The Big Holdout on Big 13’s City Block…
Tommy Eure...WTVT's closest neighbor!
For 22 years, Tommy Eure Photography occupied the only real estate parcel not owned by WTVT on the full city block containing its television studio facility.
During most of those years, WTVT wanted Tommy’s property to complete the block that would eventually be exclusively the television station’s home. Eure wanted to sell but at his price and on his terms.
(pronounced “your”) bought the parcel at 1117 Memorial Highway, just west of
what would become WTVT studios, in 1953 and opened a commercial and portrait
photography studio. The land was
cheap because at that time, Most of the westbound Memorial Highway traffic
curved left at Henderson Boulevard, a block short of Eure's location, to head
towards the Gandy Bridge. At that time the Gandy was the only route from Tampa to St.
Pete other than through way-out-of-the-way Oldsmar.
Highway was a two-lane gravel road from Henderson right on west to the bay,”
the 83-year-old Eure recalls. “The
narrow roadway was lined with oak trees on both sides that met in the middle to
make the trip seem like you were going through a tunnel.
It was a beautiful drive.
There was an old shack house, a fish farm about where Westshore Boulevard is now, and Knight’s Grocery Store was on the north side about where Clark Street comes through today. It had two hand-crank gas pumps where people got their fuel at around 20 cents a gallon and you could always get your bread and milk sort of odds an ends there too. Other than those, there was only vacant land with lots of trees.”
A new building went up next to Eure's shop, comprised of two square wings and fronted by a curved portico. A Greek restaurant was scheduled to open there in 1954. “It was an exciting time,” says Eure. “I remember all the hustle and bustle in the weeks just before the scheduled restaurant opening. Workmen were delivering all kinds of big refrigerators, stoves, tables, chairs…all kinds of restaurant equipment. It was never used even one day. The owner died of a heart attack just one week before it was to open. It was heartbreaking.”
The Greek restaurant...future studios of WTVT
Eure remembers the building sitting vacant for more than a year, with vandals breaking most of the windows, looting any loose equipment and living inside at night.
The only other building on the block was a tavern at Bradford and Kennedy, immediately west of where the Gulf Service Station (now State Vacuum Co.) was. Bob Mashburn, the owner, had become disinterested about that time and jumped at the chance when approached by Walter Tison to purchase the property for a new television station, WTVT.
Tommy Eure and his smokin' '55 Chevy Nomad.
In the background you can see part of the WTVT building and the single-masted tower.
(Photo Courtesy Tommy Eure)
elated when activity re-ignited next door at 1113 as the building was restored
and retrofitted as a television station. He didn’t have a lot of time to watch the action but it
was, nevertheless, something he had long hoped for.
“I could finally give my customers great directions to my place…I was right next door to Channel 13,” Eure says. “It did wonders for my business. And on occasion I would get calls from the station to do various photography jobs…mostly when their own people were backed up with work.
WTVT's studio attracted interest to Memorial Highway.
Eure's studio is hidden behind the curved portico entrance
station did wonders for the roadway. Its
name was soon changed to Grand Central and commercial development quickly spread
westward to Dale Mabry and more slowly on to Westshore Boulevard.”
In 1964, the street was renamed Kennedy Boulevard in memory of the
assassinated president who had traveled it only four days before his death.
Nov. 18, 1963. President John F. Kennedy's motorcade passes by Eure's shop and WTVT's studios four days before the assassination
(Photo Courtesy Tommy Eure)
Eure owned two lots, one where his studio was and one to the west. In the late 50’s, he sold the empty 50’ X 140’ lot that extended west to Lincoln Avenue to WTVT for $10,000, part of which is now the station’s satellite dish field. But he didn’t want to let go of his business location, even as WTVT expanded in 1957 and in later years almost completely surrounded his tiny studio.
This 1987 photo shows the original location of Eure's studio.
Big 13 had almost completely surrounded the Tampa photographer's studio.
Channel 13 sports director Sol Fleischman invited me to go to lunch with the
station manager at the Palm Ceia Golf and Country Club to talk about some
business,” remembers Eure. “What
came out of the meeting was that WTVT would buy the property directly across the
street from me (where a strip mall now stands) and build an identical studio
with some minor modifications and give me $20,000 for moving and other expenses.
Both parties agreed to the arrangement.
bought the lot, hired an architect, secured a builder and was ready to proceed. Then
one day I was in the general manager’s office and he advised me they were
$5,000 over budget and asked me to make that much of a concession. I
told him I couldn’t and just walked out of the station.”
studio would remain a thorn in the side (literally) of WTVT for 12 more years
until 1972, when an attorney representing WTVT and general manager Eugene B.
Dodson approached the photographer about another deal.
This time it
worked out. The agreement was that
Eure would be paid $75,000 in installments and could remain doing business on
the property for ten years…the end of the term being about the projected time
the station would finally need it.
“The price I got was a lot of money back
in those days,” Eure says. “I
didn’t want it all at once, either. Tax
laws were a lot different then and installments were very advantageous to me in
that regard. WTVT was willing to
accommodate in whatever way would make the deal happen.”
Five years into the agreement, Eure decided
he wanted to take his business in a different direction and approached the
station about buying him completely out and letting him move away.
That was no problem for an eager Dodson, who shelled out the balance of
the mortgage and agreed to pay Eure $50 per month for the five additional years
he would not be doing business there.
Months after the photo studio moved, WTVT
connected it to its building and, ironically, made it the photography and
graphics department, which it remained until the entire structure was torn down
upon completion of the current modern studio and business offices.
For years before Eure departed, employees
speculated on exactly how the station would ultimately get him out of its hair.
Only a few at the top knew exactly what sort of negotiations and
arrangements had taken place. The Eure property issue was endlessly discussed in gossip and
the subject of speculation by almost everyone in the station until the day he
And now, as veteran broadcaster Paul Harvey
would say, you know the rest of the story.
-Story Contributed by Tony Zappone
PULSE EXTRA: Tommy has written a first-person account of how he planned and achieved the historic John F. Kennedy photo seen above. To read about it, link to Tampa Remembers John F. Kennedy
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