UT Gateways Students Experience Tampa History with Mafia Tour

Published: Jan 30, 2013
A walking tour of Ybor City introduces UT freshmen to Tampa’s mafia past.
A walking tour of Ybor City introduces UT freshmen to Tampa’s mafia past.
Associate Professor Anthony LaRose, right, started the tour on the trolley with background history to give the students perspective.
Associate Professor Anthony LaRose, right, started the tour on the trolley with background history to give the students perspective.
Gateways peer mentor Kendra New ’13, far right, helped lead the trip last semester, too.
Gateways peer mentor Kendra New ’13, far right, helped lead the trip last semester, too.
LaRose said that most places in Ybor City had some connection to the mob.
LaRose said that most places in Ybor City had some connection to the mob.

Walking down 7th Avenue in historic Ybor City, the UT freshmen were startled by a loud bang.

While it was just from the crew doing renovation work on the club Amphitheatre, it fit seamlessly into the walking tour Associate Professor Anthony LaRose and Kendra New ’13 were leading on the mafia’s history in Tampa.

“In the 1930s, you would have heard that all the time,” LaRose laughed, knowing the dangerous life of prohibition, brothels and corrupt law enforcement that permeated those times. “Anywhere you look, you can guarantee they were hiding booze or running a brothel.”

This was the second semester LaRose gave the history lesson on the historic city just minutes from campus. A criminology professor and lover of history, Ybor City fascinates him. LaRose teaches a Gateways course which helps freshmen settle seamlessly into college life. His peer mentor for the class, New, helped lead the trip last semester, too.

“We wanted to do something different that not only had the history of Tampa and the mob, but offered the social aspect,” said New, a criminology major.

The students started their tour by walking from campus to the downtown trolley stop, then riding the trolley into Ybor City. By foot the group then made their way down the brick streets, stopping periodically to learn highlights, like legend Charlie Wall who was the gambling czar of Tampa for about three decades beginning in the 1920s.

Wall survived an attempted assassination when his car was shot at near 21st Street and 8th Avenue. Pausing at this intersection to hear of the story, the students looked at photos on their cell phones of Wall’s damaged car, which LaRose had sent via email.

They passed the Columbia Restaurant where “every mobster in Tampa liked to eat,” and the Italian Club where numerous mob deals were made. They learned how parts of movies like Donnie Brasco and Goodfellas included scenes based on events that took place in Ybor City.

“The students are here at The University of Tampa, they are here in Tampa, they should know some of this city’s history, and this is an interesting way to offer that,” LaRose said.

Michelle Speaker ’16 of Chicago, was seeing 7th Avenue for the first time. She took photos outside the Columbia so she could remember to go back.

“It definitely was interesting,” Speaker said while enjoying pizza at the final stop — dinner. “It’s more engaging than sitting in a classroom, and it was fun.”

 

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