Why do they call it that? Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

8:16 AM, Jul 27, 2011   |    comments
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  • Curtis Hixon Hall
  • Tampa Mayor Curtis Hixon is the man just left of center in a light-colored suit
  • Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Ahh, summertime. It's a great time to go to the waterfront in downtown Tampa and relax. And one of the hot-weather hotspots honors a key person who made the city's riverfront romantic.

Why do they call it Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park?

What do you love most about Tampa's waterfront? If you love that it looks like a kid-friendly fun spot, instead of a string of dirty railroad yards, one of the first folks you should thank is Tampa Mayor Curtis Hixon.

"It was Mayor Hixon who realized and then really began to put into motion the idea that the old warehouses and railroad tracks and everything that ran along the river just weren't very attractive," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

The view from the University of Tampa campus looking toward downtown was a blur of train cars and fishing shacks. But Hixon felt it was time for them to disappear.

"They were no longer really that important economically because the industrial side of Tampa was shifting really more into [the] Port of Tampa area," Kite-Powell said.

Hixon was mayor for more than a decade right after World War II.

He set out to pretty-up Tampa's riverfront and go after white-collar workers who would fill high-rises. They would add to the city's blue-collar base -- folks who worked in places like big shipyards, where beauty isn't as critical.

"[Hixon] died in office, and so he never got to see those plans come to fruition," Kite-Powell said. "But when it did come to be, and they built the convention center on part of that old industrial land, the city named it in Curtis Hixon's honor,"

Curtis Hixon Hall hosted conferences and concerts for thirty years.

It was torn down in the 90's. That site has become home to the Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children's Museum.

And the land next door to those museums preserves the name of one of the visionaries who saw how beautiful this place could be -- Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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