Updated: Jul 23, 2020
In River Tower Park along the Hillsborough river, stands a tall white tower. The Sulphur Springs Water Tower is a historic landmark for the City of Tampa. This twenty-one-story water tower was constructed in 1927 by Grover Pole. It was built to supply adequate water pressure to the Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments, as well as Maves Arcade. Throughout the years there have been plans to further develop the tower, however, many of these plans have fallen through.
The location of this tower was strategically designed to expand the Sulphur Springs Resort spa, alligator farm, and other enterprises. These tourist attractions provided revenue for the Sulphur Springs economy, allowing them to invest more funding into infrastructure. Unfortunately, financier Josiah Richardson lost everything after a catastrophic flood in September 1933, which resulted in the collapse of the Tampa Electric Company's dam, and extensive damage to his Arcade. The ambitious plans were left unfinished.
In the 1950’s the grounds surrounding the tower hosted a drive-in movie theatre, which attracted guests to the park and increased awareness of the tower. Until 1971 the tower pumped artesian well water into commercial and residential real estate for customers in the immediate vicinity. During this time, the structure operated under private ownership belonging to the Estate of J.F. Hendricks. Later, the City of Tampa forced the tower to cease water piping in order to maintain a monopoly over supplying water for citizens. In the mid 1980’s plans for a property development were in the works. This project entailed the construction of high-end condominiums and apartments that featured the tower as a centerpiece. The attempt to commercialize the tower was stopped by the community. Fortunately, in 1989 the project plummeted; additionally, a benefit resulted: the tower was restored. About 13 years later, plans to build a large chain drugstore were ultimately unsuccessful.
Today this park is known as River Tower Park. Under ownership of the City of Tampa, some enhancements and events have taken place at the park. The city added external lighting for nighttime illumination and each October the Florida Orchestra hosts a free concert at River Tower Park. However, without proper attention and care, an influx of guests could disturb the well-being of the property and ecosystems surrounding it.
Overall, the Sulphur Springs Water Tower has a rich history. Despite the difficult challenges the Sulphur Springs Water Tower and community have faced, this structure remains intact today; it stands as a symbol of integrity and fortitude for Sulphur Springs.