The Tampa River Walk

Hugh Campbell Macfarlane

Hugh Campbell Macfarlane (1851-1935)


Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee, Friends of the Riverwalk. For
further information, contact E.J. Salcines, ESalcines@verizon.net.


Hugh Campbell Macfarlane, an important leader in the development of Tampa
and the founder of West Tampa, was born near Glasgow, Scotland on December 28,
1851, to James D. Macfarlane and Ann Campbell. When he was 14, his family left the
British Isles and came to Fall River, Massachusetts. Five years later, the family moved
to Stearns County, Minnesota and Macfarlane enrolled in St. John’s College in St. Paul.
The family moved back to Fall River and he completed his training at Boston
University School of Law. After graduation, he opened his law practice in Fall River,
married and had a son named James. That marriage did not last long and Hugh moved
to New Orleans for a short time, but by March, 1884, at the age of 32, he came to
Tampa. He started practicing law and making a name for himself in the courtroom. By
May, 1885, he became a founding member of the new Board of Trade (today’s Chamber
of Commerce). His nickname quickly became “Colonel” – as senior lawyers were
commonly called in the South. In July 1887, the Florida Legislature re-incorporated
the City of Tampa and Macfarlane served as the first City Attorney (1887-1890). He
spoke at the laying of the cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Hotel ceremony on July 26,
1888. He soon married Frances I. Pettingill and they had a son Howard and a daughter
Mary. His son James, from his first marriage, came frequently to Tampa and moved
here permanently in 1906.


By late 1886, Hugh C. Macfarlane acquired 120 acres on the west side of the
Hillsborough River opposite Tampa and soon surveyed and platted out industrial sites
and residential lots, streets, and public areas. By 1892, the first cigar factory opened in
West Tampa. In 1893, the Fortune Street Bridge, spanning the Hillsborough River to
West Tampa, saw new buildings and industry grow. Together with business partners
George N. Benjamin, John H. Drew, Alonzo C. Clewis and others, they financed,
besides the bridge, the streetcar line, acquired more land, and invited cigar
manufacturers to bring their factories to West Tampa.


On May 18, 1895, the Florida Legislature created a new city called West Tampa –
everyone knew it was Macfarlane’s City. The two center streets were named Howard,
for his son and Frances (now Albany) for Colonel Macfarlane’s wife. Macfarlane
donated a large park to the citizens of West Tampa and the school across the street is
named in his honor. By 1900, West Tampa had a larger population than Tallahassee.
Ten years later West Tampa was the fastest growing multicultural and ethnic city in
the fastest growing state east of the Mississippi. Colonel Macfarlane served as City
Attorney both for the City of Tampa and West Tampa. In addition, his son James
served as mayor of West Tampa from 1912 through 1916.


Macfarlane was the leader of Tampa’s powerful Scottish community. He
persuaded Andrew Carnegie, also a native of Scotland, to donate the funds for the first
Free (Public) Library in West Tampa on Howard Avenue, which opened January 1,
1914. The City of Tampa’s library opened April 27, 1917 on 7th Avenue, between
Franklin and Tampa Streets, also thanks to the Macfarlane-Carnegie connection.
Macfarlane served as the State Attorney for this Circuit from 1893-1894. For
years, he was the superintendent of public works in West Tampa. West Tampa evolved
from a frontier outpost to a model city. He built a most prestigious law firm and
witnessed his city of West Tampa grow to become the fifth largest city in Florida.
After thirty years of independence the two cities became one when West Tampa was
annexed into the City of Tampa in January, 1925.


He continued his public service on Tampa’s Board of Public Works, the Board of
Port Commissioners, the Industrial Board, and many civic and social clubs, national,
state, and local bar associations. He had just celebrated his 84th birthday when he died
January 7, 1935 at his home in Tampa Heights near Columbus Drive and North
Boulevard.