Friday, April 10, 2015

Hillsborough County History: Part Six of a Series

Buffalo Soldier in Tampa, 1898
TBHC Collection
In 1898, Tampa was one of three port cities selected as the port of embarkation for troops bound for Cuba and the Spanish - American War.  During the summer months of June, July and August, Tampa's population swelled by over 40,000 temporary residents.  The small city was overwhelmed, but managed.  Although local merchants saw increased profits in the summer of 1898, there was no direct, long term, benefit to Tampa.  There were some indirect bonuses, not the least of which was the Army Corps of Engineers agreeing to dredge a shipping channel from Tampa Bay into Hillsborough Bay to downtown Tampa.

World War I would not have as drastic affect on Tampa, but World War II certainly would.  During the war years of 1939 - 1945, thousands of servicemen and women, and their families, would come to Florida.  Tampa sported three military bases:  MacDill Army Air Base, Drew Field and Henderson Field.  In addition, shipbuilding firms buzzed with activity 24 hours a day.  The two largest, Tampa Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and McCloskey Shipbuilding Company, employed hundreds and produced cargo and navy vessels for the war effort.

Franklin and Twiggs Streets,
downtown Tampa.
TBHC Collection
After the war, many of the servicemen and women would return to Hillsborough County, where they once trained, to live and start families.  The wartime growth continued, but in different areas.  Tampa's port was thriving.  MacDill Army Airfield would evolve to MacDill Air Force Base, home to the United States Central Command, while Drew Field became Tampa International Airport.  Busch Gardens occupies much of the area formerly covered by Henderson Field.

The county's population increased dramatically after World War II, from 207,844 in 1945 to approximately 958,050 in 1999.  Growth occured in all areas, but urban sprawl would dominate some parts of the county, especially those close to the City of Tampa.


Share |