TAMPA–ST. PETERSBURG. These twin cities, located on Florida's west coast, comprise, along with surrounding communities, metropolitan Tampa Bay. The area has been the site of successive Native American cultures as attested by numerous burial mounds. The first European to enter Tampa Bay was Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528, thus Tampa–St. Petersburg occupy the earliest site of European discovery of any metropolitan area in the United States. Hernando de Soto explored the region by land in 1539. By 1767 Seminole Indians had reached Tampa Bay; after the First Seminole War (1817–1818) Fort Brooke, which was to become the focal point for the future settlement of Tampa, was established in 1824. Tampa was platted in the early 1850s, by which time it had become the railhead for cattle bound for Cuba, where jerked beef was needed as cheap protein for slaves of the island's burgeoning sugar industry. In 1861 Fort Brooke was occupied by Confederate troops; it was bombarded by Union vessels in 1862 and finally captured in 1864.
Tampa saw little growth until the 1880s, when Henry B. Plant brought the first coordinated system of rail lines into the village (1884), thus linking Tampa with Jacksonville, Florida, and New York City. It was during this same decade that Cubans established Tampa's cigar industry and the area known as Ybor City, today a famous tourist destination. Tampa served as the embarkation point for U.S. troops, including Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, sailing for Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
The early twentieth century saw the growth of the phosphate and citrus industries in the area, while Russian railroad entrepreneur Pyotr Dementyev brought his line onto the Pinellas Peninsula and laid out St. Petersburg, which he named for the city of his homeland. Great resort hotels noted for their fanciful architecture were constructed in both Tampa and St. Petersburg for northern guests. Both cities experienced spectacular growth at the end of the twentieth century, when the population of metropolitan Tampa Bay reached 2,395,997.
Kerstein, Robert J. Politics and Growth in Twentieth-Century. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
Mormino, Gary R., and George E. Pozzetta. The Immigrant World of Ybor City: Italians and Their Latin Neighbors in Tampa, 1885–1985. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
Robert N. Lauriault
See also Florida .