Friday, August 21, 2009

Tampa's Hyde Park: A U.S. National Historic District and really great neighborhood

This has been, for almost 20 years, one of our favorite evening places to just sit, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. For most of those years this fountain was overflowing with water and would gurgle and spray and provide a picture-postcard backdrop for tourists visiting the area. Even though it's full of rainwater right now, our city's water use restrictions have curtailed the operation of decorative fountains. It doesn't keep me from wanting to come and sit here, but I sure do miss the sound of the water cascading over the fountain. Some of our best and most popular restaurants are in the brick-faced buildings on the sidewalk to the right: Restaurant BT, The Wine Exchange and, out of the frame, Timpano's Italian Chop House.

It's interesting that right over my shoulder is a historical marker. It gives a brief history of Hyde Park and explains how it was first developed into a neighborhood. As I was taking this photo three men here on business from the Northeast came up to read it. In a few short paragraphs, it tells a version of this story: After Henry B. Plant built his Tampa Bay Hotel, and a bridge and railway were constructed across the Hillsborough River, developers began construction of streets and homes on the western side of the river. In 1886, O.H. Platt of Hyde Park, Illinois, purchased 20 acres of what were then citrus groves and named it Hyde Park. The first homes were built in the 1880s, but most were built between 1913 and 1928. When Florida's building boom of 1924-1926 ended and the stock market crashed in 1929, construction and further development almost stopped. Streets lined with large residences built before the Depression gave way to smaller homes, many of the bungalow style. Hyde Park today is a great mixture of home sizes, styles and ages. And really nice people. One street, Bungalow Terrace, just a block from this fountain, is a unique planned development of Craftsman style houses fronting a wide sidewalk. Without yards, save for small areas of grass and garden in front, the length of the communal sidewalk was covered originally by a decorative pergola. It's an fascinating group of homes where you live very close by your neighbor and confuse anyone trying to make a deliver because there is no street exactly. Bungalow Terrace is really just a sidewalk.

Hyde Park is both a local Historic District and a U.S. National Historic District.
The neighborhood and homes all fall under the guidelines established by the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and are governed by The City of Tampa Architectural Review Board. Because of the historic nature of the neighborhood, and its wonderful mix of homes which are carefully restored and preserved, Hyde Park has become a very popular and desirable place to live. And even when the fountain isn't running, this is a terrific place to sit, think and contemplate the world.


  1. I found your blog very interesting Frank and I can imagine you enjoying your coffee in that lovely place

  2. Hmmm...I thought Hyde Park was in New York? Or was that London?

    Perhaps the water restrictions will be lifted to that you can listen to the gurgle again!

    Lovely evening shot, Frank!

  3. Your photo makes it look like a wonderful place to hang out, but your description of the neighborhood makes it sound like a wonderful place to live! I hope you can take photos of that sidewalk and those historic homes to show us. It's fascinating and I'd love to see it.