Photographs and Memories

USF Libraries puts unprecedented views of Tampa history at your fingertips

Six men of varying ages stand atop a building, wearing hard hats and viewing architectural plans together.

Growing skyline, circa 1984: Workers pause to review plans during construction of the 42-story Barnett Plaza tower, 101 E. Kennedy Blvd., at one time Tampa’s tallest building. It is now the Bank of America Plaza. [Photo: USF Libraries / Gandy collection]


A Treasure trove of historic Tampa photographs — many never before seen by the public — became available in March to anyone with a computer. Spanning the 1950s to about 2010, the photos capture daily life in the city and chronicle its transformation from lush natural woodlands and wetlands to housing developments, office parks and highways. 

“This collection picks up where the famous Burgert Brothers photos leave off,” says Andy Huse, ’96, MA ’00 and MA ’05, curator of USF Libraries’ Florida Studies collection. “The Burgert Brothers documented life in Tampa from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. Now, we continue the story.” 

The new collection is the work of George “Skip” Gandy IV, grandson of Gandy Bridge builder George S. Gandy II. A professional commercial photographer, Skip donated more than 100,000 prints, negatives and slides to USF Libraries in 2012. He died in 2020. Last year, concerned about the aging collection’s deterioration, the libraries launched a community fundraiser, collecting more than $43,000 to expedite digitization.

Two young men in black pants an white shirts with skinny ties stand by a colorful display of cleaning products and brooms in a Publix supermarket.

Spring clean!, Undated: Publix employees pose by a display of brooms and other cleaning products. Founded in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1930 by George Jenkins, Publix stores dominated Florida grocery chains by 1959. Once considered a unique Florida experience, Publix supermarkets are now found in seven states. [Photo: USF Libraries / Gandy collection]

“The Gandy collection is a great resource for researchers, and we couldn’t afford to wait any longer to get the reformatting started,” says Amanda Boczar, MA ’23, curator for Digital Collections. “I am grateful that there is so much interest from the public, and their generosity has vastly increased our pace for providing digital access.” 

Alumnus and photographer Chip Weiner, ’80, launched the fundraiser with a $20,000 challenge grant. “People my age are interested in Tampa’s visual history,” he says. “It’s a unique collection, and every picture has a story.”  

The Frank E. Duckwall Foundation was also instrumental in providing funding. 

More than 10,000 photos will be available online by the end of the summer through USF Libraries’ Digital Commons [usf.to/USFGandyphotos]. More will be added through this year and next. While many photos lack dates and caption information, a team will be evaluating hand-written notes on the folders, and USF Libraries welcomes information from viewers who recognize people, places and times. Email digitalcommons@usf.edu.

A black and white view of a tall young man in a suit jacket and light pants, sporting a 70s shag haircut, standing behind three Tampa Bay bucs players in uniform, who are about to hike the ball to him.

Go Bucs!, 1980: Popular radio personality Jack Harris goofs off with the 4-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Harris has endured as an iconic voice of Tampa Bay since the 1970s. [Photo: USF Libraries / Gandy collection]

Skip Gandy and his father, George “Sandy” Gandy III, were prolific father-and-son photographers. The elder Gandy worked as a news photographer, while Skip attended USF for a time before graduating from Emory University and eventually becoming a commercial photographer, specializing in aerials. With an innovative gyroscope-mounted camera in the belly of his plane, he shot perfectly level photos.

In addition to buildings going up (and coming down), restaurant and department store openings, he documented daily life.

Three young women wearing ruffled floor-length dresses with puffed sleeves stand in front of a 10 ft. tall float designed like a book. The text says “From the pages of the Post” on a page with shrimp salad, soup and parfaits.

Columbia Restaurant parade float, 1960: In 1959, Columbia Restaurant made national headlines with a gushing article in The Saturday Evening Post, a wildly popular magazine. The restaurant celebrated with a float in the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. [Photo: USF Libraries / Gandy collection]

“I was lucky enough to get to know Skip and discuss his work,” says Huse. “The Gandy photos are an amazing resource for those wanting to explore Florida’s rapidly changing landscape. His imagery captures a state in mid-transformation, for better and worse. His role as an aerial photographer for developers meant that his subject was often the area’s pristine nature just before it disappeared.”

An aerial black and white view of a large, oblong, 60s-style public building with cars and palm trees in the foreground.

Curtis Hixon Hall, undated: Built in 1965, downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Hall was the go-to for big events, including shows by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, among others. Its glory years waned in the mid 1980s, and the venue was razed in 1993, replaced by museums and other public spaces. [Photo: USF Libraries / Gandy collection]

The libraries’ Digital Collections include more than 80,000 letters, newspapers, oral histories and other primary resources. Adding the Gandy collection is part of a three-year plan, 2023-26, to increase online images and improve access to them. The libraries team expects to add at least 15 more collections this year and next.