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Why do they call it that? Creepy critter creates new suburb | News

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Why do they call it that? Creepy critter creates new suburb
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Tampa Heights sounds like a joke! "Heights" in Tampa? But the altitude of this neighborhood is a real thing. And its history is really interesting.

Why do they call it Tampa Heights?

I'd like to introduce you to a killer of thousands.

It has the power to terrorize whole cities.

And it's also the honorary founder of Tampa's first suburb.

Please -- a warm round of applause -- for the mosquito.

certain kind of this buzzy bug spreads Yellow Fever.

The disease killed thousands of people when it struck in big cities like New York and Philadelphia.

In early small-town Tampa, if it wiped out a thousand people, there'd be nobody left.

So when Yellow Fever showed up here, people knew nearly everyone infected by it would die -- after potentially first bleeding out of any opening on their bodies -- and took it seriously.

"People back then didn't know why Yellow Fever existed. They didn't know what caused it, didn't know what spread it," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"Of course, we now know it was mosquitoes. They didn't know that then. They just knew that in lower areas, you were more likely to get the disease."

Kite-Powell says lower, swampier spots were hotbeds for Yellow Fever -- so folks literally headed for the hills.

Their destination was a spot with high elevation -- a whopping 40 to 45 feet above sea level -- just north of what's now Downtown Tampa.

"People fled downtown to go to the high ground -- to go to the Heights. And that area had that reputation as being a more healthy place," Kite-Powell said.

"When people have the idea of moving out of the 'city,' into the suburbs, that was the first place they went to."

Tampa's first suburb, Tampa Heights, was born. And it really was -- high. This cool map from the US Geological Survey shows Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights rising up in red.

Or, you can see that change first-hand if you're willing to play in traffic.

"If anybody has driven up Florida Avenue leaving downtown... there really is a true rise, be it maybe ten feet, in elevation," Kite-Powell said.

As the people of Tampa fled these nasty bugs, they built wondrous new schools, new churches, and new neighborhoods.

So to the mosquitoes, we say... maybe... thank you? All right -- now buzz off.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

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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