Historic armory repurposed as Jewish Community Center revitalizes West Tampa

A new Jewish Community Center opened in early December of 2016, and it’s a major step forward in revitalizing West Tampa, Florida.

We’re not only able to restore history in Tampa but also to be the catalyst moving forward,Jack Ross, the executive director of Jewish Community Centers, said.

The old Armory building is now restored and transformed, with some original elements still inside. The state, county and city contributed to the $30 million makeover. The building is more than 110,000 square feet, with event space, workout facilities, art studios and pools. The building itself is steeped in history.

Fort Homer W. Hesterly is a historic building in the West Tampa section of Tampa, Florida. The building and adjacent support structures were originally constructed as a U.S. military facility to house units of both the Florida Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. The armory was built in the 1930s under Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s New Deal and dedicated the day after the Pearl Harbor attack.

After sixty years of service, and with the facility becoming obsolete for military purposes, Florida National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve officials announced plans to replace the armory on December 1, 2001.

An art deco style building, it took ten years to find an occupant for the Hesterly Armory, once a premiere entertainment venue in addition to its military role. It is now home to the Tampa Jewish Community Center & Federation.

In 1955 Elvis Presley performed at the armory as part of the “Country Music’s Mr. Rhythm” show, the final act in country star Hank Snow’s All-Star Jamboree tour. Presley’s debut album includes a photo from his 1955 performance at the armory.

The armory was used by President Kennedy for an address to the Florida Chamber of Commerce in 1963, four days before his assassination in Dallas. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke at the armory. The Doors played at the armory in 1972.

Photo of armory prior to reuse by TampAGS via Wikipedia.

See December 5 WFTS article and news video by Ashley Yore.

See December 8 WFTS article and news video by Lindsey Logue.

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