black and white artists. This scene captures the sun fading fast and the evening light overtaking sailboats anchored on a glassy basin.

Go see more of the world in black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel

The Henry B. Plant Museum is located within Plant's original Tampa Bay Hotel, now a part of the University of Tampa. Quoting the museum's website, "If you’re railroad magnate Henry Bradley Plant, in the midst of the sand swamps that would be Tampa, you construct the most astonishingly magnificent hotel of its day, then fill it with treasures from around the world. With its splendid Moorish architecture, opulent furnishings, and spectacular tropical gardens, Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel attracted a host of celebrated guests, from Teddy Roosevelt to Sarah Bernhardt to Babe Ruth. A visit to the Henry B. Plant Museum and the authentically restored rooms of the Tampa Bay Hotel will transport you back to a time of indulgent ten-course meals, waltzing on the veranda and alligator hunting by moonlight.…" And they enjoyed magnificent sunsets as well.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Skywatch Friday #56

Wispy clouds reflect the last burst of sunlight as the sailboats at anchor cast long evening shadows across the water's glassy surface.

Visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Colonnade has served boatloads of fish and shrimp

The Colonnade Restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard in 1935. The owners, the Whitesides, had two sons who were students at Tampa’s Henry B. Plant High School. Soon the restaurant was a favorite hangout for the kids and their cars. Plant had sororities then and my mother and her lifelong friends were inducted under the huge oak tree that sill stands to the right in the picture. They served the best burgers, fries and milk shakes of any of Tampa’s drive-ins (which would be disputed by students who attended rival high schools and had their own drive-ins). For over three decades the 'Nade, as it was called, was a real drive-in. You could eat inside but why would anyone do that when you could sit in your car, visit with your friends and look cool. Waitresses, car hops, came to your window and you knew them all and they learned to know you and all of your friends. The fish ‘n chips and fried shrimp were awesome and cheap. Eat in your car or take out, their food was in large proportions, super fresh, and reasonably priced even for high school boys trying to impress the girls, put a couple dollars of gas in the car, maybe go out with the guys to the drive-in movie to ogle the girls who also didn't have dates. The ‘Nade was the place to meet friends, see everyone and maybe eat. Their burgers had a "secret" red sauce that was delicious. I learned years later that it was a commercially prepared, Texas barbecue sauce available to the world, if only we had known. (I miss it even today.) My stories of cruising the place were a continuation of my own mother’s generation doing almost the same thing; in her day the Tampa trolleys went up and down Bayshore, for a nickel, and the boys would lift the electric line off so the car would stop in front of the drive-in. Apparently the girls thought it was cute; the conductors did not. Flash forward to the present, we might drop occasionally for shrimp or scallops. Sadly, the kids today have no interest (they would have to go inside.) I think it’s called the early-bird hour when we go, very different from the drive-in days which the owners finally ended after more than 30 years ago. It is the only restaurant facing the Hillsborough Bay on the four mile long Bayshore and really does have a beautiful view. During a big storm over the bay, it’s the best place to be for the show. Much has changed over its six decades in business, but one thing that's still on the menu is a Coke with an olive in it. We liked it but why I’m not quite sure. They still offer fresh seafood as the restaurant enters its fifth generation of family ownership. I do wish though that they would bring back the ‘secret” red sauce.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Casitas in the NIGHT

These little cottages in Ybor City, called casitas, are two of seven built for cigar workers' families. They are located on 9th Avenue at 18th Street on the block facing Centennial Park. They are brightly lit against Tampa’s night sky and are part of the Ybor City Museum State Park, which includes the museum (click HERE) housed in the Ferlita Bakery building (a neighborhood bakery established by Italian immigrants in 1896), and the museum’s garden (which is used for many events including weddings.) Three of the casitas were built around 1895. Originally located on 5th Avenue, the casitas were moved in 1976 to this location. Architecturally, they are known as “modified shotgun” houses and were built from Florida pine with cypress or cedar wood shingles. This style of house consists of three rooms in a row with doorways was popular throughout the rural Southern United States and was a popular house in the early years of Ybor City.

Quoting from the Ybor City Museum website, “This house had many design features particularly suited to conditions in Florida. Until 1910 these and similar houses lacked city sewer hook-up or indoor plumbing, and many were without electricity until the early 1920s. Casitas rented for $1.50 to $2.50 a week or could be purchased from $400 to $900, depending on size. By allowing workers to deduct house payments from their wages, Vicente Ybor and other cigar manufacturers contributed to the stability and security of the work force in Ybor City, and eased the hardships of immigration ...” Visit the museum website HERE for more of this fascinating story.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Want a little Cyber with that Cigar?

Casa ta Francisco is quite the Tampa combination of the necessities of life. In big letters on the banner out front it's clear that it's a CYBER CAFE. That's a good start in today's world and means that if you step inside you're online. But it gets better. CIGAR FACTORY. They hand roll their own cigars, the Francsisco. To go along with the wireless and a good Tampa smoke, they serve a historic staple in the diet of every Tampa native, the distinctive hot, pressed Cuban Sandwich (For a Wikipedia history of Tampa's Cubana click HERE.). Plus, they also serve a rich Cuban coffee or cold Corona beer. A remarkable and entirely thoughtful combination all around. They are to be applauded for trying to bring it all under one roof. Do notice, too, the wonderful shield over the doorway. The architecture is unique for sure and it's location on busy Bay-to-Bay Boulevard in the heart of Palm Ceia should work in there favor. Here's are "long ashes" (as a popular cigar aficionado/radio show host says) and great business success to our cyber/cigar cafe.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Islands of Indonesia come alive at Bali Bay Trading

We first found Bali Bay Trading when it was located on Bay-to-Bay Boulevard in South Tampa. They now have a 10,000 sq. ft. showroom and warehouse on North Florida Avenue and a store in St. Petersburg. It is the place in the Bay area to buy handcrafted products from Indonesia. Over the years we have brought home a fun, colorful and kind of wild assortment of things ranging from huge armoire (when a television set needed such a giant cabinet) to a 3-ft. tall carved rooster who lives with the rest of the rather large collection of chickens. (He is the only one who speaks Indonesian.) Bali Bay specializes in attractive, comfortable and sturdy teak furniture but they carry an assortment of statues, doors, carved panels, clothing and jewelry. Everything is imported directly from Indonesia where they are made by hand so no two pieces are ever alike. They have large benches, beds, tables and shelving units which are heavy and hold a ton of books. The furniture is made from teak, coconut and coffee woods, as well as bamboo. We've always enjoyed exploring and never knowing what fun, odd and intriguing items we might find hiding around the corner. I'm never quite sure if an item is old and antique or brand new. The age, patina and handcrafted appearance add to the charm. Everyone in the store is very nice and friendly and genuinely enjoys being the Bay area's local source for Indonesian products. They receive monthly shipments so new things are arriving regularly. The women in your life will like the intricate and carved jewelry plus handbags, sandals and even sarongs...if you're into an authentic - and cool - exotic islands look.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Monochrome: Windsurfing is so not easy

A father and his two sons gathered in the shallow water to try their hand at windsurfing. They admitted it was their first time with a windsurferboard and they patiently took turns from evening light until it was too dark to see. The Mistral Windsurfboard was forgiving but a ride in the wind eluded them...this time. My guess is they had a lot more fun trying then if one had sailed off into the wind alone. It was great fun to watch, too.

Go see more of the world in black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!