City of Tampa’s Oaklawn Cemetery is now on the National Register of Historic Places

10/18/17
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The City of Tampa’s Oaklawn Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tampa’s first official cemetery, the Oaklawn Cemetery was officially established in 1874 as burial ground for the “white and slave, rich and poor” with the St. Louis Cemetery being donated for Catholic burials with additional property that was acquired, in 1880 to enlarge Oaklawn Cemetery. The wall that once separated the two cemeteries no longer exists. Most of Tampa’s early pioneer families are interred in both Oaklawn and St. Louis Cemeteries.   Some of which include:  Vicente Ybor ( Saint Louis Cemetery), past Mayors, Florida Supreme Court Judges, a Florida governor, framers of the State Constitution and veterans of seven wars.

The Oaklawn and St. Louis Cemeteries predate all early development to an earlier time of a pioneer settlement and a U.S. fort. The need for a burial ground to serve the entire fledgling community which would later become Tampa was necessary from the early stages of the pioneer settlement and village organization. Oaklawn Cemetery was established in 1850, from parcel of land that was considered far enough away from the small pioneer village of Tampa for health and safety reasons. When the City of Tampa officially incorporated in 1855, Oaklawn Cemetery was the only public burial ground. The adjacent land known as the St. Louis Cemetery was donated in 1874 by the Leonardy family to serve as the Catholic Cemetery. Then, in 1880, the land for the remaining eastern portion of the Oaklawn Cemetery was acquired from James Magbee. All of which, allowed the Oaklawn and St. Louis Cemeteries to qualify for Local Landmark designation under Criterion A: Early Settlement and Community Planning.

The Oaklawn and St. Louis Cemeteries are located on the block boarded by Harrison Street to the south, Jefferson Street to the east, Laurel Street to the north and Morgan Street to the west, thus, establishing two cemeteries in one. The southern half, Oaklawn Cemetery is owned and operated by the City of Tampa.  The northern half is St. Louis Catholic Cemetery which is owned by the Catholic Diocese and is where Jose Ybor is buried.  There is a brick drive that end at the dividing line of the two cemeteries and if you look both East and West you can see that the fence line is different.  The fence that is capped is Oaklawn and the un-capped fence is St. Louis.  Please see Oaklawns Cemetery’s self-guided walking tour on line at: http://www.tampagov.net/dept_parks_and_recreation/information_resources/cemeteries/.