In Tampa Bay, there’s much to enjoy and many places to explore, much more than many might realize, and within the area is a history dating back thousands of years. From around the 10th century to the past decade, you’ll find plenty around that could be called the oldest. Such is the subject of Joshua Ginsberg’s latest book, Oldest Tampa Bay, in which he offers exciting research and knowledge in over 80 chapters’ worth of history.
Each chapter describes what Ginsberg considers ‘the oldest’ of its kind, meaning “the oldest currently or continually operating in the manner for which it was originally designed,” and he included subjects that are significant to Tampa Bay’s history as ‘the oldest preserved.’ The book is split into three sections covering different parts of the bay: Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and Manatee and Sarasota counties.
In Hillsborough, just to name a few, you can find the oldest map of the Tampa Bay area, created in 1757 thanks to Don Franscisco Maria Celi of the Spanish Royal Fleet; the oldest restaurant, Columbia Restaurant, started in 1905 as a small corner cafe by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr.; and the oldest alligator attraction, Croc Encounters, which was established in 2005 and started with the founders taking care of Amos the out-of-state alligator, who’s still with them today.
In Pinellas County, you can check out the oldest preserved open-water wooden canoe, carbon dated to be about 1,100 years old, and the oldest video arcade, Treasure Island Fun Center. In Manatee and Sarasota counties, you’ll find the oldest surf shop, West Coast Surf Shop, launched in 1964, as well as the oldest antique car museum, which is the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, dating back to 1953.
But the passage of time is unpredictable, meaning you never know when something will no longer be around.
“As I was writing this book, I had the task of trying to write faster than change. It happened more than once that I would show up to take pictures or write about a place and the place wasn’t there; there were just construction crews,” said Ginsberg.
So if you have an urge to seek out the bay area’s history, make sure to visit these oldest things and enjoy them while you can.