Travel back in time with a stroll down Tampa Avenue. It is home to several important historical sites that helped shape the development of Venice: Hotel Venice, San Marco Hotel, and the Orange Blossom Garage. Don’t forget to shop and dine too!
Hotel Venice (present day Venice Center for Independent & Assisted Living located at the corner of Tampa Ave. and Nassau St.) was the first hotel constructed in the city in 1926. Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, the 3-story wood frame building had one hundred luxurious rooms, where potential home buyers could stay when they visited.
The San Marco Hotel (present day San Marco building with businesses and residential units), another 3-story structure built soon after Hotel Venice, offered 13 shops on the ground floor and 92 rooms above. It later became the home of the Kentucky Military Institute from 1933-1970.
The Orange Blossom Garage was built in 1927 to house a gas station, car storage garage, and storefront shops. The strategically located corner building is now home to the Venice Theatre.
Beyond Tampa Avenue’s rich history, visitors can also take in the beautiful murals. On the East facing side of the Venice Theatre is the aptly named Sharing Paradise in Venice by artist BJ Carson. It is accented by a lovely fountain and the tranquil surroundings of Michael Biehl Park. Along the wall of Tampa Ave. East’s Barclay Pharmacy is a Venetian inspired scene. Stunning stained glass windows can be admired at the Epiphany Cathedral on Tampa Ave. West.
Explore and Support Local Businesses
Did you know Tampa Avenue has 30+ businesses?
– More than 10 shops catering to your personal needs and well-being include numerous hair salons, such as Virasana Salon; a barber shop; massage therapy; facials; permanent makeup; teeth whitening services; chiropractic services by Dr. Roderick O’Reilly; and metaphysical services at The Power of One.
– Côté France is a charming French bistro and The Olive Grove of Venice serves fine wines and craft beers. Both are located in the San Marco building. Luna Ristorante, nearby on St. Augustine Ave., offers Italian cuisine.
– Computers and Websites Done Right specializes in IT consulting; computer repair, maintenance, and upgrades; website design; and social media marketing services.
– For your entertaining needs, Chef Lisa at Hosted Gourmet offers catering services, cooking classes, and private dining experiences.
– Tampa Ave. also offers an art gallery, an antique shop, and an interior design service.
Tampa Avenue: Early Catalyst for City Growth
The construction of the San Marco Hotel not only enhanced the city’s hotel capacity, but also its retail space. Built with steel-reinforced, concrete block, it was one of the strongest structures in the city. In 1932, the empty hotel was leased to the Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) for use as its winter headquarters. The first floor was used for classrooms and the upper floors for cadet living quarters. The building is now filled with specialty shops on the ground floor and condominiums on the other floors. An exhibit honoring the nearly 40-year history of the KMI, with various memorabilia—photographs, personal letters, and uniforms, will be completed in 2020.
The Orange Blossom Garage, originally servicing the city’s automobile needs, was used in the 1930s by KMI as an armory, chapel, and arena to hold exhibition basketball games, a focal point of the community. In 1972, the building was purchased by the community-based Venice Little Theatre organization and remodeled as a performance venue. In 2008, the Venice Little Theatre became the Venice Theatre, which is now the largest per capita community theatre in the United States.
To learn more, pick up a Venice Walking Tour map at Venice MainStreet, 101 West Venice Avenue, Suite 23 or at the information kiosk in Centennial Park. The map also can viewed online at visitvenicefl.org.