Gavino Gutierrez (1849-1919)
Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee, Friends of the Riverwalk. For
further information, contact Andy Huse, AHuse@lib.usf.edu.
Born in the Cantabria region of Spain in 1849, Gavino Gutierrez left home for
Cuba as a young man, where he worked in a shop. At nineteen, he relocated to New
York City, where he started an import-export business and began studies that led him
to become a civil engineer. In November 1884, he accompanied his friend and guava
paste manufacturer Bernardino Gargol to scout the town of Tampa, Florida as the
possible site for a processing plant. While they did not find the wild guava trees said
to be growing in the area, they recognized Tampa’s potential as a site for a variety of
Having proceeded to Key West, where they met cigar magnates Vicente
Martinez Ybor and Ignacio Haya, Gutierrez passed word of Tampa’s climate, port, and
railroad. The cigar industry in Key West had been troubled by labor unrest and Ybor
was looking to shift his operations elsewhere. Based on Gutierrez’s recommendation,
Ybor visited Tampa and decided to buy forty acres of land. Ybor hired Gutierrez as his
architect and foreman, and he surveyed land east of Tampa for the site that would
become Ybor City.
Gutierrez sold off his businesses in New York, choosing to stake his fortunes on
developments in Tampa. Construction began in 1885, and the factories for Ybor and
Haya opened in 1886. He was appointed Spanish consul in Tampa and completed his
namesake building at 1603 East Seventh Avenue. He also founded the Spanish Park
on his own residential property of 160 acres just outside Ybor City that extended down
to McKay Bay. The park included a race track and casino.
One of his daughters, Aurora, married D.B. McKay, owner and editor of the
Tampa Daily Times and future four-term mayor of Tampa. An avid sailor, he would
often charter schooners for trips around Florida and the world. In March 1918, with
his health failing, he returned to his ancestral home in San Vicente de la Barquera,
Santander province where he died one year later.