© 2022 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Sulphur Springs Raising Money To Save Its Water Tower

Sulphur Springs Water Tower
Sulphur Springs Water Tower, once highlighted on postcards and as a tourist destination, badly needs a makeover. A music festival will try to raise money for the renovations. COURTESY PHOTO MANELLE KHEREDDINE/ WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Residents of a Tampa neighborhood are trying to save their local landmark, the Sulphur Springs Water Tower.

To raise funds for the restoration of the tower and surrounding park, they’re hosting a music festival this weekend.

“I live in this area, and I drive by the tower every day,” said Keith Malson, the chairman of the River Tower Festival. “It's a gorgeous structure that we're letting go to waste.”

The water tower has been around since 1927 when developer Grover Poole built it to supply water to the nearby Sulphur Springs Hotel.

Besides the hotel, there was a shopping arcade and an alligator farm nearby, making Sulphur Springs an early Florida tourist destination. Because of that, and also because it didn’t look like a regular water tower, the Sulphur Springs Water Tower became a famous landmark, appearing on dozens of postcards.

Toboggan slide into Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs Water Tower was once a tourist destination that included a toboggan slide into the springs. CREDIT BURGET BROTHERS / USF SPECIAL AND DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

Everything changed in 1933, when the collapse of the Tampa Electric Company dam destroyed the arcade.

That, combined with the Great Depression and World War II, killed tourism in the area. 

The City of Tampa purchased the site in 2005 and installed lights to illuminate the tower. The area surrounding the tower is now known as River Tower Park.

The tower hasn’t had any work done on it since 1989, when it was pressure-washed and painted with 150 gallons of graffiti-proof paint that was donated by Sherwin Williams.

“There are so many other places in Tampa they (the city) are spending money on, and they're just ignoring this,” said Malson. “It’s part of our history, it's been here since 1927, and we need to preserve it.”

According to Malson, it will cost more than $2.6 million to renovate both the tower and the park. That includes the $100,000 it would take just to repaint the tower.

So Malson came up with the idea of a party.

“I've been talking about this event with my wife for years, and I always thought it was a great area for a music festival,” he said. “I always enjoyed music, and putting the two together was just a great idea to use the funds to restore something within the park.”

The goal is not to get all the funds at once. Organizers hope that the festival will become an annual event and raise the money over time.

“It's important to the neighborhood,” Malson said. “Because if you show that you want to preserve the history of [the tower] and you clean up the area, then people will follow suit.”

The River Tower Festival will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in River Tower Park, and will include live music, vendors, food trucks and fire performers. To learn more about the event, visit preserveourtower.com

Manelle Kheireddine is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for fall 2019.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.