Tampa Bay History Center debuts Saturday
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01/15/09 Andrea Lypka
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The Cigar City exhibit chronicles Tampa's cigar industry. The decor, including the cash register, is from the El Pasaje Hotel in Ybor City, said Manny Leno outreach coordinator.


photo by Andrea Lypka

Crews and volunteers were finishing up the final preparations on Wednesday for the grand opening of the Tampa Bay History Center.

The museum in Tampa’s Channelside District will open its doors for the public on Saturday in a new "green" edifice that will be the first Hillsborough County-owned sustainable building seeking LEED-certification, said C.J. Roberts museum president and CEO. He said that a 20-year endeavor has come to fruition.

The project cost $52 million and the construction lasted 14 months. Roberts hopes the history center will be more than a museum and it will become a gathering place for the community. With interactive multimedia exhibits and map gallery, the 60,000-square-foot museum features a walk through 12,000 years of history, including the Seminole wars and the history of the cigar industry of the area.

The museum boasts the glass-enclosed Lykes Atrium with Tampa Bay’s icons. Manny Leto is the History Center’s outreach coordinator and he has been living in Tampa since 1976. One of his favorite spots is the cigar storefront. “We re-created a 1920’s era cigar store. The original cases, the cash register are from the El Pasaje hotel in Ybor City, as well as the advertising art, the boxes and labels,” he said. He has been working for the museum for three months and he said that it has been unique opportunity for him to watch the building of a museum from the ground up. “It’s not every day that you open a museum,” he said.

Tampa Bay History Center will also host a Military Day on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free for the military. The center is located at 801 Old Water St., formerly St. Pete Times Forum Drive.

For more information, visit Tampa Bay History Center’s website.

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