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This building was previously used by one of the cigar making companies.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Cigar Industry History Tours

1818 East 9th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605
Tours leave daily from the Ybor City Museum at 10:00am, Noon, and 2:00pm.
813-241-6554 2 hours
February 2012 All year
$0-19 Tampa Florida
Website Tours Walking Tours
First review
 
The Cigar Industry History Tour is a 90 minute walking tour of the Ybor City neighborhood in Tampa. The tour begins and ends at the Ybor City Museum, and the tour price includes entry to the museum. Along the tour route are 12 different historical sites such as a refined hotel, a former cigar factory, a newspaper building and a small garden area. The tour goes inside both the hotel and the former cigar factory. Most of the local streets are commercial in nature but typically have limited traffic, so are conducive to a walking tour.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, Ybor City was a booming cigar making community. It was world famous for quality hand rolled Cuban cigars. The cigar plants attracted a diverse mix of immigrants, including Cubans, Spaniards, Sicilians, Germans, Jews and even Chinese. These communities generally were self-segregated and self-supportive. Most had mutual aid societies and also social clubs which served as the hubs of community life. The local cigar industry began a significant decline in the 1930s due to competition from automated plants and from increasingly popular cigarettes. Businesses in Ybor City shut down, and workers left to seek jobs elsewhere. The city of Tampa began a misguided effort to renew the area in the 1950s by razing hundreds of historical buildings. Meaningful economic resurgence however did not take place till the 1990s when Ybor City became a popular nightlife destination.

A Sunday morning in winter was an ideal tour time as the weather was cool, and the streets were quiet. The guide was a pleasant gentleman named Wallace Reyes. Tours are offered in both English and Spanish. The first tour stop was at restored cigar workers homes next to the Ybor City Museum. These homes, which provide a good perspective of domestic life at the time, can also be seen on your own through a museum visit. Wallace had a thick notebook with many pictures of historical Ybor. He would often stop at intersections or key locations and discuss historic structures and provide a sense of what life was like. Although most of the existing historical buildings seen on the tour are now used for different purposes, Wallace did a good job at explaining their prior uses and importance. Stopping at the charming boutique Don Vicente De Ybor Historic Inn was a tour highlight as this hotel has nicely preserved it's historic appearance and richness. A stop at the Ybor Factory Building which is now owned by the Church of Scientology was also interesting to check out historic furnishings and pictures. Perhaps the most notable stop was to a small city park actually owned by the Cuban government. A deed to this land was presented to the Cuba prior to the 1950s revolution. The park's existence is so obscure that even most people in Tampa have never heard of it. The tour ended with a walk up 7th Avenue and an opportunity to look through a cigar store window and to watch a worker hand making a cigar. It was a nice finish to an informative and enjoyable excursion. This tour is a nice complement to the Ybor City Museum. Note also that you should make an advance reservation for the tour, don't just show up. Although the Columbia Restaurant is not on the tour, if you have a few minutes and/or want to eat excellent Spanish food, the Columbia is just a few blocks from the museum and is worth a visit. There is a review of it on this website.
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guyonthego
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