After 32 years of maintaining their post among the hustle and bustle of Ybor City’s iconic 7th Avenue, the dazzling aluminum archways that illuminated the city’s main thoroughfare were replaced with newly reinforced, innovative, sustainable lights.
To preserve the legacy of the iconic structures, Ybor City CRA auctioned the original archways off to the public. The archways were split into five lots of four, giving winners a chance to own a beloved piece of Ybor City’s history. We contacted each winner to find out where those legacies lie now that they’ve been placed in the hands of the people and businesses that admired them for the past three decades.
Lot 1-Taylor Durdan
Taylor Durdan, a resident of Ybor City for 11 years, won the first lot of lights. Throughout his time in the district, he has collected many iconic items from the city’s history throughout the years. Some items in his collection include recycled bricks that now reside in their garden, and a tree that “had to be cut down from The Castle patio after it was damaged by storms.” This long-time love and eye for Ybor remembrances led to his pursuit towards the lights, a perfect addition to an already rich collection.
Durdan plans to keep one archway to anchor upon a wall of his “quaint” backyard. However, he also spread the wealth of his winnings to others within the community. One archway went to Dillon Breeze of the Ybor Misfits Microsanctuary. Another went to Michael Murphy with the Silver Meteor Gallery. While deciding where to place the fourth remaining archway, he serendipitously encountered Chip Williams, another resident looking to get their hands on one of the lights.
When asked of his thoughts on what owning a piece of history like this means to him, he put it simply by emphasizing how special it was, especially since he’s personally experienced their life along 7th Avenue. “I have undoubtedly looked at this exact light time and time again over the past 20+ years.”
Lot 2- Devin Gillam
The story of Lot 2 follows a duo with an ample appreciation of Ybor City and its history, Devin Gillam and Debbie Nicholson. “As a first-generation Tampa native and history lover, Ybor City is easily my favorite part of town. The historic architecture and walkable layout are truly special when compared to most U.S. urban areas,” said Gillam. However, it wasn’t Devin who originally had eyes on the lights, but their mother, Debbie, who shared Devin’s admiration of the district’s ambience and asked Devin to bid on her behalf.
Mrs. Nicholson, who “frequented Ybor on a weekly basis throughout the 90s and early 2000s,” plans to continue the legacy of her prize by fulfilling their original purpose as archways. This time between the trees of her forested backyard rather than the buzzing sidewalks of 7th Avenue. While her ultimate prize is to own one of the coveted globe streetlamps from the historic district, the archway lights now serve as a beautiful reminder of the many memories 7th Avenue has offered her family and so many others in their 30 years at their original post.
Lot 3- Brett Wiewiora, Owner of Gulf Coast Sourdough
Lot 3 landed in the lucky hands of one local business owner, Brett Wiewiora, owner/operator of Gulf Coast Sourdough in Seminole Heights. Like many of the Archway’s winners, Wiewiora is a self-proclaimed history lover, and saw the innate value in owning a piece of history through the lights. While the lights do not yet have a permanent home on any of Wiewiora’s properties, he’s excited to add a decorative and meaningful structure to his space.
Lot 4- Daniel Snow and Barry La Flor
Daniel Snow, an Ybor City resident of many years, works at Tampa’s renowned Improv Comedy Club. He takes pride in his many accolades tied to Ybor City, including the fact that he resides in an original casita in the district. With an engrained sense of loyalty to the quaint, yet ever-evolving historic district, it is no wonder that he would pursue the coveted original archways. This connoisseur has yet to share their plans for their prize, but they’re sure to be a cherished item within what is already likely such a history-rich home.
Lot 5- Ray Berry
The soft, yellow, ambient lighting of the original archways gets a colorful upgrade in this lot, purchased by a cohort of neighbors from Hyaleah Road in Temple Terrace. The one-block stretch of road is notorious for its lighted décor during the holiday season, as featured by the Tampa Bay Times in “5 Things to do Under $5” during the holiday season. The archways now add a bit of historic flair to their display, and will be restored with new, more spirited lighting. The arches will now move to span across Hyaleah road’s holiday block, with new colorful, blinking lights that will ring in the holiday spirit with cheer. All three of the neighbors, led by Ray Berry, appreciate the “Tampa nostalgia” that each light holds and are excited for this new addition to their annual display.
Originally intended as a temporary feature for Ybor’s Centennial celebration, the lighted archways became a treasured fixture for both residents and patrons of Ybor City. While the new archways will continue to illuminate historic 7th Avenue, the story of the original archway lights will live on through their new purposes. The winners, whether they incorporate the archways into a new display for the public or enjoy them in private, each help to preserve the story of Tampa’s Latin quarter.
The history of Ybor City is at the core of the district’s legacy, and the archway lights help emphasize the importance of preserving the area’s rich history. As Durdan notes, “Forward movement cannot be stopped, but if enough of us stay involved and keep an eye on the past while at the same time progressing, then I think the feel of our area can be saved for future generations to appreciate.”