Tales from the Crypt?

I had heard about a cool old Italian cemetary (L’Unione Italiana Cemetary) in Tampa that I had to go check out. I’m half Italian (although I knew none of my relatives would be buried here). I’m one of those weird people who likes to walk around old cemetaries and check out the dates. And, think about who were those people were so long ago. I headed out early in the morning in early September before it got too hot. The first thing I noticed about this cemetary was all of the beautiful crypts. Most of them were not that old, from the 30’s to the 60’s.

I was able to find some information on the first crypt.  Gaetano Spicola was an Italian immigrant from Sicily, born in 1871, coming to American in his early teens. He worked his way down to Tampa and eventually opened the Ybor City Bottling Works. He later opened a hardware store with his son that was open for 66 years. He had a very colorful life that can be read about here.

It was a very crowded cemetary with lots of big ornate headstones. The interesting thing about this cemetary was so many of the headstones had pictures of the people on them. Almost like they were watching you. It almost made the cemetary come to life.

There were several with tall statues over them.

This was the entrance to the oldest part of the cemetary.

Many of the graves were from the early 1900’s to the late 20’s. I noticed that there were a lot of them with tiles on the headstone and many had the tile wreaths on them.

It was a very interesting part of Tampa history. Next door was the older Centro Espanol Cemetary and of course I walked through there as well. More on that later.

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A little Tampa history

Oaklawn Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Tampa. It’s located downtown although north of the current main buildings that is downtown today. There is something peaceful about walking around in an old historic cemetery. I like to walk through and look at the dates. Some of the headstones are so old that you can barely read the names. Some were almost completely worn down. Some have pictures and some tell short stories.  The cemetery was started in 1850 and many of the early grave markers were made of wood. There are a lot of graves without markers due to the wood ones burning or getting damaged in storms.  The cemetery includes many prominent families, pirates, slaves and confederate soldiers.

Thomas Pugh Kennedy arrived in Tampa in 1840 and started the first trading post with the Indians here. Many of his descendants still live here. Kennedy Boulevard that runs through a lot of Tampa was not named after Thomas. It started out as Lafayette Street and the name was changed in 1964 to Kennedy Boulevard after John F Kennedy visited Tampa in November of 1963 right before he was assassinated.

The headstones back then were very ornate.

Vincent Ybor and his family is buried here.  Ybor started the cigar making business here in the area which became Ybor City.

This grave had a lot going on. Looks like it needs some love and attention.

Driving out heading into downtown.  Brett and I went out for a drive on a cool morning in late November. We saw the cemetery and decided to stop in and walk around.

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