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Why do they call it that? Tampa's tiny token of appreciation | News

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Why do they call it that? Tampa's tiny token of appreciation
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Henry Snow was called one of the great leaders of early Tampa. So, how did the Tampa Bay area say "thank you" for his service? It's almost embarrassing.

Why do they call it Snow Park?

Read old news stories about Major Henry Snow, and you'll feel like you grabbed a superhero comic.

"One of Tampa's best known and best loved citizens," one article proclaims. Then, "No man who has ever lived in Tampa has given more generously of his time and his resources" to improve the city.

But at the end of his life, Major Henry Snow could not catch a break!

Not long before Snow died in 1926, the city decided to dedicate a park to this dedicated businessman and public servant.

The park they chose, however, wasn't exactly the most prominent one. 

Snow Park was basically a glorified median in the road. The whole park was about the size of a single parking space.

That gave Snow Park -- this man's lasting legacy -- a special distinction. Ripley's Believe it or Not! claimed it was the smallest official city park on the planet.

Eighty-five years later, Snow Park is still here. It's in Hyde Park, right across the street from the University of Tampa, where Kennedy Boulevard forks to the left to go into downtown.

So, superhero Snow got Earth's smallest city park. But I'm sure when he died, there was at least a big bold-face headline about it in the newspaper the next day. Right?

Once again, no such luck.

"He also had kind of the misfortune of dying the day that D.P. Davis died," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

He says D.P. Davis had sunk his fortune (and several other people's) into creating Davis Islands out of a sandy hump of land just offshore from Tampa.

Davis was likely the richest person in Tampa -- until 1926. Florida's land boom went bust. Almost overnight, Davis Islands lots were nearly worthless.

D.P. Davis was suddenly, stupefyingly in debt.

He set sail for Europe on the sister ship of the Titanic. He was traveling with his mistress, not the wife he had just married.

Davis went overboard -- and vanished into the sea.

Did he fall from the ship, doing the kinds of stunts reckless millionaires tend to do? Did he jump? Was he pushed? His disappearance was the talk of Tampa.

"His death was a sensational, almost tabloid-style death in headlines," Kite-Powell said.

No matter how Davis actually kicked the bucket, he managed to kick Major Henry Snow's headline down the newspaper page. The Tampa Daily Times front page on October 13, 1926 covers both stories.

"You have this little story about... Snow dying," Kite-Powell said, "And this big, splashy headline about D.P. Davis being lost at sea."

One last end-of-life insult for one of Tampa's early greats.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There's a reason we're covering Snow Park right now. This week marks the 35th anniversary of something amazing: the day Tampa woke up to a blanket of snow.

January 19, 1977 was the last measurable snowfall in Tampa.

This photo from USF Special Collections shows what it was like.

Families built snowmen on their car hoods, brothers and sisters flung snowballs at each other, and police responded to a record number of car wrecks.

Our area has had small snow flurries since then, but nothing like the blanket of white stuff that covered Tampa 35 years ago.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

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