El Pasaje / Cherokee Club

1320 E. 9th Street, Ybor City, FL 33605

OWNER: El Pasaje Building LLC

ARCHITECT: M. Leo Elliot and B. C. Bonfoey

BUILT: 1917

SIZE: 23,200 SF


El Pasaje was only the second brick building erected in Ybor City.  Constructed from 1886 to 1888 by Vicente Martinez Ybor, El Pasaje, which means The Passage, was originally built to serve as an office from which Mr. Ybor could direct other development projects he had in mind for his new factory town.  In 1895, the building became the home for the Cherokee Club.  This organization of influential Ybor City gentlemen used the building for its exclusive social events and as a hotel for VIPs visiting Ybor City.  Over the years, some of these VIPs have included famed Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti, Winston Churchill, who was at the time a war correspondent during the Spanish-American War, and former US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland.  The lower level of the building served as a popular restaurant, also called the El Pasaje, and the outdoor tables that lined the breezeways were almost always filled with diners.  In addition to the hotel and restaurant, El Pasaje housed a noted gambling hall, earning the building the nickname “The Arcade,” and rumor has it that the El Pasaje operated as a speak-easy during prohibition.

Over the years, this building has housed various other businesses, including a number of department stores, a night club aptly named The Cherokee Club after the building’s early occupants, an acclaimed restaurant called Café Creole, and the offices of Creative Loafing, a free local newspaper.  El Pasaje was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, making it among the first nationally-recognized buildings in Ybor City.  With Vicente Martinez Ybor’s factory building just across the street, standing here among Ybor City’s oldest buildings really gives you a sense of what Ybor looked like in its earliest days.

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