Tampa photographer documents the history of the Burgert Brothers collection

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TAMPA – Chip Weiner admits he’s obsessed with the Burgert Brothers photographic collection owned by the Hillsborough County Public Library Co-operative.

The photographer looked at more than 20,000 publicly available images depicting Tampa’s history from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.

He is on a mission to revisit places captured in photographs and document how they have changed – or not.

He also wants to know more about the history of the Burgert family.

“It’s the crown jewel of photo collections,” Weiner said. “It has become my obsession.

On Saturday, October 23 at 3 p.m., Weiner will share his obsession when he hosts The Burgert Brothers: Celebration and Inspiration, a virtual event that is part of the County Library System’s Family Heritage Festival. To register, visit HCPLC.org/FamilyHeritage.

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The library describes the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection as “the history of the Tampa Bay area in the face of wars, natural disasters, booms and economic recessions. The images offer a view of a working community, from cigar factories, sponge docks and strawberry fields, to grocery stores, gas stations and bank lobbies. Many photographs also depict a recreation community, enjoying a day at the beach, participating in local celebrations, attending the Florida State Fair, or playing favorite games such as golf, tennis, or shuffleboard. the ladies.

Weiner’s obsession was forged during the early days of the pandemic’s lockdown, when he spent the time scrolling through the collection which can be viewed on the library’s website.

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“I got curious, wondering what these scenes look like now,” he said.

He grabbed his digital camera, jumped into his car, and set out to uncover and document his findings.

“Everything came together in a book” titled Burgert Brothers: another look which he released last year, Weiner said. “That’s 160 photos, 80 from then and 80 from now.”

The Palace of Florence Apartment Hotel in Tampa photographed by the Burgert brothers in 1926. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]
The Palace of Florence Apartment Hotel in Tampa photographed in 2020 by Chip Weiner.
The Palace of Florence Apartment Hotel in Tampa photographed in 2020 by Chip Weiner. [ Courtesy of Chip Weiner ]

He took pictures from the same angles and in the same light as the Burgert brothers.

“I wanted everything to match perfectly,” Weiner said.

When asked about his favorite, Weiner laughed. “It’s like trying to choose your favorite child.”

But he was ready to highlight two of his book.

What was the Seaboard Oil Company in 1935 is now the Avelar Paint and Body Shop at 201 W. Columbus Dr.

“It was originally a pristine gas station,” Weiner said. “Now it’s just this battered place.”

But the luxury Palace of Florence apartments on Davis Island remain as “pristine” as when the Burgert brothers photographed it in 1926, when it was known as the Palace of Florence Apartment Hotel. he declares. “It has been maintained and remains this beautiful building.

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He has continued with the project since the book’s publication and may come out with another one someday. In the meantime, Weiner has sought to learn all about the history of the collection.

According to press records, family patriarch Samuel Burgert moved from Ohio to Tampa in 1899 and, with his son Willard, opened B. Burgert & Son, specializing in portraits. Four years later, Willard Burgert founded Tampa Photo Supply, later renamed Tampa Photo and Art Supply Company.

In 1917, two other sons of Burgert – Al and Jean – purchased Fishbaugh Photography, Weiner said. Most of the early photos in the collection are from the Fishbaugh Archives, which the Burgerts also purchased.

They renamed the company Burgert Brothers and “focused on commercial photography,” Weiner said.

News archives say it was the first such company in Tampa.

The Seaboard Oil Company in Tampa photographed by the Burgert brothers in 1935.
The Seaboard Oil Company in Tampa photographed by the Burgert brothers in 1935. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]
The former Seaboard Oil Company building, now Avelar's Paint and Body Shop in Tampa, photographed by Chip Weiner in 2020.
The former Seaboard Oil Company building, now Avelar’s Paint and Body Shop in Tampa, photographed by Chip Weiner in 2020. [ Courtesy of Chip Weiner ]

In the 1940s, according to Weiner’s research, the Burgerts sold the company to their business partner, Al Severson. Severson then sold it to his nephews, who then sold the collection to photo dealer Carlton Trimble.

In 1972, for an undisclosed amount, Trimble sold the collection to Henry Cox, owner of the Tampa Photo Supply company founded by Willard Burgert.

If “Henry Cox had a blueprint for their use when he bought them, he never realized it … The negatives have molded in filing cabinets,” the Tampa Tribune wrote in 1974 when he sold the collection to the library for $ 2,000.

In total, according to the news archive, the library purchased 65,000 negatives.

“The collection is now stored in refrigerators and conditioned cabinets,” Weiner said, “where the library continues to submit negatives to a preservation company for preservation and printing.”


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