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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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Armenian Genocide Billboards on Display in South Florida, Massachusetts

Armenian Billboard FL 2013

By Rosario Teixeira
Executive Director, Peace of Art, Inc.

During the month of April 2013, Peace of Art, Inc., will be displaying Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide, calling for recognition and condemnation of the genocide. Peace of Art, Inc. is a nonprofit educational organization that uses the universal language of art to address human concerns and to promote peaceful solutions to conflict. In Massachusetts, the billboards will be located in Foxboro, Watertown, and Cambridge.

(Also on FLArmenians: 98th Anniversary Armenian Genocide Commemorations in Florida)

One 10′ x 30′ digital billboard is on display now on Route 1 in Foxboro, MA, 1/4 mile south of the main entrance to Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place. A second 11′ x 27′ billboard will be on display on April 1st in Watertown, on Mount Auburn Street in the heart of the Armenian community, close to the Armenian cultural centers and churches. In addition, a third 11′ x 27′ billboard will be on display on Cambridge Street, near Lechmere Station, East Cambridge. This area, with high traffic and high visibility, is the gateway between Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville.

The artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian, president and founder of Peace of Art Inc., said that “with these billboards we are honoring the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, calling upon the international community to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and to condemn the perpetrators. He added, “98 years have passed but the bloody hand prints of the horrible events of 1915 stained the pages of the world history, when 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives.”

AG billboard MA 2013

The 2013 billboard depicts the bloody hand prints on the words ‘Armenian Genocide’ over a black background. Since 1996, Mr. Hejinian has been calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 2004 Peace of Art, Inc. began to sponsor the commemorative billboards honoring the victims and calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This year’s message further calls for the condemnation of genocide.

(Also on FLArmenians: The 113th Congress, the 2014 Mid-Term Elections & the Countdown to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide)

To date, the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by over 20 countries and 43 U.S. states. However, in spite of his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide, in the last four years President Obama has failed to use the term genocide in reference to the slaughter of Armenians, which took place almost to a century ago. Once again we urge the President on his second term, to honor his first campaign promise.

The Armenian Genocide is not a matter of concern for Armenians alone but to everyone. Genocide is a crime against humanity. Without recognition and condemnation, the Armenian Genocide remains a wound that continues to bleed, under the hand prints of the culprit.

In a separate and ironically unrelated event, genocide billboards are being displayed in South Florida. Paid for by “Individuals concerned about the plight of Armenians,” and displayed in South Florida are four 14′ by 48′ Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards on heavily traveled freeways to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and to thank the countries that officially have recognized the Armenian Genocide. The billboards can be seen on I-95 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and on the Florida Turnpike intersection with Interstate-595. Peace of Art, Inc. is not involved in the Florida Armenian Genocide billboards.

This article originally appeared on Peace of Art, Inc. and is reprinted with the permission of the author. 

CORRECTION: This story was updated Tuesday, April 23 at 2:10 pm to clarify that the Massachusetts billboards are separate and unrelated to the South Florida billboards.