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What’s in a Name? Taking a closer look at Tampa Bay’s history

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What’s in a name? A lot.

The City of Tampa is known for the Buccaneers and the Lightning. Ironically, Tampa wasn’t the original name at all. 

The true original name of Tampa was really Tanpa… with an “N.”

Rodney Kite-Powell with the Tampa Bay History Center said “Tanpa” is from the Native American Floridians meaning Sticks of Fire. But settlers changed the “N” to an “M.”

“The place Tampa, that name goes back to the pre-Columbian times when the native people were here and it may have been pronounced TANPA…with an N instead of with an M by the native people,” he said.

And get this – the original Tampa may not be where we live. According to Kite-Powell, it could be a little north or perhaps further south.

“It may actually have been in Charlotte Harbor,” he said.

One of the main roads in Tampa is Dale Mabry Highway. But it wasn’t always called that. It used to be a small road called Vera Avenue. When the military built MacDill Air Force Base and Drew Field, they looked for a road to connect the two. That’s where Vera Avenue came into play. So officials built out Vera, reinforced it and renamed it Dale Mabry Highway. 

But who is Dale Mabry?

“That used to be the most popular question people asked at the history center. Who is Dale Mabry? And they would always ask it in a really angry way, upset with this poor guy,” Kite-Powell said.

Dale Mabry was a WWI veteran who was born in Tallahassee but lived in Tampa. He died in service to his country, but not in war.

“After the war, he was in Washington DC. He was actually at the controls of a blimp and there was a malfunction and he was actually able to steer it away from a populated area and crash it in a field and lost his life, as well as other servicemen on board.”

There’s no question Tampa is rich with history. Learn more about it and watch Rod Carter’s full What’s in a Name? report Thursday at 6 p.m. on News Channel 8.

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