Popular Ethnonyms for Sulphur Springs

  • Sofa Springs --- called that because you can't swing a dead cat up Nebraska Avenue without hitting a furniture store.

  • The Springs --- this is what most of us in Tampa call the neighborhood.

  • Suffering Springs --- used by a couple of local characters. Not an accurate description of life in the Springs if you're employed and/or white.

Sulphur Springs was established as a municipality in 1924 (when the Sulphur Springs Post Office was built) and was already well on its way to becoming one of Florida's finest tourist traps. The mineral springs that lent the town its name were said to have healing properties, and around these springs, a number of hotels, restaurants, barber shops, campgrounds and Florida's first retail mall were built to separate incoming snowbirds from their damn Yankee dollars.

In 1927 the Sulphur Springs Water Tower was built. It remains one of the most commented-on landmarks in Tampa, because it looks like a lighthouse, and many a perplexed out-of-towner has wondered why a lighthouse should be built more than eight miles inland. A number of urban legends have sprung up about the Springs Water Tower, one of the most common of which involves the legendary (and probably fictional) buccaneer José Gaspar, who would sail up the Hillsborough River to take on fresh water and provisions for his ships while raiding the coast of Florida. Truth is, it was built by Grover Poole to provide water to the aforementioned hotels.

But now, the springs are polluted by runoff and are closed to the public, the water tower is now just an inert landmark in the middle of River Tower Park. They still show drive-in movies there regularly, and the Florida Orchestra performs an outdoor concert annually on the grounds. The Sulphur Springs Hotel and first retail mall in Florida were bulldozed in 1976 to provide parking space for the Tampa Greyhound Track. Now you can't go a block without hitting a strip club, a liquor store or a drug deal in progress.

"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot."

About the only things left standing of the old Sulphur Springs are the gazebo and community pool, the Springs Theater and a number of really awesome houses. I am privileged to live just a block from the Theater and across Nebraska from the Tower, gazebo and community pool. I live in a bungalow that must have been built in the 1920's or 30's, before air conditioning let all them damn Yankees live here year-round without melting. It's a wonderful place to live, if you get along with your neighbors, but it does have a semi-justified reputation as one of the seedier parts of my fair city. If you want to see the effects of neoliberal capitalism, gentrification, white flight and the spectacle that is Tampa politics, there's no better place to begin your education.

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