The first clubhouse in 1887 was a vacant cigar factory warehouse donated by Vincent Martinez Ybor for his Cuban workers, used as a meeting place and safe haven for numerous Cuban political associations. The original clubhouse was located in Ybor City. (Dr. Wallace Reyes, Once Upon A Time In Tampa) During the informal beginnings of the club, it was named Eliceo Cubanos. During the revolution, Jose Martí met with the club and said he needed a “circle of Cubans” to work with him in the revolution. So they then decided to form a new organization and name it “El Círculo Cubano” of Tampa. In 1902 Eladio Paula became its’ first president.
Fire destroyed the first clubhouse in 1916, and soon afterward members initiated plans for its replacement. The present 4-story, yellow brick building with Neoclassical design elements sits on the original site. Constructed in 1917, the building contained a 2-story theater, pharmacy, library, ballroom and cantina. Imported tile, stained glass windows and elaborately carved scraffito spandrells decorated the structure and the ballroom ceiling displayed elaborate murals. It once housed a gymnasium, complete with lockers, a swimming pool, and two bowling lanes.
The second clubhouse was constructed and completed in 1907 at a cost of $18,000. The building consisted of ………….(need to research this more) Fire destroyed the second club house on April 30, 1916, and soon afterwards members initiated plans for its replacement.
Circulo Cubano was completed in 1907 and stood at 14th Street and 9th Avenue. The mayor, city council, and three foreign consuls attended the opening ceremonies. It’s facilities included a 1,500-seat theatre, a library, classrooms, billiard room, and a cantina. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire just nine years later, in 1916.
On the morning of February, 25, 1917, Dr. Alfredo Kohly, president of the Cuban Club, celebrated the laying of the cornerstone for a new building at a festive occasion, attended by Mayor McKay and many other dignitaries. Insurance covered only part of the cost to rebuild after the 1916 fire, so member quickly began to raise funds for construction. Rafael Martinez Ybor, Cuban Consul at that time, helped with fundraising in Cuba.
The third and current club house:
Within a year of the second clubhouse burning down, in May 1917, the cornerstone of a new building was placed and dedicated in 1918 under the leadership of Dr. Alfredo J. Kohly. Eladio Paula continued working by his side and was even said to have gone to Cuba to ask and raise funds from the Cuban government for the completion of the building.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The present 4-story, yellow brick building with Neoclassical design elements sits on the opposing corner of the original site. Constructed in 1917, the building contained a 2-story theater, dressing rooms, clinic, pharmacy, library, boardroom,, offices, grand ballroom, balconies, cantina, gymnasium complete with lockers, a swimming pool, two bowling lanes and a large patio located west of the building that hosted boxing matches. After two houses were purchased in 1938, the patio was enlarged and in walled with a bandshell where famous Cuban entertainers such as Benny More, Celia Cruz. It also was where the big band sounds of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey preformed. It was witness and shared with me by my Primo Raul Lavin, that people would be dancing in the streets outside the walls. The Grand Ballroom continues to be the scene of many lavish wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve parties and dances.