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Background

 
This project is to document the current state of the remaining cigar factory buildings in and around Tampa, FL most of which were built towards the the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries.  Photographs in these pages were mostly taken between December 2014 and September 2015 and some in January 2017.  As with the other projects on this site, the purpose is not to tell the history of the cigar industry in Tampa, which is already well documented, but to identify the remaining buildings and their current status.
 
According to  Ciudad de Cigars: West Tampa by Armando Mendez (Florida Historical Society: Tampa, 1994), the Tampa cigar history dates back to: “...1838, when Count Odet Philippe settled in the Tampa Bay area and brought with him a female slave who had learned the art in Cuba.  Although the unnamed slave’s principal job was to produce cigars for his personal use, Philippe, who operated an oyster shop near Fort Brooke [now downtown Tampa], sold the soldiers of the fort the excess cigars.”  Mendez also states in his book that the first cigar factory in West Tampa was established by the Del Pino Brothers in June 1983, however, by 1894 it had already shut down because of their inability to recruit workers due to lack of access, transportation and housing.  The first successful cigar factory in West Tampa was the O'Halloran Cigar Co. which occuped the building left vacant by the Del Pino Brothers after February 1893 completion of the Fortune Street bridge which allowed easy access to workers from Ybor City.
 
Before Tampa became an atractive location for cigar manufacturers, the industry was already established in Key West, New York and other cities of the Northeast and the Mid West.  In 1886, Manhattan was home to 1,960 cigar factories of which 3.9% employed 100+ rollers.  California was home to 385 cigar factories of which 3.8% employed 100+ rollers.  In contrast, Florida had the the highest percentage of large factories with 30.5% of the factories employing 100+ rollers, though home to only 154 cigar factories.  Of other States, Illinois ranked 3rd in number of cigar factories with 1,197 but only 3 (1/5 of 1%) employed 100+ rollers.  By 1893, there were 18 cigar factories in Ybor City and 25 in West Tampa.
 
Tampa's real cigar history began as a result of guava, not tobacco.  In 1884 Gavino Gutierrez , a New York broker and and importer of Spanish and American goods and Bernardino Gargol, a Cuban resident in New York who imported jellies and preserves made from the guava fruit, came to Tampa where they had heard rumors guava trees grew abundance.  During their vist they found that not the case but were impressed with the area.  On their return trip to New York by sea, they stopped in Key West where they visited with friends Ignacio Haya and Vicente Martinez Ybor .  Timing was perfect as at the time, Haya and Martinez Ybor were considering moving their cigar factories to Mobile, Galveston or New Orleans due to labor troubles in Key West. 
 
It was not until  Vicente Martinez Ybor  established his Principe de Gales factory in 1886, that Tampa began attracting the attention of other cigar manufactureres.  In chronological order, the first factories to start operation in Tampa were: Sanchez & Haya, V. Martinez Ybor & Co, Lozano-Pendaz and R. Monne.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many cigar companies relocated to Tampa and tens of thousands of Cubans, Italians and Spaniards workers followed. 
 
Tampa’s cigar industry thrived into the 1910s and 1920s.  Just like it happened in Key West, the Tampa cigar industry was not free of labor unrest.  During its early years, a strike in 1899  known as The Weight Strike, plus three major strikes in 1901, 1910 and 1920 affected the industry and resulted in some firms consolidating their operations and some others closing down.  The  2005 Thesis by Brian Koepnick the University of Florida September, 1939 study titled  The Cigar Industry of Tampa, Florida  and the  Fall/Winter 1985 edition of Tampa Bay History published by the University of South Florida are very good readings to learn about the industry's beginning and development.
 
Ybor City  and  West Tampa  were annexed to the City of Tampa in 1887 and 1925 respectively.  Previous to annexation, West Tampa was a city with its own municipal government but Ybor City was not.  Their development, fueled by the establishment of cigar factories was instrumental in the development of the area and gave it the character and personality it still enjoys to this day.  As an example, before the first cigar factory was established in 1886, Tampa's population was estimated at 2,000, by 1889 population it had increased to over 10,000.
 
The invention of the cigar roller, frequent worker strikes, and the increased popularity of the cigarette led to the industry's slow decline.  The Great Depression and World War II expedited the cigar industry’s downfall, and today only one company still produces cigars in Tampa.
 
The typical buildings were ornate, three-story brick structures.  The rectangular buildings were constructed lengthwise from east to west with many windows to allow in natural light and fresh air, windows on the north sides captured the prevailing breezes.  The setups were generally the same for all; tobacco was stored in the basement, the first floor were offices and where tobacco was brought in and finished cigars were sent out, the second floor was where cigars were rolled, and the top floor was where tobacco leaves were prepared and graded.
 
The location and address of the remaining factories photographed, all in Ybor City, Palmetto Beach and West Tampa, can be seen on this  Google Map .
 
The pioneer Companies that established in Tampa between 1886 and 1905, the first 20 years of the cigar industry in the area and their previous location were as follows:
 
  • Relocated from Key West: V. Martinez Ybor & Co., Seidenberg & Co., O'Halloran & Co., Teodoro Perez & Co., S. & F. Fleitas & Co., Julius Ellinger & Co.,  A. del Pino, Bustillo Bros. & Diaz, Juan La Paz & Co., José Morales & Co., Trujillo & Beneles, M. Perez & Co.
  • Relocated from New York: Sanchez & Haya, Lozano, Pendaz & Co., R. Monne & Co., V. Guerra, Diaz & Co., Menendez Bros. & Verplanck, Gonzalez Mora & Co., Arguelles, Lopez & Bros., F. Garcia & Bros., José M. Diaz & Bros., Amo, Ortiz & Co., Salvador Rodriguez, M. Stachelberg & Co., A. Santaella & Co.
  • Relocated from Chicago: Creagh, Gudnecht & Co., Bonifacio Garcia & Co., Fernandez & Saxby, Berriman Bros., Trujillo & Beneles.
  • Relocated from Atlanta: Cuesta, Ballard & Co.
  • Other companies that organized and establish operations in Tampa during the same period were: Emilio Pons & Co., José Lovera & Co., Clarkson Bros., P. San Martin & Co. and Val M. Antuono.
 
In all, we have identified and photographed 26 remaining cigar factory buildings, all still standing except the V. Guerra, Diaz building which burned down to the ground on July, 2015. 

​Below are pictures of Ybor City and West Tampa since demolished cigar factory buildings from the Burgert Bros. photography collection made available courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System