An Old Florida Melting Pot


At a place like the Belleview Biltmore you can easily forget about the world beyond the hotel as you spend your days going to the pool and strolling around the beautifully kept grounds. Communities like Ybor City and Tarpon Springs can seem as far off as other countries after a few days at it or one of the other old castle-in-the-sand hotels nearby. But 1 found that the thread tying together all these distinct parts of Tampa-St. Petersburg is the strong devotion to the preservation of history and tradition that permeates both the hotels and the small communities around them. It makes them seem less like strangers to one another.

My last stop was at Largo’s Heritage Village, near Clearwater, which holds nearly two dozen of the county’s oldest structures, moved from their original sites. I found a pleasing historical parallel that seemed to exemplify that connection. Not long after Mr. Ybor built las casitas to house his workers, Henry Plant had the Plant-Sumner House built for the Plant Railroad’s foreman and his family. The Plant-Sumner house is slightly grander than the cigar workers’ houses, but both are simple, with Victorian touches, and both kitchens include the exact same sign for telling the iceman how much ice to leave. The railroad foreman and the Cuban immigrant factory worker surely led quite different lives but both remain preserved here and live on separately in Tampa today.

—Vanessa Weiman TO PLAN A TRIP