DAVIS ISLANDS, Tampa's island
suburb, was the dream of Dave Davis the "Florida version of the Great Gatsby."
The son of a steamboat captain, Davis tried many jobs before choosing real
estate just prior to the Florida Land Boom. With ruthless desire and reckless
regard to money, Davis convinced the City
Fathers to allow him to dredge up the swampy islands at the entrance to the Hillsborough River.
He got the City Hospital
and the top radio station moved to his island. On opening day, October 4, 1924,
all 300 prepared lots sold for a $1,683,582 profit. The 40-year old widower
lived and played hard, marrying the Gasparilla Queen,
divorced her, and re-wed her. When the Land Bust hit just $30,000 came in on
four million dollars of payments. Banks began to seize his island hotels and
villas. On October 10, l926, Davis sailed for Paris with his friend
detective Ray Schindler and his mistress Mrs Lucille Zehring, a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. He vanished at sea
with no explanation.
WHERE TO START: ENTER DAVIS ISLANDS FROM DOWNTOWN TAMPA
BY CROSSING KENNEDY
AND TURNING LEFT ON PLANT AVENUE
to Davis Islands Causeway.
UPON ENTERING THE ISLANDS TURN RIGHT down congested ADALIA STREET, directly in front of
the: (1) PONCE DE LEON APARTMENTS (1925), 16 Davis
Boulevard, a wonderfully balanced maze of parapet roofs and balconies forming a
village complete with a courtyard fountain. Davis built five major hotels on his resort.
The second house on the left is the (2) ALI
GIUNAND HOUSE (1926), 25 Adalia Street, a
two-story stucco house with the central open tower Davis popularized in middle
class structures. Next door is the (3) FRANK LYONS HOUSE (1926),
27 Adalia St., a Mediterranean with a Spanish parapet
and extensive balconies expected from the owner of Lyons Iron Works. Other
houses on this block are the (4) JOHN BONACKER HOUSE (l927) at 29
Adalia, the (5) REV. HENRY BARBOW HOUSE
(1927), 31 Adalia, and the (6) JOSEPH LYLES
In contrast are the new houses such as the
modernistic (7) JOSEPH GRECO HOUSE at 58 Adalia.
TURN LEFT ON ADRIATIC
AFTER PASSING AEGEAN, look back to the second house on the left: the (8) FRANCIS
GANNON HOUSE (1927), 54 Aegean
Street, a fine U-shaped hacienda once owned by the
Treasurer of Davis Islands Inc. On Adriatic on your right are three of the
earliest island residences: (9) JAMES A. KEETER HOUSE (1927), 112
Adriatic Street, a typical Mediterrean Revival; the
(10) JAMES HUGHES HOUSE (1926); and the (11) CAPTAIN JACK
De LYSLA HOUSE (1926), 116 Adriatic St., a big house with a square
tower, owned by the colorful publisher of Southern Highways magazine.
Two other originals are at (12) 124
Adriatic (1927), and (13) 126 Adriatic (l927), but we suggest you
TURN LEFT ON ALBEMERLE in front of the: (14) JAMES D. BARRETT HOUSE
(1928), 61 Albemarle Street, a massive stucco villa with a real tower, owned by
the founder of Poinsettia Dairy. Five houses down at 53 Albemarle Street is the (15) ROY MARTIN
HOUSE (l927), an L-shaped Mediterranean residence with balconies and tower.
Martin's tile company was a major benefactor of Davis Islands'
On the right at the Aegean
intersection is the (16) RUFUS THORNE HOUSE (1926), 37 Aegean Street,
and the (17) JOHN FITZWATER HOUSE (1926), 38 Aegean Street, residence of the
President of Charles Bell Real Estate.
CONTINUE DOWN AEGEAN past the (18) FORREST W. MONTANYE HOUSE
(l926), 36 Aegean, home of Davis'
advertising manager. The last house on the right was once the (19) CATHOLIC
WOMENS CLUB (1926), 31 Aegean Street, converted to a residnce, but still interesting with its freize work. You are leaving the oldest section of houses.
