BAGDAD VILLAGE HISTORIC DISTRICT
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES - SANTA ROSA COUNTY, FL
Tampa Landing - 4543 Water Street
Tampa Landing in the Village of Bagdad is where the community connects with the Blackwater River. Whether past or present, the landing offers access to the river as its course splits around the island across from the mainland. Through the years, various watercrafts have used this landing as a stopping point, or as an entry and exit point. Tampa Landing, as its name implies, was an access point for one particular vessel.
Historically, this site on Water Street served as the landing for the Steamboat City of Tampa. Beginning in 1898, the approximately 90-foot vessel operated out of Milton, Florida, as a packet boat delivering passengers and goods between Pensacola, Bagdad, Bay Point Mill, and Milton. Passenger travel on the steamer was common between Pensacola and Milton as there were no bridges across the Escambia or Blackwater Rivers.
(Right) The Steamboat City of Tampa stopped twice a day at Tampa Landing located on Water Street in Bagdad, FL. The vessel, originally named Volunteer, served on the Ohio River from 1887 to 1892. She was sold, modified, and renamed City of Tampa. The steamer was then used on the Manatee River in Manatee County, FL, until relocating to Milton, FL, in 1898.
City of Tampa kept a tight schedule. Her daily run was from Milton to Pensacola and back, departing at 6:30AM and returning at 5:30PM. The steamer stopped both ways at the Tampa Landing in Bagdad. A fare of $1 carried passengers round trip.
(Above) This photo shows Mill executives on a boat excursion. The boat is around 22' long and sits low to the waterline. It is well-suited for the calm and protected waters of the Blackwater River.
The double-decker vessel had a capacity of 160 passengers. Her almost 20-foot beam easily accommodated freight, which often included horses, mules, and automobiles as well as supplies and passengers. The Tampa, as she was commonly called, was also available for charter excursions; with an additional mate (boat hand), she was allowed up to 210 passengers.
Steamboats were powered by steam engines, burning wood or coal to heat water in a boiler until it produced steam. The steam was fed into a piston cylinder mechanically driving a shaft attached to a screw or a paddle-wheel. City of Tampa was a screw-driven vessel and underwent regular maintenance as was common for wooden-hulled boats.
(Above Right) Boats were designed or often modified to fit their use on the area's waterways. This photo was taken in 1910 of four men fishing in Blackwater Bay. The man in the water is working a gill net while the man above him puts the fish on a stringer. Long poles were used to stab the bottom, driving fish towards the net once it was set. Boat hooks could be used to keep the nets closed while pulling in the catch.
In June of 1921, City of Tampa was placed out of service in preparation to receive a new boiler. While moored on the Blackwater River, the vessel caught fire in the night. Her mooring line burned, allowing the steamer to drift down the Blackwater River and into Blackwater Bay. She burned to the waterline then sank to the bottom. Only the memory of her whistle remained on the Blackwater.
Today, Tampa Landing continues to serve the community as an active boat launch and picnic area. For over 150 years, vessels of all designs have used the Blackwater River for work, pleasure, or necessity. Although the whistle of The Tampa is heard no more on the Blackwater, this historic site is frequented by locals who are glad to share their family stories of the Mill days, Tampa Landing, and, of course, fishing on the Blackwater.