Swope Rodante

1234 E. 5th Avenue, Ybor City, FL 33605

OWNER: Tampa Florida Brewing Ltd.


BUILT: 1896

SIZE: 50,200 SF

PHOTO CREDITS: Burgert Brothers


Swope Rodante Law Firm, housed in the former Florida Brewery building, is one of the more recognizable buildings in Ybor City, in part because of its imposing height. Before it was a brewery, and in fact before Ybor City was even founded, the land beneath the brewery was coveted and developed. This was due to the fact that adjacent to where this building now stands was a fresh water spring. Named the Government Spring in 1824, the spring supplied troops stationed at nearby Fort Brooke with water by way of a road established between the fort and the spring. Twice a day a horse-drawn wagon traveled the road between the fort and spring to provide the garrison with fresh water. Around the spring was also built an enclosed swimming pool and an ice factory. In 1896, 10 years after Vicente Martinez Ybor founded Ybor City and began to develop his cigar town, a group of leading men, which included Mr. Ybor and his business partner Edward Manara, decided to try their hand at a local brewery. Capitalizing on the fresh water provided by the Government Spring, the men decided to build their brewery next to the spring. Originally dubbed the Ybor City Brewing Company and later changing the name to the Florida Brewing Company, the brewery was a huge success, quickly becoming the premier brewery on Florida’s west coast and the largest exporter of beer to Cuba. The brewery continued to turn out case after case of beer through Prohibition and the Great Depression, when many other companies closed their doors. It was not until the embargo on exports to Cuba and the opening of the modern Anheuser-Busch factory in Tampa that the Florida Brewing Company faltered. The brewery produced its final case of beer in 1961.

Once the brewery closed, a cigar company took over the building for a short time and bricked over a number of the windows in order to keep the tobacco leaves fresh, and then the building was used as a bomb shelter during the Cold War. Over time, the building fell into disrepair, as windows broke, portions of the roof caved in, and even the tower fell. When Dale Swope and Joseph Kokolakis bought the building in 1999, it was in need of a great deal of attention. With the original building’s design in mind, the two completely restored the building, including the magnificent tower, and the building now serves as the offices for Swope Rodante Law Firm. Thanks to the restoration, this eye-catching building was not lost and now stands as a reminder of one of the great Florida breweries.

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