Monthly Archives: September 2014

History of the Sulphur Springs Water Tower

sulphur-springs-water-towerThe Sulphur Springs water tower is something that Tampa natives, recent arrivals to the area, and tourists alike can’t miss when they’re driving through parts of North Tampa.

As it turns out, that 214-foot-tall, white concrete tower has a pretty colorful history to it, and I wanted to dedicate this post to telling the great story about the unique Sulphur Springs water tower.

The tower has been watching over Sulphur Spring since the 1920s and is a reminder of the glory days gone by of a resort area that once catered to Tampa’s rich and well-to-do residents. While it served as a water tower for the community back in the day, and has long since become a widely recognized landmark.


The History of the Sulphur Springs Water Tower

The Sulphur Springs water tower was constructed in 1927 by Grover Poole. The tower served local residences and businesses, with the primary use going to the resort development Josiah Richardson had constructed on the site during the 1920s.

This resort included the Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments. Also nearby was Mave’s Arcade, which had become Florida’s first mall.

The Sulphur Springs water tower, built atop an artesian well, supplied the area with delicious drinking water and was a landmark in Richardson’s development.

The entire development unfolded on 13 acres right on the banks of the Hillsborough River.

A terrible flood that occurred after a local dam collapsed on the Hillsborough River damaged Mave’s Arcade and ruining Richardson’s business.


Changes To The Sulphur Springs Water Tower Over The Decades

While the Sulphur Springs neighborhood experienced changing economies and population shifts, the Sulphur Springs water tower continued operating. The aptly named Tower drive-in movie theater was built in 1951 on the site and was a popular destination for many locals into the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

In 1971, the Sulphur Springs water tower was decommissioned as a functioning water tower, with the City of Tampa becoming the main water supplier to homes and businesses in the area.

As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, the Sulphur Springs water tower stood blighted with graffiti and superficial deterioration. However, it remained an important and historic monument in the eyes of Tampa residents.

A few plans for residential and commercial development of the site have come and gone over the last few decades, each plan incorporating the Sulphur Springs water tower as a standing centerpiece.

sulphur-springs-water-towerIt was designated an historic landmark in 1989, and the graffiti was removed and the tower repainted. In the early 2000s, a local movement called Save Our Tower gained ground and managed to gain numerous supporters and a significant voice in preventing the commercial redevelopment of the site.

Finally, in 2005, the City of Tampa bought the property, sparing the tower from any threat of commercial and residential development. Lights were installed in 2005 so that the tower can be illuminated at night.

The site of the Sulphur Springs water tower is now known as River Tower Park, which has open, grassy areas, treed walkways, and views of the Hillsborough River and the Sulphur Springs water tower. There are plans to eventually build a walkway around the tower.


Where Is The Sulphur Springs Water Tower?

Though you can easily see the Sulphur Springs water tower from numerous points in the Sulphur Springs area, the best views can come from a drive along Florida Avenue (between Busch Boulevard to the north and Hanna Street to the south) and I-275 from Busch Boulevard to approximately Sligh Avenue to the south.

The Sulphur Springs water tower is just south of Bird Street between Florida Avenue and I-275.

Taking The Plunge on Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL

Falcons Fury Busch Gardens Tampa FLI finally had the chance to take the plunge on Falcon’s Fury, the newest ride at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. My first foray on the 335-foot-tall drop tower was during an employee night event a couple weeks ago. While I’m not currently an employee at the famous theme park, my fiancee is, as was my sister at the time, so my lady and I rode along with sis and her boyfriend.

You may have seen Falcon’s Fury rising above the North Tampa tree line over the past year. The ride currently ranks as the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America, and the only one that turns its riders facedown before forcing them down to the ground.

Sound like fun yet?

Taking The Plunge on Falcon’s Fury

Let me tell you, that drop to the ground is swift – 60 miles per hour. For the record, that’s just about as fast as the top speed on Kumba and Montu, two of the other headlining rides at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Oh, and what about comparisons to SheiKra? Well, we were looking down at that red-colored behemoth from the top of Falcon’s Fury. From the southern side of the tower, our peripheral vision lent us views of downtown Tampa’s skyscrapers, buildings in downtown St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field, and the high-rises in downtown Clearwater.

A second ride on the north side of the tower let us easily see the rolling terrain of Zephyrhills. I’m sure on a clear day I could see Atlanta — perhaps if I squint with a pair of binoculars? And could see 500 miles?

Loose items are not allowed on Falcon’s Fury, and that includes cellphones. Don’t even try to bring your phone along for a ride — ride attendants wisely check riders’ pockets. Besides, you wouldn’t want your brand new iPhone 6 falling 335 feet, would you? I don’t think Apple’s drop test include spills from 33 stories high. Then again, I may be more willing to spend hundreds of bucks on a new iPhone 6 if it could survive a 335-foot fall. For now, I’m happy with my iPhone 5, but I digress.

If you happen to have any loose luggage in your pockets, you can simply place them within one of the stowaway bins located in the loading area or leave them with a terra firma-hugging friend.

