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.
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