Hillsborough County was formed in 1834 and named for Hillsborough River and Bay, the latter better known as Tampa Bay even before the days of its modern Buccaneers. The Earl of Hillsborough was secretary of state for colonies during the brief British occupation of Florida. The county seat is Tampa, which grew up around Seminole War-era Ft. Brooke. As with many aboriginal names, the origin is obscure. One appropriate possibility is “many fires,” given Tampa’s more modern nickname “Cigar City.”
There have been numerous courthouses in Tampa, most centered around the present downtown. The first structure, a log cabin, reportedly was burned at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. An attractive wooden courthouse, distinguished by its picket fence, arose on Madison Street in 1855. Built for less than $5,000, it served the county for over thirty years. Later moved to Florida Avenue, it also served as Tampa’s first hospital. It was replaced in 1892 by a large courthouse topped by an “onion dome” reminiscent of the nearby Tampa Bay Hotel (now the University of Tampa) – in all likelihood because both were designed by architect J. A. Wood. The pictures of the multi-story structure which replaced it are from the 1940′s. A skyscraper was acquired for use as a county government center. Another courthouse building was constructed in 1952 and due to an increased caseload, the George E. Edgecomb Building Courthouse was built and began business in 2003.