Tampa’s Lafayette Street Bridge: Building a New South City
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of dynamic social and political change for Tampa, a growing city on Florida’s west coast. These changes led Tampa’s commercial-civic elite to look beyond the law, the militia, and the church for ways to maintain their sense of order. This thesis illustrates non-violent enforcement of the status quo via public works, specifically bridge construction over the Hillsborough River. Over a period of three decades, three different bridges were built at the same place, at Lafayette Street. Each time the bridge was built or replaced, it was ostensibly for a different reason. However, each time the financing, construction, and form of the bridge was the result of Tampa’s social, political, and economic systems. Development and maintenance of public works involves questions of private rights, property ownership, acquisition of capital, fiscal policy, and labor relations. Thus, in Tampa, the history of a bridge over the Hillsborough River becomes a stud of class and power within a growing southern city.