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Historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory Is Reborn

One of Tampa's most historic buildings has been given a futuristic makeover. The Fort Homer Hesterly Armory hosted Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Doors, and President John F. Kennedy four days before he was assassinated.

Thursday, it reopened as the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. The Tampa Bay Buccanneers co-owner paid $4 million of the $30 million makeover into the Jewish Community Center, with additional money coming from the state, city and Hillsborough County.

The renovation keeps the old Art Deco architecture, with a new modernistic entrance. It has a members-only pool, gymnasium and fitness club, with an arts center open to the public.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the armory was the city's first real events center.

"It's been an integral part of Tampa for decades," he said. "This is where the wrestlers used to come. This is where John Kennedy came. This is where Martin Luther King came. This was the big event center before we had an events center."

Buckhorn says it's a great re-use for the historic armory.

"For native Tampanians and people who have lived here for generations, this was the gathering point," he said. "This is where they came to have dances and homecomings and proms. And to now see it come alive again, in that next chapter of the armory, really is a complete 180, and it's now back to life."

Buckhorn says the project will spark the renewal of West Tampa. He believes this area will become the western edge of the new urban core radiating from downtown Tampa.

You can see old pictures of the armory HERE.

Credit Burgert Bros. photo, courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library
The armory in 1962

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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