Tampa bridge renamed for freed slave who made construction possible

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Members of local and state government met to honor the life of Madame Fortune Taylor by renaming the Laurel Street Bridge in her memory. 

Taylor and her husband donated land which allowed the city to build the bridge in 1890. The donation helped bridge the gap between Tampa’s cigar industry and the workers it needed to keep the  industry afloat.  

“That’s why the bridge was built, so that ordinary people could get to work,” said Rodney Kite-Powell, spokesperson for the Tampa Bay History Center. 

The bridge was originally named for Taylor, but the city decided to change the name to the street on the west side of the river, Laurel Street. 

Leaders hope the decision to rename the bridge will help honor the legacy of the woman responsible for its construction. 

“There are people in this room that have always known about her, but the public didn’t,” explained Gloria Royster, founder of Friends of Madame Taylor. 

Her historical maker will sit on the east side of the bridge near the intersection of Doyle and Fortune Street, the only downtown street named for a woman.