El Centro Español of West Tampa
El Centro Español of West Tampa circa 1914
El Centro Español of West Tampa interior during renovations
El Centro Español of West Tampa entranceway prior to renovations
El Centro Español of West Tampa prior to renovations
Backstory and Context
El Centro Español of West Tampa was established in 1891 to greet and orient new arrivals to their new home. Soon thereafter, the society, via membership dues, offered new arrivals and local residents social, educational, recreational and cultural services, as well as healthcare. Their first building was completed the same year as it was established. Membership grew by the thousands during the early 1900s, so the need for additional buildings grew. This one was completed in 1912.
However, as Prohibition, the Great Depression, the curtailing of immigration and WW2 hit the area, membership dropped and continued to drop. Following these events, the descendants of the first immigrants to be cared for the the society and other arrivals chose to freely associate with the rest of the city rather than be confined within their cultural communities. By 1983 the society had to consolidate and move its headquarters to this structure. Although the society still exists, this building too was later abandoned. Soon thereafter Hillsborough County leased the building and renovated it to house the county's educational programs for the area.