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Samuel I. Davis Cigar Factory | Photo © 2016 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Samuel I. Davis Cigar Factory

Location Class:
Built: 1909 | Abandoned: 1980s
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

sld cigar postcard
Postcard depicting the Samuel I. Davis Cigar Factory. It should be noted that the spelling of Davis’ name differs between advertisements and historical documents as some spell it Samuel I. Davis while others replace his middle initial with an L.

Samuel I. Davis Cigar Company

Samuel I. Davis was a native New Yorker who learned the cigar trade at a young age in his hometown. After being a salesman for Julius Ellinger Co., he founded the Samuel I. Davis Company in 1886 at the age of 24 to produce El Sidelo, Gen. Good, Charle Carroll, Segundo, and Harvester brands. The company operated factories in New York City, Western New York, and Tampa.

Up until 1904, the Samuel I. Davis Company occupied the old Joyce Cigar Company factory located between Ybor City and Tampa. In September 1904, a factory was built on the corner of Nassau Street and Howard Avenue later to be occupied by the Balbin Bros. Cigar Company for whom the factory is remembered. In 1906, Samuel partnered with his brother Fred Davis and the firm’s name was changed to the Davis Bros. Cigar Company. They acquired a factory building previously owned by Carlos Fernandez Co. located a few blocks south of their first factory and operated both, employing 600 workers between the two.

In 1909, construction began on this factory, the company’s third factory building, at the corner of Cypress Street and Howard Avenue. Upon nearing completion in May 1910, a fire razed the entire building except for the tower. Despite the incident, construction was eventually completed in 1911. This new factory was designed by Fred J. James and bears a striking resemblance to one of James’ other works, the Y. Penda & Alvarez cigar factory building in Old West Tampa. On October 2, 1910, the Balbin Bros. factory building suffered major damage due to arson, and as a result, Davis Bros. Cigar Company moved its 400 workers to the newly built factory after its completion and sold the Balbin Bros. building to the Balbin Bros. Cigar Company.

El Sidelo
Advertisement for El Sidelo Cigars. Cigar Smoking Man

Consolidated Cigar Company

After Samuel I. Davis’ death in 1918, the factory exclusively produced El Sidelo cigars, and the name of the factory changed to reflect that; from Samuel I. Davis & Co. to El Sidelo Cigar Company Factory. The Davis Bros. Cigar Company operated the factory until May 15, 1919, when it merged with six other cigar manufacturers to form the Consolidated Cigar Corporation. Those six manufacturers were E. M. Schwartz & Co. of New York, T. J. Dunn & Co. of New York, Jose Llovera of Tampa, Lillies Cigar Co. of Detroit, El Sidelo Cigar Co., and the Samuel I. Davis Cigar Company. Fred Davis was in charge of leaf purchases from Havana, Cuba but soon left Consolidated Cigar to start the New York-Tampa Cigar Company with Luis Toro in 1921.

Consolidated Cigar Co. would operate the factory until 1924 when they ceased operations in the Tampa area. Gradiaz, Annis & Co. moved into the building in 1929 when they moved their manufacturing operations from New York and remained here until 1933 when they relocated to the Berriman-Morgan factory in Ybor City. A. Santaella & Co. briefly operated a branch here from 1930 to 1931. This building was occupied by Sunstate Sportswear manufacturing firm from 1954 into the 1980s.

While there are no current plans for the building, it is currently up for sale. According to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website, JMC Property Investments Inc. has owned the factory since 1994, when it was purchased for $275,000. The appraiser’s website says the factory’s market value is $1,315,100.

sanborn davis
1915 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Tampa, Florida. Library of Congress

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David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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