Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee, Friends of the Riverwalk.
Born in the town of Escalante in the Spanish province of Santander, on December 8, 1842, Ignacio Haya had a privileged background. He nonetheless joined his brother Ramon in leaving for the United States at age eighteen. That was in 1860, a year before the American Civil War began, and the market for tobacco products exploded with the war. While Ramon traveled between Cuba and Spain, Ignacio stayed in New York, where he and his friend Serafin Sanchez, also a native of Spain, began Sanchez y Haya in 1867.
Haya married Fannie Milledoler in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1872; she was a steel heiress and the marriage was financially beneficial to him. They lived in New York, but when their only child died, they went to Spain and adopted Ramon’s daughter, Marina. She became so completely a part of their family that few people knew she was not Ignacio’s child. He and his brother would split in the 1890s, however, because Ramon supported Spain in the Spanish-American War, while Ignacio sided with Cuba and its ally, the United States.
Meanwhile, the Haya family had become friends with the Ybor family while visiting Key West during New York winters. Galvino Guetierrez, who was interested in raising guavas in Florida, also visited there in 1884, and the next year, he, Haya, and Ybor investigated Tampa as a new location for their venture capital. They were motivated in large part because of labor unrest in Havana and Key West — but that soon would prove to be the case in Tampa, too, as the immigrants they brought to make cigars were independent-minded and proud of their skills.
At the time of their 1885 visit, Hillsborough County had only some 3,000 residents and was in financial doldrums: indeed, Tampa’s only bank, a branch of a Jacksonville one, was about to close. Learning of the new capital to come, bank manager T.C. Taliaferro unpacked the boxes he was about to send to Jacksonville — and later became wealthy enough that he built the Hyde Park mansion that now is the Centre for Women.
Tampa’s Board of Trade, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, guaranteed financial support — as well as labor peace to be enforced by Tampa police – and so with his partner Sanchez, Haya built a cigar factory at 1502 7th Avenue. In the heart of today’s Ybor City, it was two-story and wooden, not brick, and has not survived. Its first product was called “Havana Clear,” and by the end of its first year, the factory produced a half-million cigars every month. They soon expanded elsewhere, including a brick building at 2311 North 18th Street that opened in 1908.
The family initially lived in Ybor, but later built a home at 605 Magnolia Avenue in Hyde Park; in 1929, they would move to 706 Brevard Avenue, where Fannie Milledoler Haya lived until her 1929 death. Incidentally, the image of a woman called “Fannie,” which graced a popular Sanchez y Haya cigar box, is attributed to an actress named Fannie Davenport, not to Fannie Haya.
Ignacio Haya also was the first president of El Centro Espanol, a mutual aid society aimed at immigrants from Spain. Like other such societies, it provided health care, socialization, and even burial benefits. Haya donated most of the money to begin it, and he joined other Ybor City industrialists in creating what was essentially a socialist community. Workers bought or rented their homes from their employer, and the mutual aid societies meant that people could be sure of societal support literally from the cradle to the grave.
Ignacio Haya died in 1906 at age 63, and his daughter Marina Haya married in 1908. Her husband was Ambriosio Torre; he also was a tobacco executive, and they had five children who grew up in Tampa. Haya’s obituary in the Tampa Tribune of May 11, 1906 called him “a strong man” who “helped make Tampa great.” A street and a park in Seminole Heights have been named for him, but his contribution to Tampa has not been as recognized as that of his friend Vicente Ybor – who was honored during the first year of Riverwalk statues.