Florida's best county's birthday is on Jan. 25.

Hillsborough County was much larger in size, but far less populated, when Florida's governor and Legislative Council established it on Jan. 25, 1834.

Back then, the county comprised what now are Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties, along with parts of Glades and Lee counties. Its population was just 836, not including soldiers and Native Americans.

The United States was 57 years old, and Andrew Jackson was president. Florida was a territory, and it would not become a state for another 11 years. Most locals lived in the village of Tampa. The remainder of sprawling Hillsborough County was sparsely populated.

County residents have celebrated triumphs and faced adversity. Here are a few:

  • Tampa becomes a city in 1855, the first of three Hillsborough County communities to do so. Plant City incorporates in 1885, and Temple Terrace gains stature as a city in 1925.
Hillsborough County historic sites
Hillsborough County Courthouse was erected in 1892, at the intersection of Madison and Franklin streets.
  • Henry Plant extends his railroad to Hillsborough County in 1884, launches steamship service to Key West and Havana, Cuba, and in 1891 opens Tampa Bay Hotel on the west bank of the Hillsborough River. The former hotel now is part of the University of Tampa.
Hillsborough County historic sites
Henry Plant's Tampa Bay Hotel, now part of the University of Tampa, remains a landmark across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa.
  • Phosphate is discovered in Hillsborough and Polk counties in the 1880s, and Vicente Martinez Ybor opens a cigar factory here in 1886. Both commodities become major exports, and help spur the county's population and workforce growth, and diversity.
Hillsborough County historic sites
Workers roll cigars at one of many Tampa factories in the early 20th century. The cigar industry helped put Tampa on the map..
  • Hillsborough County is the primary staging area for soldiers bound for the Spanish American War. Col. Teddy Roosevelt arrives with his Rough Riders in 1898, before the cavalry unit departs for Cuba.
  • Ruskin is founded in 1908 as a quasi-socialist community with a college, a saw mill, farms, businesses, houses, and parks. The Ruskin Commongood Society flounders when the United States enters World War I in 1917. Many of the college's students join the military or take jobs in distant cities.
  • Tampa International Airport in 1950 replaces aging Drew Field, a military training airbase. A second terminal opens two years later, and improvements and expansions continue through the decades.

Hillsborough County historic sites

Tampa International Airport has continued to expand since it opened in 1950.
  • Elvis Presley performs as a supporting act at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in May 1955. He'll return three more times in 1955 and 1956, ultimately as the headliner. President Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. are among others who appear at the Armory, which now is Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center.
  • The phosphate freighter Summit Venture hits a center span of the Sunshine Skyway in May 1980, toppling the roadway into Tampa Bay. Thirty-five people die. The bridge's center spans - originally, there were twin bridges - are in Hillsborough County, due to the shipping channel beneath them.
  • Hillsborough County's population swells to 1 million residents around 2000. It continues to grow, now reaching about 1.35 million.

Last Modified: 1/29/2024, 4:47:16 PM

Was this page helpful?