Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sulphur Springs Tower grandly lords over all.



My post yesterday was about the Sulphur Springs Tourist Club. The neighborhood of Sulphur Springs began around the natural “healing” waters of the spring and was an independent resort community popular with residents and tourists that got its start in the latter part of the 19th century. It was incorporated into the city in 1923. Its owner and developer, Joshiah Richardson, built a hotel for guests and then a large shopping arcade, an early mall, was added in 1925. It was located on the west side of Nebraska Avenue, across the street from and immediately north of the Tourist Club. He had grandiose plans for his natural springs and in 1920 he opened amusement park which included the pool (which is still there), bathhouses, an alligator farm, the Tourist Club dance pavilion, and a shed for the Tampa streetcars which made the round trip bringing city residents and tourists to enjoy the cool spring waters. The arcade and rapid development of the area required a water supply so Richardson mortgaged all of his assets, including the 100 acres of Sulphur Springs and the Arcade, and built the tower that you see above at a cost of $180,000.


The Sulphur Springs Tower stands on 13 acres of land on the north bank of the Hillsborough River between Nebraska Avenue and Florida Avenue. The growth of the community and the thriving resort and tourist business which developed would not have been possible without the water tower. The 225-foot-tall tower was designed to look like Gothic medieval, with slit windows and castle-like walls and openings crowning the actual holding tank at the top. (Click on closeup at left for detail.) The walls are 8-inches thick and the entire structure’s foundation is anchored in solid rock. It was constructed of poured-in-place concrete and was originally planned to include an elevator to carry people up to the observation balcony where they could see the river below and far beyond in every direction. It must be quite a sight even today. Other plans for the interior, besides holding fresh water, never materialized. When it was operational it held as much as 200,000 gallons of water pumped up from the nearby springs. The water tank occupies the upper quarter of the tower while seven floors, one room per floor, make up the lower 3/4s. After many attempts of the years to actually do something with the empty tower (besides given a name to a once-popular drive-in movie theater which is long gone), the City of Tampa Department of Parks and Recreation has taken over maintenance and future development of the entire area which includes the tower and park, and the Sulphur Springs pool complex. A boardwalk along the river is in the plans. (Sadly, some years ago, before historic preservationists could act, the arcade and hotel were demolished.)

6 comments:

Lois said...

That thing looks huge! I would love to see the view from the top. It certainly doesn't look like a water tower.

Jacob said...

I agree with Lois - it does not appear to be a water tower...

I'm also assuming one cannot get to the top at present. That would be nice, though. Of course I hate heights, so you'd probably have to go up their for me with my camera...so I could say the photos came from my Nikon!

James said...

It would be so great to take pictures from up there.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Beautiful shot !! Great place..Unseen Rajasthan

Anonymous said...

You can get to the top of the tower though I would not recommend it. Also, it has not been a functioning water tower in quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Are your photos copyrighted or can the public use them? There is a nonprofit website www.sulphurspringsmuseum.org that could really use some pictures. Especially vintage Sulphur Springs photographs.