My wife and I went on our traditional, post-tax refund trip to Tampa today to visit Ikea and pick up some new furniture for the house. Since I disdain driving on interstates, we try to take the back roads to Tampa from our home in Clearwater as much as possible. Thankfully, this is usually possible, and it offers up some exciting new adventures traipsing through parts of the Tampa Bay Area that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see – and who likes being dumped onto an interstate only to have to merge across five lanes of crazy traffic in under two minutes?
Driving to Ikea from Clearwater, however, requires us to drive through Ybor city – a notorious party/club historic district, and it looks a lot different in the daylight than it does at night. As we were driving, my wife made an apt comparison, mentioning that Ybor was reminiscent of Pleasure Island from Disney’s Pinocchio. It’s the city of bad choices – you go out, you drink, perhaps enjoy a cigar and often it makes people turn into an ass – minus the ears and tail that Pleasure Island portrayed in cartoon form.
Ybor city itself has a colorful and enlightening past. Formerly the Cigar Capital of the world, it fostered a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic past and still remains visible today. While known primarily for the nightlife, it is full of historically preserved buildings and sites and has become revitalized from a post-WWII ghost town once the cigar trade died down. While visiting the city in daylight hours can be a stark reminder of previous bad choices and drunken evenings – or falling asleep on manhole covers – it is a city that portrays its own miniature beauty, and is a place that this aspiring historian would like to explore more. Maybe next year on our annual Ikea roadtrip.
For further reading on this place and it’s rich history, you can start your search here