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The Historic Ybor City in Tampa, Florida

Updated on April 21, 2015

Historic Ybor City

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood located in Tampa, FL. Its legacy gave us a prosperous neighborhood built and populated by immigrants.

Its rich history began in the 1880's when, Vicente Martinez Ybor, moved his cigar factory to the Tampa Bay area. Thousands of Cuban and Spanish immigrants followed suit and worked within his factory.

Today, the city thrives with restaurants, nightlife and shopping. Many buildings have been restored and are now used as apartments and hotels.

Every time I stroll through Ybor City, I feel like I'm taking a step back back in time. The businesses of yesteryear are long gone but the buildings they left behind offer a glimpse into the past.

Image: Bobak Ha'Eri | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

Ybor City Entrance

Image: Ebyabe | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Who Was Vicente Martinez Ybor?

Vicente Martinez Ybor was born in Valencia, Spain on September 7, 1818. He immigrated to Cuba, Key West and eventually to the Tampa Bay area. He is best known for the founding of Ybor city and the manufacturing of cigars. In 1856, he founded El Principe de Gales (Prince of Wales) brand.

At age 14, he fled to Cuba to avoid entering the Military, which was mandatory for male Spaniards. He began working in a grocery store as a means of support. In 1848, he married Palmia Learas. Together, they had 4 children.

He moved his business to Key West, FL in 1869 to avoid arrest due to funding Cuban rebels. He opened a new factory and employed others who had left their own homelands.

In October of 1885, he purchased 40 acres of land just Northeast of Tampa. He and his business partners called the land Ybor City. His factory filled an entire block and at the time, was the largest in the world. The city began to flourish with the factories rolling and shipping millions of cigars annually.

When Ybor passed away on December 14, 1886, the majority of Tampa closed to attend his funeral. He was buried in the St. Louis Catholic Cemetery located in downtown Tampa. A statue was erected to honor the man who brought so much to the area.

Image: Tampa Bay History Center, public domain in the United States.

How Do I Say That?

Ybor is pronounced as EE-bor

World's Largest Cigar Factory in 1902

Ybor Cigar Factory
Ybor Cigar Factory

Image: Photographer Unknown | Public Domain in the United States | From the Collection of the Library of Congress

Vicente Martinez-Ybor built the factory in 1886 as he moved production from Key West, FL. The factory and its surrounding buildings cover an entire city block between 8th and 9th (Avenues) and 13th and 14th (Streets) in the Ybor City Historic District.

The Ybor Factory Building is a historic site in Tampa, Florida. It was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on November 15, 1972.

Factory Building in 2011

Image: Ebyabe | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Have You Been to the Tampa Area?

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Life in 1926

Image: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory | Ybor City scene, Tampa, Florida | August 16, 1926

If you look closely, you will see a Streetcar in the background.

Living in Present Day

Image: Lee Fenner | Flickr | Ybor City, 2008

A Diverse Community

Since its founding in 1886, Ybor City has been a community who welcomes everyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. In its earliest days, people from all walks of life made the area home with a serene coexistence. To this day, the same philosophy is held with a live and let live attitude.

Image: Ebyabe | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

The non profit 501 c, GaYbor, is headquartered in the area. It's an organization of LGBTA (the A is for straight allies) bars, nightclubs, restaurants and more throughout the West Coast of Central Florida. The organization has several participants and is sponsored by both Gay and Straight members alike. A street party called, GaYBOR Days, is held every July in the district.

A Collection of Short Stories - Cigar City Stories: Tales of Old Ybor City

This 5 star rated book was published on September 28, 2012. In Cigar City Stories, author Emilio Gonzalez-Llanes presents a collection of short stories. It tells the tale of cigar-makers from Cuba, Spain, and Italy who made Tampa the "Cigar Capital of the World".

Travel in Style Using the Streetcars of Ybor City

Image: By Infrogmation | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Travel in style by boarding the TECO Line Streetcar System. The trolley links downtown Tampa, Channelside and Ybor together.

The first electric streetcar lines were built in 1892 and quickly became a part of daily life for cigar workers. Following WWII in 1946, the cars came to a halt. The public transit began operating again in October of 2002.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Teco Line Streetcar System

Image: By Infrogmation | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Directions to Ybor City

A marker -
Ybor City, FL
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What do you think of Ybor City?

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      jetcharterquote 4 years ago

      Been to Tampa many times but never to Ybor City. Have to make a point to stop in next trip. Nice lens

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      Melissa 4 years ago from Florida

      @tooshay4: It really is special!

    • netangel profile image
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      Melissa 4 years ago from Florida

      @metrocoachlines: You should def stop by on a friday night, the area comes alive!

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      metrocoachlines 4 years ago

      @tooshay4: Yeah its a pretty cool area from what I got to see of it even though it was still early morning.

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      metrocoachlines 4 years ago

      I've dropped off people at the Tampa Cruise terminal once and went by to visit the Ybor area. It was dead since it was still early morning. It looks like a place I would like to visit later in the evening on a weekend.

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      tooshay4 4 years ago

      Ybor City looks nice. It's like Old world charm meets modern day! I like it!