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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.