Armenia Avenue Anyone? The Story of Armenia Avenue in Tampa Bay, Florida

Tampa Bay I-275 Exit 42 Armenia Ave. and Howard Ave. Sign

Tampa Bay I-275 Exit 42 Armenia Ave. and Howard Ave. Sign. Photo Courtesy of Yeretzgin Anna Demerjian.

A Series of Fortunate Circumstances

By Dr. George Kamajian
FLArmenians Guest Contributor 

Tampa Bay, FL – Florida, our 3rd largest state, has long been underrepresented when it comes to organized Armenians.  Sure, there have been Hye’s basking in the Sunshine State for decades.  The traditional Interstate-95 corridor from Boston to Miami sprouted numerous colonies of Armenians from Jacksonville to Ft. Lauderdale. Churches soon followed in Miami and Boca Raton with a smattering of a few mission parishes when the Armenian populations were deemed too small to support a church. Although Armenians have made their presence known in Florida business and sports (think Garo Yepremian from the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins) for years, their numbers are still anemic when compared to Philadelphia, Boston or Detroit.

(Also on FLArmenians: Armenian Genocide Billboards on Display in South Florida, Massachusetts)

When the western part of the state opened up with Interstate-75 a funny thing happened. There was an Armenian imprint in Tampa that went beyond anything their brothers and sisters could brag about up north. There, in the middle of downtown Tampa was the landmark Armenia Avenue with a sign as big as any on Interstate-75. A familiar name welcomed weary tourist from up north. How? Who was this powerful, rich or politically connected Armenian that made this happen?

Unfortunately, according to the local historical society Armenia has nothing to do with the name of a road in Tampa.

(WATCH: WTSP News Channel 10 Reporter Grayson Kamm’s coverage of “Why do they call it that? How Armenia Avenue get its name and history of Avon Park, Florida)

“Armenia Avenue was actually originally called Armina Avenue,” said Rodney Kite-Powell, Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center. Kite-Powell says cigar factories used to line this avenue. There are a lot of streets named after the cigar factories that they were near,” Kite-Powell explained. “And so, the Armina cigar factory was right along Armenia — or Armina — Avenue.”

So how’d we get from A-r-m-i-n-a to A-r-m-e-n-i-a?

“Somewhere along the line, either a sign painter messed up, or somebody just kept consistently messing up the pronunciation, and Armina became Armenia,” Kite-Powell said.

Now for the good news….it’s going to stay Armenia avenue forever.

Dr. George Kamajian is a member of the St. Hagop Armenian Church Parish Council and resides in Indian Shores, Florida.

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Posted on April 15, 2013, in General Update, News, Press Release and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. the us should demand that the turks acknowledge the genocide over a few air bases or military installmenmts give the country back to the rightfull owner and keep your bases in Armenia give me back my grandfathers land and my my grandmothers family sisters brothers husband and the 3 out of every 4 armenians they murdered i don’t blame those of today and they should not blame us so make it right without a war and let today’s generation of turks take the Hitler chip off thier shoulder and sleep with ease at night and possibly not think aboutn their elders starving killing and raping human beings to mass graves in the middle of the dessert.

  2. Hey Dr. Kamajian, its TAMPA. TAMPA TAMPA TAMPA. Not Tampa BAY. The city is Tampa. The football, baseball, and hockey teams are Tampa Bay. Armenia Ave. is in TAMPA, not Tampa Bay. The exit for Armenia Ave is in TAMPA, not Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is a body of water. Tampa is a city. Look on a map, it’s true, I kid you not. I’m one TAMPA native who is fed up with my city being referred to as Tampa Bay. We aren’t named after our sports franchises. Thanks.

  3. I like your story about how Armenia Ave. came to be in downtown TAMPA. However, several of us Tampa natives & semi-natives take issue with your headline, photo caption and dateline at the beginning of the story.

    There is NO CITY called Tampa Bay, FL. The exit on I-275 is in Tampa & is at least five miles away from the body of water called Tampa Bay. As a former journalist who used the AP stylebook, the proper dateline is “Tampa, Fla.”

    As natives, we understand the media wanting to label the region as the Tampa Bay area, but PLEASE don’t stomp on Tampa’s heritage

  1. Pingback: Armenian Billboards Put Touchy Topic on the Road | Florida Armenians

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