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Why do they call it that? Renamed road causes "senior moment" | News

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Why do they call it that? Renamed road causes "senior moment"

Between the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Tampa Bay History Center runs a short little street with a pretty big history.

Why do they call it Old Water Street?

Old water? That sounds... umm... delicious.

No, no, no -- the road that forms the southern boundary of Downtown Tampa is Old Water Street, not Old Water Street!

You know, the same as Water Street... but ehh... distinguished, mature, over-the-hill.

To be polite: a street of a certain age. And this road has certainly been around the block.

Today, the serene Tampa Riverwalk follows Old Water Street with hotels, parks, the convention center, and Tampa Bay Times Forum.

But decades ago, it was such a stinky stroll!

The land along Water Street was almost all working waterfront, ruled by railroad yards and shipping docks.

After World War II, the city got its priorities straight and cleaned up Water Street. Now, we just have to get the name straight.

"It's had a lot of different names in the past few years.... Old Water Street is the current name. Before that it was St. Pete Times Forum Drive... Before that, it was Ice Palace Drive... And before that, it was Water Street the first time," Rodney Kite-Powell explained.

Kite-Powell is curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center, which opened its doors right here on Old Water Street in January 2009.

In fact, the history center is why we call Old Water Street by its elderly name.

When the impressive museum was being built, planners were worried the name of the street out front may lead out-of-town tourists -- to head back out of town.

"St. Pete Times Forum Drive could be confusing. People might think it's in St. Petersburg," Kite-Powell said.

So the folks at the history center asked the city to switch the street back to its original, historical name of Water Street. New problem.

"There was concern among, I think, the emergency folks -- and I guess I can understand this -- that Water Street might be confused with Waters Avenue," Kite-Powell said.

So, if you call for help in Downtown Tampa, rescuers may get sent six or more miles away to the northern section of the city.

"And so, they said, 'You can't call it Water Street, but you can refer back to that -- to that name -- by calling it Old Water Street,'" Kite-Powell said.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Old Water Street also marks where Tampa's shoreline was when folks first founded the city. All of the land south of the street is new.

It was dug up from the bay and placed there during the past hundred years.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.


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