TURN RIGHT ON DAVIS
BOULEVARD before the famous round
tower of the: (20) DAVIS ISLANDS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING (l925), 30
Davis Boulevard, used in recent years by Sea Born School. Here every morning Davis gave a pep talk to
his salesmen and the anxious newsman.
SLOW DOWN OR PARK BEFORE TURNING LEFT ON ARBOR STREET to fully appreciate the classical beauty of the: (21)
PALACE OF FLORENCE (1924), 43 Davis Boulevard, a three-story version
of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, designed as an
apartment retreat by M. Leo Elliott, Tampa's most noted architect. Athos Menaboni conceived the dramatic features of the high square
tower and the gran center stairway leading to the
second floor entrances.
CONTINUE DOWN ARBOR toward Tampa General Hospital and the
District Headquarters of Hillsborough Community College in the old Gordon Keller
On your right was the location of the famous Davis Islands Tennis Club
RIGHT ON COLUMBIA AVENUE and immediately stop to see on your right the:
(22) HERBERT DRAPER
HOUSE (l926), 36 Columbia
Drive, an L-shaped hacienda with a three-story
open campanile with transom windows.
Draper must have been a successful realtor. The four adjacent houses are also
fine; (23) 38 COLUMBIA
DRIVE (1926); (24) 40 COLUMBIA DRIVE
(l926), home of chief Davis salesman;(25)
46 Columbia Drive,
once residence of the ad manager for George Merrick's Coral Gables.
COLUMBIA DRIVE along the Marjorie
Across the harbor are the headquarters for the TAMPA JUNIOR LEAGUE and the
TAMPA POWER SQUADRON. Near Bosporus is the (26) MARJORIE PARK GATEHOUSE
(l925), containing its original Davis
TURN RIGHT ON BOSPORUS just
before the (27) DAVIS ISLANDS SWIMMING POOL (l928). This tour will TURN RIGHT ON DAVIS BOULEVARD, but if
you wish to travel to the southern tip of the islands and PETER O'KNIGHT
AIRPORT, you'd turn left and continue down East Davis Boulevard past the
islands' commercial district and the l925 DAVIS SHOPPING ARCADE at 230 East
RIGHT on Davis going past the: (28) PALMARIN HOTEL (198826), 115
East Davis, a three-story Mediterrean hotel with a
three entrance archway into a covered courtyard, once home of the Casablanca
Cafe, a bistro honoring Humphrey Bogart who stayed here after filming Key
Largo. In the distance you'll see one of Davis'
smaller hotels (29) THE CADILAC (1927) at 9l East
LEFT AT THE BIG APEX ONTO WEST
DAVIS BOULEVARD and take the first RIGHT ON BALTIC to get a
look at later island homes. TURN LEFT ON DANUBE and stop before crossing West Davis. On your left is the: (30) DAVE DAVIS HOUSE (1926), 116 West Davis, an L-shaped Mediterranean
home hidden by heavy foliage. Here, Davis'
young widow lived after the developer's disappearance.
CROSS DAVIS, TURN RIGHT ON BOSPORUS, LEFT ON BARBADOS, and
THEN LEFT ON CHIPPEWA. At the end of this residential excursion is the: (31)
MERRYMAKERS CLUB (1926), a two-story stucco young adults club set up
in the 1920's to tame those restless youth
Now, TURN LEFT ON DANUBE, RIGHT ON BOSPORUS, and LEFT ON DAVIS to leave the
island. Along the way you'll see Davis' biggest project, the: (32) MIRASOL
HOTEL (DAVIS ISLANDS TOWERS) (l925), at 84 Davis Boulevard, an
eight-story resort complete with backside marina basin and great arcade.
You may return
toward the entrance to Davis Island or reverse your direction back down Davis Boulevard to
the delightfully quaint shopping district or continue to the David Island
Airport at the end of the