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V. Guerra, Diaz & Company | Photo © 2014 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

V. Guerra, Diaz Cigar Company

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1899 | Abandoned: 1980s
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (August 14, 2012)
Status: Burned DownDemolished
Photojournalist: David Bulit

V. Guerra, Diaz Cigar Company

Later known as the V. Guerreri Cigar Factory, this three-story 27,462 square foot cigar factory located at 201 N 26th Street in East Tampa was built in 1899 for the V. Guerra, Diaz Cigar Company, owned by Frank R. Diaz and his uncle Vicente Guerra, a Spanish immigrant from Rennes, Asturias who had arrived in Tampa in 1894. Guerra and Diaz had operated their factory at the Jose Escalante & Company Corina Factory located just a few blocks from this location until 1899 when the Cuban American Cigar Manufacturing Company acquired the Corina factory and made Guerra its Vice President and General Manager, a position he held until his death on January 9, 1909.

In July 1903, V. Guerra, Diaz & Co. opened a branch factory in West Tampa at a cigar factory previously operated by the Leopold Powell & Company. After the Great West Tampa Fire of 1904 destroyed the factory, V. Guerra, Diaz & Co. consolidated all their manufacturing operations to their 1899 factory building. At times, the factory was referred to as La Mega, La Matilde, and El Modelo, some of the company’s best-known cigar brands. After Vincente Guerra’s death, the company was managed by Frank R. Diaz and Joseph Guerra who had been a former manager at Corina.

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V. Guerra, Diaz & Company, “La Mega” Cigar Factory. 1939. Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System

Later Occupants of the Factory

The V. Guerra, Diaz & Co. occupied the building until 1943. Its close proximity to MacDill Air Force Base proved useful as it served as a naval barracks and training facility during World War II. Following the war, the factory was shared by Tampa Tiger Cigars, Haas Cigar Company, and John Marrian Cigars. In 1956, it was occupied by the V. Guerrieri Cigar Company and was used into the 1980s as a small family-run operation and storage facility for tobacco. Before their move, the V. Guerrieri Cigar Company operated out of a factory at 2935 N 21st Street in Ybor City. Vincent Guerrieri, an Italian immigrant and founder of the V. Guerrieri Cigar Company, died on December 1, 1982.

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1915 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Tampa, Florida. Library of Congress

Destruction

In December 2000, a small fire broke out in the building but was able to be contained by firefighters before any serious damage was done. On July 5, 2015, firefighters responded to a fire at the old factory shortly after midnight. The firefighters couldn’t enter the building for safety reasons so they fought the fire from the outside, but were able to get the fire under control within two hours. The building collapsed after it suffered heavy fire damage to the second and third floors. At around noon that same day, firefighters were still spraying water on the smoldering remains of the building. With an estimated value of $284,000, the Fire Marshall declared the building a total loss.

The V. Guerra, Diaz & Company was a contributing structure of the Palmetto Beach Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 2012. The factory was one of four cigar factories built in the area and only two exist today; The Jose Escalante & Company Corina Factory and the Salvador Rodriguez Cigar Factory. La Noticia Cigar Company factory was located at 404 28th Street which was demolished to make way for the Selmon Expressway. After the V. Guerra, Diaz Cigar Factory burned down, the lot remained vacant until 2022 when construction began on the Palmetto Beach Villas; townhouses which the developer has described as “Dutch West Indies-inspired.”

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Man with cigars and fumigation equipment at Guerrieri Cigar Company, 1957. Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System

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Bullet

David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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