Situated on the west coast of Florida, Tampa is the third largest city in the state (after Miami and Jacksonville) and Tampa’s port is the largest in Florida.
The shores of Tampa Bay have been inhabited for thousands of years. The Weeden Island culture ( a Native American culture defined by their use of ceramics) had existed in this area about two thousand years ago. At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the early 16th century, the Tocoboga Native American group dominated the area - its principal town was located at the northern end of Tampa Bay. Scholars believe that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto may have visited this area as early as 1539. The earliest documented mention of “Tampa” was as “Tanpa”” around 1595. A Spanish shipwreck survivor by the name of Hernando de Escalante Fortanda, spent 17 years as a captive of the Calusa, a southwest coastal Native American tribe. He wrote about his travels throughout much of the Floridian penninsula with the Calusa. At that time, the Spanish had called this area “The Bay of the Holy Spirit.”
Unfortunately, the indigenous cultures of the region began to colapse by 1600 because of the infectious diseases they were exposed to from the Europeans. This left the west coast of Spanish Florida largely depopulated for the next two hundred years.
By the end of the 1600’s, the Spanish had named the area “Tampa Bay”, perhaps the name having been derived from the Calusa language , in which the port was called “itimpi”, meaning “ ...close to or nearby.”
In the mid-18th century, the events surrounding the development of the American Colonies began to drive the Southern Florida Seminole peoples into Northern Florida. By the end of the century, these were mixed with immigrants from Cuba, Italy, and Spain as they flooded into the area and founded West Tampa and Ybor City ( now the historic district of Tampa).
After the U.S. purchased Florida from Spain in 1821, the government began to build forts and trading posts throughout this new territory. One such complex was Fort Brooke, established in January of 1824 at the mouth of the Hillsborough River in Tampa Bay. By mid-century, the pioneer community surrounding the fort became known as “Tampa Town” (later shortened to just “Tampa”). Today, Tampa is a fast growing community and a popular tourist destination