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Ybor Square is a historical building in Tampa. It was built in 1885. This landmark has many different historical connection to it. Ranging from the name of this building to becoming a church. Below you will read about the amazing historical events that have happened here and that have changed Tampa.


Ybor Square

Ybor city was established in 1885 by Vicente Martinez-Ybor. Vicente Martinez-Ybor was born in Valencia, Spain in 1818. When he was 14 years old he decided to move to Havana, Cuba where he worked in the biggest industry in Cuba, cigar making. He definitely found his niche when he learned this trade. By 1868 the Cuban revolution from Spain broke out. To steer clear of war Ybor moved to Key West. Here he started his very own cigar factory. Throughout his time in Key West he eventually came to some complications in that area. He then decided to move to an underdeveloped area outside of Tampa in 1885. Ybor was captivated by the land and how the climate was in that area. He started thinking about what possibilities he would have here in the future.  After a while Ybor had noticed a mass number of immigrants that started moving to that area. With the ideas Ybor had to develop a cigar factory, he would definitely need some help. He thought with all the immigrants moving in, he would finally make his dreams come true by starting to employ his factory employees. Ybor also made a steamboat route from Havana to Tampa just to bring back hundreds of Cubans to work for him.

Once he started gathering his employees, he had to start building his very own factory. During the time of the construction of his factory Ybor also bought large plots of land. This land became Ybor City. Ybor had made his own city for his workers and other residents. Within a few years there were about 3,000 residents who lived in Ybor city.  In 1886 his cigar factory was built, The Martinez Ybor Cigar Factory Complex. This became the first hand rolled cigar factory in Tampa. “It consists of two three-story factories and a two-stroy warehouse, all interconnected.” (Florida Cuban Heritage Trail Guidebook) With such a big factory Ybor needed a lot of employees, his factory at one point employed over 4,000 workers and rolled millions cigars a year. But his city was not only known for being the “cigar capital of the world” but for Cuban revolutionary activities as well.

During the late 1890’s Cuba was going through a Cuban revolution for Independence. One of the main places all this was happening was in Tampa, Fl. As most of the residents and workers in Tampa were Cuban this revolution impacted the area greatly. Jose Marti, a cuban Revolutionary leader traveled to Tampa. Marti would use the cigar factory for many of the revolutionary activities during that time. The factory’s iron steps were a big staple for Marti to make his speeches that support the movement.  Marti’s speeches made a huge impact on the residents of Ybor city. “Ybor’s cigar workers began to donate a days’ worth of pay every week to help fund the Revolution. The money raised funded ammunition and weaponry for the Cuban soldiers and provided them with machetes.” (The Cuban Revolution)

Throughout the 1900’s the cigar industry started to decline, leaving the city's employees jobless. The building has become housing antique shops, restaurants and stores. The Martinez Ybor Cigar Factory Complex was changed to Ybor Square. During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the building was under renovations to become an office building for a company called ZOM Development. Which then became their regional office. Ybor Square was bought by the Church of Scientology in 2010. For a year the Church had renovated and restored the building leaving some historical artifacts like, “an original tobacco bale press and the lectern from which the cigar factory’s lector, or reader, read out newspapers and stories for the education and entertainment of workers while they rolled and cut the leaves.” (Public information center) On March 13, 2011 the Church opened its door to the new renovated Ybor Square. 

"Ybor Square." Florida Trend, vol. 44, no. 2, May 2001, p. 24. Gale OneFile: Business, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A75508824/GPS?u=22417_vcpl&sid=GPS&xid=4d5f9f2b. 

Justin Soriano and the Tampa Historical Team, “The Cuban Revolution,” Tampa Historical, https://tampahistorical.org/items/show/150.

“PUBLIC INFORMATION CENTER.” Church of Scientology of Tampa - All Are Welcome!, www.scientology-tampa.org/inside-our-church/history.html#slide2.

Mcbobleonard. “YBOR CITY HISTORIC DISTRICT (Tampa).” HISTORIC TOUR OF DOWNTOWN YBOR CITY, Tampa, floridahistory.org/yborcity.htm.

Florida Cuban Heritage Trail Guidebook. Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, 1994, http://archive.org/stream/floridacubi00flor#page/44/mode/2up.

“Vicente Martinez Ybor Biography.” Infoplease, Infoplease, www.infoplease.com/people/vicente-martinez-ybor.

“{0} Search Results - All Collection Groups.” Search All Groups, ufdc.ufl.edu/results/?t=martinez ybor cigar factory.