The West Tampa Free Public Library, the first public library in Hillsborough County, opened on New Year’s Day in 1914 at 2312 W. Union St. (The “then” photo is from 1918.) It was one of 10 libraries opened in Florida from 1910 to about 1917 as the gift of wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Land for the library was donated by cigar factory owner Angel Cuesta.
An article in the Tampa Morning Tribune stated that three languages were spoken in the library — English, Spanish and Italian — in acknowledgment of Tampa’s immigrant population, many of whom worked in the cigar factories of West Tampa and Ybor City. The library’s Spanish-language reading section was particularly popular with the cigar workers.
Now called the West Tampa Branch Library, the neo-classical building received a major facelift and expansion in 2004. Interior decorations include stained glass and oil paintings.
Greg S. Carr