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Davis Islands Tampa Florida - Early History

Davis Islands almost never came into being

By Jeanne Wolfe

       In spite of the feverish land boom of the early 1920�s, wealthy homeowners on Bayshore Boulevard
 vociferously fought the Tampa Real Estate subdivision of Davis Islands  plan for development.

     Tampa native D.P. Davis was a developer who has prospered in the Miami boom.  His vision was to convert the mudflats and three small islands near the mouth of the Hillsborough into an idyllic island community, Davis Island.  He was able to purchase the property for $350,000.  The Bayshore Boulevard neighbors, however, sought to squelch Davis� plan by claiming that the city could not legally sell the submerged bottomlands.

The lawsuit eventually went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court on appeal.  The victory for Davis set into motion his ambitious plans: 834 acres, 11 � miles of water frontage with seawalls and 27 miles of winding streets.  The streets are named for bodies of water in somewhat alphabetical order starting at the North end of the island.  Davis planned a resort community with three luxury hotels proposed, also included were a nine-hole golf course, airport and public swimming pool.

D.P. Davis was proud of his deeding a 50-acre park to the city.  In honor of Davis�s late wife, the spacious park was named Marjorie Park.

In order to build his islands, Davis hired the 4 largest dredges available.  The dredges soon ran 24 hours a day in order to complete the ambitious project.  Davis needed to dredge 89 million cubic feet of sand from the bay.

When the Davis Island home lots went on sale, prospective buyers waited in long lines and the streets near the sales office were jammed with congested traffic.  When the doors opened pandemonium ensued.  Within the first 3 hours, all of the initial lots offered (306) were sold.  The Tampa Tribune said that Mr. Davis �was literally showered with checks.� The $1,683,582 in sales was a world�s record for the sale of Real Estate lots in a new subdivision.

D.P. Davis was an inspired promoter and his exciting ads stimulated sales even more.  Mediterranean Revival architecture was encouraged in order to enhance the ambiance of this Venetian paradise.

In October of 1926, D.P. Davis was making a transatlantic voyage in order to explore the possibility of a development along the French Riviera.  Davis fell overboard and was lost at sea.

Davis Islands development slowed down and relatively few homes were built in the 1930�s. Eventually, buyers of lots were able to build in whatever architectural style they preferred.  Thus the eclectic mix of architectural styles that predominate today.  The golf course and skating coliseum are now gone.  Peter O. Knight added more fill to the islands in order to accommodate an airport on the south end. This increased the size of Davis Islands to the existing 875 acres.

Davis Islands is the ideal model for an urban community with its own individual style.  Driving across the Davis Islands Bridge watching the sunlight sparkle on the water, makes it clear � this community is a jewel.

Davis Islands Yacht Club     Bayshore Little League     Davis Islands Real Estate     Davis Islands Historic Photos    

Davis Island Map


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