Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

This post has nothing to do with the famous Spanish restaurant, really, but I gawked at the elaborately tiled façade as I wandered through the historic Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa one morning. Wow!

There are now several locations, but this is the original Columbia Restaurant, founded in 1905 as a small café, eventually expanding in size to encompass an entire city block and seat up to 1,700 guests. This is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

The interior looks pretty sweet as well, but I can’t find anything specifically about this tiled façade, so all I can do share the jaw-dropping eye candy.

For some other similar examples of tile façades, check out the Everett Middle School in San Francisco, Ocean Beach School in San Diego, and patterned tile in Santa Fe.

2 thoughts on “Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

  1. We were pleased to see your photos and read your comments about the tiles at our Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Here is some more information about these tiles.

    Florida’s oldest restaurant, The 108-year-old Columbia in Tampa’s historic Ybor City, calls to mind many impressions, award-winning Spanish/Cuban food, Flamenco dance shows, and the thousands of colorful tiles encompassing most of its 52,000 square foot façade.

    Many of those colorful tiles have been severely damaged by the estimated 11,000 trucks that pass alongside both sides of the restaurant each day as they move in and out of the Port of Tampa.

    Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation family member and president of The Columbia has completed a project to restore and preserve the tiled panels alongside 21st street, and he has added new history by creating a 10 foot x 7 foot family tree of the Hernandez Gonzmart family .

    The tiles were originally placed on the façade in 1973 by Richard Gonzmart’s late father, Cesar Gonzmart, as part of a beautification project for The Columbia that created murals facing 7th Avenue and also along the 21st street façade. Cesar Gonzmart found boxes of the tiles inside a storeroom back in 1970 when he bought Las Novedades restaurant in Ybor City. They are terra cotta tiles, and were made in Sevilla, Spain in the 1930s.

    The tiles form sweeping, colorful murals around a panel commemorating Columbia’s distinction as “Florida’s Oldest Restaurant,” with its founding in 1905 by first generation family member Casimiro Hernandez Sr., along with the Five Forks rating given by the Spanish Government in 1965. Other murals show Christopher Columbus arriving in the new world. Still other tiles form colorful panes with vases; some are filled with fruit, some with flowers.

    The original Columbia Restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., and is Florida’s Oldest Restaurant. It began as a 60-seat corner café known for its Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban sandwiches, frequented by the local cigar workers. Additional locations include St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida’s town of Celebration, Columbia Café on the Riverwalk in Tampa and Columbia Restaurant Café at Tampa International Airport. All Columbia locations are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family except for Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport, which is operated in partnership with HMSHost. Please see http://www.columbiarestaurant.com for more information.

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