Streetcar Museum Named For Harris Mullen

Resolved: This is the last mention of errand-running at the Public Defender’s Office. Ditto for hand-me-down, ensemble sales at the County Attorney’s Office. This is also the lone reference to anyone trying to back out of a prenuptial agreement or someone having a parallel- universe family. In fact, nowhere else will it be noted that some posh athletic club once served coffee to throw. And this is the only time that names such as Johnnie Byrd, David Caton, Michael Pittman, Joe Redner and Ronda Storms will appear.

Not that it isn’t tempting.

But enough of the newsmakers who are too much with us. Sometimes you just need a respite from the usual suspects who are such easy grist for the column mill. Sometimes you just want to say something nice. No bada-bings about it. And not just because it, well, feels good; but because it’s well-warranted.

Case in point: The recent honoring of native son/businessman/activist/pioneer Harris Mullen.

Plans are still afoot for a permanent trolley museum in Ybor City, but it already has a name: the “Harris H. Mullen Streetcar Museum.” Mullen was a key catalyst in bringing streetcars back to Tampa.

When the build-out of Ybor Station, the car barn and maintenance facility, is complete, the museum will be located there. Until then, a modest, start-up version will be housed in a customized warehouse on 6th Avenue across from Ybor Station. Officials hope to have it ready by this fall. Plans call for rides on the restored Birney #163 as a complement to an artifacts’ display.

The 79-year-old Mullen was on hand earlier this month when the announcement was made amid the unveiling of Birney #402, the next vintage streetcar set for restoration. Mullen has been a trolley true believer for some time. In fact, he’s one of the co-founders of the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society in 1984.

That’s not all he founded. He started “Florida Trend” magazine, the first statewide business magazine. He also saw something in the old V.M. Ybor Cigar factory besides desuetude and nostalgia for a bygone era. In 1972 he bought and developed it into the shopping and restaurant complex renamed Ybor Square.

“Harris is a visionary,” says Joan Jennewein, another of the Railway Society co-founders. “He came in and really started the resurrection and anchored the western end of Ybor City. He has such an appreciation for the history of this area. I wish we could have gotten the streetcar going back then.

“Harris is a most deserving choice,” adds Jennewein. “He’s been so involved in this community in so many way. He’s such a neat guy, and he loves Ybor.”

Adds Michael English, president of the board of Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc.: “The word is sometimes inflated, but not in Harris Mullen’s case; he’s a ‘gentleman.’ Charming — through and through.”

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