Palmetto Beach developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s around four cigar factories. It is located just south of Ybor City, which had also developed as a cigar industry center just eight years earlier. The area was platted in 1894 by the Tampa and Palmetto Beach Railway Company, an electric power/streetcar company. Established as “East Tampa,” the plat exhibited a street grid which is still evident today. Streets were named after Florida’s major developers (Plant, Flagler, and Chapin) and US presidents (Grant and Cleveland). The neighborhood’s early growth and development centered on three cigar factories constructed in the area during the mid- to late-1890s and a fourth cigar factory which was established here in 1915.
Three of the cigar factories are still here today; two are occupied by other commercial uses and one is vacant. These are La Corina or Jose Escalante Factory at 202 S. 22nd Street; the Salvador Rodriguez Cigar Factory at 402 S. 22nd Street; and the V. Guerra, Diaz, and Company La Mega Cigar Factory at 201-205 N. 26th Street. Workers’ cottages and related commercial buildings surrounded these factories, resulting in a self-sustaining urban village, which remained so for many decades. An interesting ethnic mix of Spanish, Italian, German, and other nationalities added to the uniqueness of this community. Residences are primarily built in the Bungalow, Frame Vernacular, Masonry Vernacular, and Minimal Traditional styles. Commercial and institutional buildings are built in the Masonry Vernacular and Frame Vernacular styles, although two cigar factories represent the Renaissance Revival style and the school depicts the Spanish Colonial Revival style.
Palmetto Beach developed around the electric streetcar, cigar factories, and DeSoto Park. The streetcar, operated by the Tampa and Palmetto Beach Railway Company (that also platted East Tampa), provided access to the recreational area at DeSoto Park for other residential areas in Tampa (such as Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights). The streetcar line connected with Ybor City, West Tampa, and Ballast Park, along present-day 22nd Street, then turned east on Park Street (present-day Stuart Street), and terminated at DeSoto Park. The streetcar provided access from Palmetto Beach to the rest of Tampa, but it appears that most of the employment for Palmetto Beach residents was primarily within their own neighborhood. The Tampa and Palmetto Beach Railway Company (also known as the Tampa Suburban Street Car Company) was completed in October 1894, and sold in 1899 to the Tampa Electric Company.
A bridge and causeway extending south and east from 22nd Street across the Hillsborough Bay was constructed, as was the dredging of a channel beneath the bridge to a depth of 40-feet. The dredged land was used to fill in the lower end of Hookers Point. Hillsborough Bay was essentially split into two bays; Hillsborough Bay was renamed McKay Bay north of the bridge and East Bay south of the bridge. The DeNarvaez Bridge (renamed Licata Bridge after its replacement in the mid-1970s) and causeway, completed during the winter of 1926-27, was a critical link in the long-awaited Tamiami Trail, a dramatic linkage between Tampa and Miami across the Everglades. This also provided easier access to the port area for shipyard workers living east and south of Hillsborough (McKay) Bay. Much of the Palmetto Beach land west of 20th Street was acquired by Texas Oil. Tampa Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, located south of Texas Oil, ranked among the largest of producers in the United States from World War I forward.
Source: Palmetto Beach Historic District Proposal of Properties in Florida for Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, 2009.