Falcons-Fury-Construction-Busch-Gardens-TampaBut the outstanding views aside, what’s a ride on Falcon’s Fury like? If you can handle the drop on SheiKra, then you should do just fine on Falcon’s Fury. The free-fall portion of the drop on the new ride is about 5 seconds long, which is roughly a second or two longer than the thrilling, main descent on SheiKra.

As I’m pretty accustomed to riding thrill machines, the drop on Falcon’s Fury didn’t leave me running for the restroom or require the immediate purchase of new apparel, but being tipped forward in my seat at the top of the tower was particularly unnerving.

All those other Busch Gardens rides look pretty tiny from the top of Falcon’s Fury, and even SheiKra looks small from the top of the new drop tower.

An Historical Footnote About Falcon’s Fury

sandstormAs many longtime Tampa residents know, Falcon’s Fury replaced the Sandstorm orbiter ride, which opened in 1979 in the former Timbuktu area.

The Sandstorm was closed after the summer of 2013 drew to a close and has since been relocated to Sesame Place — another SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

The ride received a colorful makeover and now operates as Honker’s Dinger Derby.

Along with the opening of Falcon’s Fury, Busch Gardens has re-imagined the 35-year-old Timbuktu area as Pantopia, which serves as a crossroads for the many different nations and peoples that have stepped foot in Africa. After a ride on Falcon’s Fury, be sure to reward yourself with a tasty pretzel treat at Twisted Tales, which borrows recipes from the European-themed Busch Gardens sister park in Williamsburg, Virginia. Don’t forget to check out Painted Camel Bazaar, a unique gift shop at Busch Gardens featuring mainly recycled and upcycled items that make great, eco-conscious souvenirs.

If you liked the long-running but now-closed Critter Castaway show at Busch Gardens Tampa, be sure to check out Opening Night Critters, a fun feature with both animal and human actors in Pantopia Theater — incidentally, that was once the home of another live-animal show, Dolphins of the Deep, which soaked plenty of guests in the first several rows of seating from 1979 through 2002.

Other longtime Timbuktu attractions still exist in Pantopia, including the Scorpion roller coaster, Sand Serpent, and Phoenix — a looping starship ride that easily rivals Falcon’s Fury in thrilling guests at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.

Sticks are Now Firing – That Tampa Guy is Here!

Hello, Tampans! I’m Josh McMorrow-Hernandez, A.K.A. “That Tampa   Guy,” and I’m here to share my perspective on the city I love, the “other” City by the Bay — Tampa, Florida. Oh, the title for this first blog post, “Sticks are Now Firing”? If you don’t catch the meaning, that’s OK. I’ll talk more about that historical Tampa pun in a minute. But first, let me tell you more about who I am and why I’m writing this blog.

I was born on May 2, 1981 at Women’s Humana Hospital on Buffalo Avenue, a street that was renamed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd eight years later.  My dad has been an employee at Busch Gardens since 1979; my maternal grandfather was an audio engineer at WTVT-13 from 1955 through 1980, and he and my grandmother ran Colonial Beach on Egypt Lake during the 1950s; my paternal great grandparents were in the  Ybor City cigar industry. Suffice it to say, Tampa courses through my blood.

I grew up with a love for my city and a penchant for putting pen to paper. So it was a surprise to nobody who knew me well when I was growing up that I’d eventually write a book about Carrollwood, the popular Tampa suburb on the fringe of which I had grown up. Writing Images of America: Tampa’s Carrollwood for Arcadia Publishing afforded me the great honor to meet Lois Abbott Yost, a longtime historian and several members of the Bearss family, a name that is familiar to most Tampa-area residents.

I’m now writing my second book, which will be a pictorial journey through the Tampa Bay area’s tourism industry from the second half of the 20th century. Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations should be on bookshelves in spring 2015 and will hopefully allow many people to relive some great memories of the Tampa of yesteryear.

As much as I study and enjoy Tampa history, I also love the Tampa of today, and you’ll see a lot of both in my posts to come. New restaurant in town? You’ll probably read about here. Big news story going down in Tampa? I may be talking about it. Like “Then-and-Now” photos? I’m sure to post them. My stance on the persistent Cuban Sandwich wars? I’m not going to assume the role of Sweden in that battle. And speaking of Sweden, I may even talk about the Tampa IKEA, the best Tampa restaurants for Swedish meatballs, and ABBA’s Tampa concert — should a reunion tour ever materialize, that is. In other words, this blog will be a “smorgasbord” of Tampa topics, and I hope you’ll keep coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and thousandths (P.S. – prepare thyself – I love puns; I hope you do, too).

So before I wrap up this inaugural post, what’s up with the title of my first That Tampa Guy blog post? OK, students, open up your history books to Page 2 of Tampa History 101 (not yet an actual book, but it should be). “Tampa” is a Calusa word that is believed to mean “sticks of fire,” which was either a reference to a major native camp site or pine trees that were set ablaze by lightning.

Apparently, we’ve always been the lightning capital of North America.