A Tampa student is helping preserve a piece of her city's history by letting residents take a step back in time.
Tampa’s Central Avenue is an almost forgotten piece of the city’s history, but it’s now seeing resurgence from Robinson High School's Mary Elizabeth Johnson.
“We used an old Sanborn map that they had and compared it to a city directory that they had to document the residents who lived there,” Johnson said.
For about a year, the high school senior worked with the Tampa Bay History Center for her International Baccalaureate (IB) project and created an interactive map on her website.
The website identifies the people who lived and worked on Central Avenue some 80 years ago and saves the legacy of a community that was once a host to booming businesses and the likes of Ray Charles.
“I saw some of the things that happened on Central Avenue," Johnson said. "Like the origination of the twist and some of the famous people who stayed there. My first thought was, ‘wow, this kind of stuff happened in Tampa, I didn’t think Tampa was this cool.’”
The interactive project allows users to click on pictures attached to the businesses and homes from the past. But sadly, the only standing reminder of the time today is the St. James Church.
The maps offer the chance to step back in time and honor what was once here.
“I really hope I’ve done a service to the community,” Johnson said.
Johnson graduates in the spring but says younger IB students have already reached out to her about taking over the project to uncover even more history in the city of Tampa.