If you’re a Tampa, Florida resident or an observant tourist, you’ve probably noticed a tall, white structure standing 20 stories tall over the historic North Tampa neighborhood of Sulphur Springs. That monument, the Sulphur Springs water 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 catered to Tampa’s rich and well-to-do residents.
The Sulphur Springs water tower has seen the area change over the decades, but what hasn’t changed is its enduring stature as a beacon in the Tampa skyline.
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, damaging Mave’s Arcade and ruining Richardson’s business.
Changes Over The Decades
While the Sulphur Springs neighborhood experienced changing economies and population shifts, the Sulphur Springs water tower continued operating. A drive-in theater was later built on the site and was a popular destination for many locals during 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.
Amid being designated a local landmark in 1989, 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. Plans to refurbish the site of the Sulphur Springs water tower as River Tower Park – a park with open grassy areas, treed walkways, and views of the Hillsborough River and the Sulphur Springs water tower – are underway.
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.
Personal and first-hand knowledge and experience