There is a treasure hidden across from Ybor City’s Centennial Park. It is not a pot of gold, but a house. At first sight, it seems like an ordinary shotgun house, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
La Casita, or small house, is a restored cigar workers’ home. It was refurbished and moved to its current location in 1976 as part of an initiative to preserve its historical significance. Since then, the casita has been part of the Ybor City State Museum housed in the old Ferlita Bakery. Along with a visit to the museum comes a tour of the casita, providing visitors the opportunity to travel back in time and learn more about life as a cigarmaker in Ybor City.
Historically, casitas were provided by Vincente Martínez Ybor, founder of Ybor City, to cigar workers during their employment in his factories. The two-bedroom casitas housed the workers’ families, sometimes even grandparents. After a hard day of rolling cigars or stripping tobacco, workers would return to their casitas to eat and wash up. Later, they might join their fellows at the social clubs of Ybor City: the Italian Club, the Centro Español, the Centro Asturiano, and La Union Martí-Maceo. There, they would spend the rest of their night playing dominoes or reading the newspaper, before returning to their casitas.
The casita of Centennial Park looks just like any other dwelling of the early 1900s. Despite its discreet exterior, however, there is nothing simple about the treasures which it holds inside. The house is furnished and decorated to replicate a typical cigar worker’s home. Photographs, cigar labels, and even a cigar worker’s station can be found in its interior. Donated by the families of immigrants, these reminiscences are meant to keep the story and significance of immigrant workers alive.
It is in this tour that visitors learn about the nail outside of the door, which was meant to hold the loaf of Cuban bread that was delivered fresh each morning. They learn that a number hung outside the house told the iceman how much ice was needed, and they can see the vegetable garden and exterior restroom at the rear of the house.
There is no better location for La Casita than the vicinity of Centennial Park. The park celebrates more than 100 years of Ybor City’s history and honors the immigrants who built the neighborhood. And, the purpose of La Casita is to illustrate how they had so little but gave so much.