The seawall, which supports the longest continuous sidewalk in the United States, was partially built by Hillsborough County almost 100 years ago

Bayshore Boulevard - there's no other place like it in Hillsborough County or, perhaps, the world. The street features picturesque views of the sparkling Hillsborough Bay on one side. The other side is lined with historic and modern homes showcasing a variety of architectural styles, some dating as far back as the 1920s.

It's the county's number one destination for residents and tourists to watch a full marine show - dolphins, manatees, rays, herons, sailboats, water-skiers, and more. Bikers, rollerbladers, joggers, and walkers can take it all in along the 4.5-mile stretch of continuous sidewalk - the longest in the country. Some sources recognize it as the longest, continuous sidewalk on the planet.

Protecting the iconic street from flooding and erosion is the Bayshore seawall. The seawall wasn't built all at once, but over the course of several decades. Due to damage from the Tampa Bay hurricane of 1921, it was repaired, and in some areas, completely rebuilt. In 1926, Hillsborough County honored the completion of the southern end of the seawall with a historical marker.

From the late 19th century to today, the seawall, street, and sidewalk evolved significantly. It continues to attract sightseers and fitness enthusiasts on a daily basis and remains among Hillsborough County's most stunning streets.

In 1920, Bayshore Boulevard did not yet have its iconic white balustrade. Photo courtesy of Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.

Bayshore Boulevard and Seawall Timeline

1890s - Trolley service ran from downtown Tampa to Ballast Point. The Ballast Point Pavilion, an open-air dancing pavilion and theater, was a popular attraction for locals at the time. A bath house and restaurant also drew trolley riders to the area.

1904 - Sanatorio Del Centro Espanol was built at 3100 Bayshore Blvd. The hospital served Tampa's Latin community for many years before being demolished in the 1960s.

1907 - Real estate developers from Tennessee, Alfred Swann and Eugene Holtsinger, began constructing the original 1-mile-long section of seawall, roadway, and electric streetlights along Bayshore Boulevard. This first section, called Bayshore Drive, ran from Swann Avenue to Rome Avenue.

1908 - The name "Bayshore Boulevard" was coined and appeared for the first time in the Tampa City Directory.

1912 - An additional 2.3 miles of seawall and roadway were added along Bayshore Boulevard by Hillsborough County.

1921 - The Tampa Bay hurricane of 1921 made landfall near Tarpon Springs as a Category 3 storm on Oct. 25. It destroyed homes, brick road, trolley tracks, and the seawalls along the Hillsborough Bay. A storm surge of 10-12 feet flooded Bayshore Boulevard and many houses in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It was the last major hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay area.

1924 - Bayshore Royal, Bayshore's first high-rise, was built. It was originally a hotel but has since been converted into condos. Around this time many large homes were also constructed along Bayshore.

1926 - The seawall and balustrade from Howard Avenue to Gandy Boulevard were erected by Hillsborough County.

1928 - Academy of Holy Names began construction.

1930s - Through federal Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) funds, Bayshore Boulevard was widened and paved with concrete, making it a desirable road to travel on by car. The views were further enhanced with landscaping. Cement medians were also added for safety.

1935 - The Colonnade opened on July 3. The restaurant, known for its water views, seafood, and servings of Coca Cola topped with an olive, closed in 2016. A residential tower now stands on the site.

1936 - Tampa's elected officials passed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of gas stations along Bayshore Boulevard. It was one of the first steps towards keeping the boulevard mostly free of commercial clutter.

1946 - Trolley service was eliminated and replaced with bus service.

1960s - Developers began building residential high-rises towards the northern end of the boulevard.

1988-1989 - The Bayshore Corridor Project repaired and replaced the street, landscaping, sanitary sewer realignment, and street lighting. At times, work was done at night so projects could be completed during low tide.

1991 - Queen Elizabeth II's motorcade traveled down Bayshore Boulevard from University of Tampa to MacDill Air Force Base on May 20.

1990s - Tampa Mayor Sandra Warshaw Freedman spearheaded the Bayshore Boulevard Restoration Project. The project included improvements to landscaping and street lighting, repairing and repainting balustrades, and adding new sidewalks and bicycle paths.

Posted: 7/27/2023, 9:05:30 PM