Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
In the Beginning...
Uncle Sam Chooses Tampa for Base in 1939
On July 14, 1939, the Tampa Morning Tribune announced the war department's decision to build the "Southeast Air Base" in Tampa. The land selected was a 6000 acre marshy area known as Catfish Point. As part of President Roosevelt's New Deal Program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) paid local unemployed citizens for land clearing and road construction work. Runways, buildings, and airplane hangars were built by private contractors. Construction was competed less than two years later and the base was officially dedicated as MacDill Field on April 16, 1941.
"What is now MacDill was mostly pine and palmetto trees with some small farms that had hogs, chickens, and maybe a cow or two... and when riding horseback through there, we were always mindful of the rattlesnakes."
- Louise Lykes Ferguson
(on growing up near Catfish Point)
The Rattlesnake Cannery
As workers cleared the old Catfish Point site, they encountered thousands of rattlesnakes, and helped give birth to the world's only Rattlesnake Cannery. The attraction near Gandy and Westshore Boulevard even had its own post office. Entrepreneur George End ran
George End's Cause of Death: Rattlesnake Bite.
Behind the Scenes
(Portraits of George B. Howell, Jerry Waterman, R. Ambler Liggett, and Mayor R.E.L. Chancey)
Many civic, community, and political leaders in Hillsborough County worked hard to bring the new air base to Tampa. The base promised jobs and a boost to the sagging post-depression economy. It's said that before selecting Tampa as the site for the new Florida air base, Army officials enjoyed visiting the city and particularly enjoyed the history and culture of Ybor City.
Tampa's Other 1930's WPA Projects
Bayshore Boulevard Sea Wall
Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory
Peter O. Knight Airport
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Animals • Industry & Commerce • War, World II. In addition, it is included in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1846.
Location. 27° 56.714′ N, 82° 27.516′ W. Marker is in Tampa, Florida, in Hillsborough County. Marker is on North Ashley Drive north of East Whiting Street, on the left when traveling north. The marker is installed at MacDill Park on the Riverwalk, in downtown Tampa. Touch for mapTouch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Tampa Goes to War (here, next to this marker); Tampa Salutes MacDill AFB (here, next to this marker); The War Years (a few steps from this marker); History in the Air (a few steps from this marker); Tampa Bay and MacDill (within shouting distance of this marker); Today at MacDill AFB (within shouting distance of this marker); MacDill: 1950 to 2000 (within shouting distance of this marker); Technology Power Diversity (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tampa.
More about this marker. The marker is one of several located in the park. It is along the sidewalk, facing the street.
Regarding In the Beginning.... The town of Rattlesnake, Florida grew up in the area around the Rattlesnake Cannery beginning in 1937. In addition to the town Post Office, Rattlesnake also had a police department. By the mid-1950's Rattlesnake was annexed by the City of Tampa, and the Rattlesnake Post Office was renamed "Interbay". The area just south of the Gandy Bridge along Old Tampa Bay is still referred to as "Rattlesnake Point".
MacDill and the area's other WPA projects all remain prominent fixtures in Tampa's landscape after more than half a century. Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands served the city's airline traffic prior to the construction of Tampa International, and still serves general aviation operations today. The Bayshore Boulevard Seawall stands along the world's longest continuous sidewalk and serves as a linear park and recreation trail with spectacular views of the city and Hillsborough Bay. Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory, outside of its military use, is a city landmark that once hosted concerts by Elvis and The Doors, and a speech by President John F. Kennedy. Interests are currently seeking to re-purpose the Armory building and surrounding property for commercial use.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To discover how MacDill Air Force Base came to be and its roles through the decades, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. Rattlesnake - Ghost Town. Ghosttowns.com page about Rattlesnake, Florida, includes several photos. (Submitted on August 8, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.)
2. Rattlesnake, Florida - A Brief history. Rattlesnake Florida Headquarters website entry (Submitted on February 1, 2022, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
Additional keywords. Riverwalk
Credits. This page was last revised on February 1, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 6, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 1,362 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on August 6, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.