From its marble columns to hidden treasures, the Port Tampa City Library stands as a small chapter in our area's history.
The historic building has worn many hats in its near 100-year lifetime, and to this day it remains a big part of the community. It's one of several renovated historic buildings in the area.
It's been a flight school, grocery store, hospital clinic and even a fashion designer's boutique, changing hands through the years but staying close to the heart of Tampa.
But these days you can find folks reading, studying or logging on - as one of Tampa's premiere libraries.
The city renovated and restored the building in the 90s, and much of its original features are still intact: Stairs, windows, and that gorgeous white marble exterior.
"One of the things that we made sure of was that we could preserve as many things as we could, and we did actually keep a lot of the original fixtures," said Branch Manager Cathy Wos.
To ensure quality, they used a historic preservationist architect to do the renovations.
The 5,700-square-foot building was first erected as a bank in 1926. It cost $125,000.
But the bank shutdown after the stock market crash. However, mostly because of its location, the structure stayed an intricate part of the city.
The building sits right across the street from the railroad that runs along the Selmon Expressway now, connecting Port Tampa in its early days to the downtown area.
It hasn't always been a fairy tale for the building, however. It's seen darker days. Until it was turned into a library, it sat vacant for a 30-year period.
No one came to visit. Nothing filled its walls.
"There were actually pigeons living inside the building," Wos said.
With huge back taxes looming over its head, the city condemned it. But the community saved it, raising money to lead the renovation efforts.
With strong public support, the city agreed to forgive the back taxes and established the library in 1998.
Longtime Port Tampa resident Carol Curtiss said that moment was incredible.
"It was a really special time when we celebrated, and it ignited a spirit in the community to come together and put forth the effort to save the building," she said. "And as a result, many good things have come to be."
These days you could say the building is showing its appreciation, educating and providing services for the people of Port Tampa. It's like giving back to the very people that helped save it.
"I think there was a period of time recently where finally we realized what we have here in our community," Wos said. "Historic preservation came in the forefront of people's minds, and they said 'Wait a minute we have to save this.' We're never going to see a building like this again. We're never going to have a building in this area where they imported Italian marble to build."
Photographer Chris Hegarty contributed to this report.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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