Why do they call it that? Memorial Highway

9:20 AM, Jun 22, 2011   |    comments
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Memorial Highway is shown at the intersection of Howard Avenue in this photo from the Hillsborough County Public Library.

Here's an idea: Build a new road and then put a giant roadblock right in the middle! Well, it seemed like a good plan when they first built Memorial Highway.

Why do they call it Memorial Highway?

Ladies and gentlemen gather 'round and hear the tale of the incredible shrinking street! Memorial Highway!

Once a ribbon of road, it ran 15 1/2 miles. Tampa's Howard Avenue was connected right to Oldsmar at the Pinellas County line.

But progress, technology, and the tick-tock of time have taken away about half of that mileage. Now it exists as a sleepy shadow of its former self.

At the southern start of the Upper Tampa Bay Trail in Town 'n' Country is the last remaining fragment of the original, once-magnificent roadway. A few dozen black asphalt bricks are all that's left.

"When it was created in the 1920's, it was really the main way to for people from Tampa to drive to Clearwater," said Rodney Kite-Powell. curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Kite-Powell said when the road opened, it was named to honor the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County who had died fighting in World War I.

"Not only did they have this highway as a memorial to them, they put up two physical memorials -- two large columns -- to really reinforce its purpose,"

But look out! One column was stuck right in an intersection.

Old pictures show the towering pillar where Howard Avenue met what's now Kennedy Boulevard. The stretch of Kennedy from Howard to West Shore Boulevard was once part of Memorial Highway.

"Cars kept running into them." Kite-Powell explained. "And so there was a need to move them out of the middle of the highway."

Both columns still stand today, nearly 90 years later.

"One of them is on the corner of Dale Mabry [Highway] and Kennedy in the American Legion cemetery. And the other is really in a forgotten location over by WestShore Plaza," Kite-Powell said.

"It's in the middle of a very large traffic island. But, unfortunately, it probably isn't seen by drivers -- which really was its original intent."

Sadly, we've let this bold Memorial Highway shrink in size -- and also, it seems, in significance.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

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Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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