Vicente Martinez Ybor's First Cigar Factory, 1...

Vicente Martinez Ybor’s First Cigar Factory, 1916 North Fourteenth Street, Ybor City, Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, c. 1902, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History of Ybor City

Founded in the 1880s, Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida.  Now known as cigar city, Ybor City is located just northeast of downtown Tampa.

Long before Tampa became the burgeoning metropolitan city it is today, immigrants mostly populated the area.  Because the city had a good port and had recently gotten a railway, the new city attracted many new Americans in the late 19th century.

Vicente Martinez Ybor

One particular immigrant of note was Vicente Martinez Ybor.  Ybor was born in Spain and had made his living in cigar manufacturing.  He originally moved from Spain to Cuba.  Seeking the opportunities the American dream offered he moved his operation from Cuba to the city of Key West, Florida.

However, the city of Key West was not big enough for Ybor.  Due to a lack of space for expansion in the city and some labor issues, Ybor looked elsewhere to establish his own company city.

After searching around the southeast United States, Ybor settled on the city of Tampa due to its port, railroad, and humid climate.  He set up his base of operations on a 40 acre field north of the center city and quickly expanded into the surrounding area.

Statue of V.M. Ybor in Centro Ybor shopping co...

Statue of V.M. Ybor in Centro Ybor shopping complex (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cigar factory

Ybor’s new operation attracted many new immigrants with cigar experience and expertise to the city.  Immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy followed Ybor to the city for the job opportunities.  Ybor’s competitors also latched on to his success in the city and built their own plants nearby.

This influx of business and new citizens made the city into a major production center for American tobacco manufacturers.  Ybor City was annexed by Tampa in 1887, but the neighborhood maintained its identity as a cigar hub.

Depression

Ybor City thrived throughout the early years of the twentieth century.  But when the market crashed and the Great Depression set in the city struggled.  Cigars have always been a luxury item, so the city was hurt more than many others because the city economy was run on cigar manufacturing and production.

Cigarettes were much less expensive at the time so most people turned to them for their tobacco needs.  The manufacturers tried to adapt by switching to machine rolled cigars which cost the city many cigar jobs.  Ybor city never was the same after that.

The spirit of Ybor city lives on today.  In recent years as Tampa grew around other industries, Ybor city has developed into a popular nightlife scene.  Filled with restaurants, bars and nightclubs, Ybor city thrives today.  The city now has a popular local magazine called Cigar City Magazine.

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