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Tampa Bay is a large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida.

Spanish maps dated as early as 1584 identifies Tampa Bay as Baya de Spirito Santo (“Bay of the Holy Spirit”). A map dated 1695 identifies the area as Bahia Tampa. Later maps dated 1794 and 1800 show the bay divided with three different names, Tampa Bay, Hillsboro Bay and the overall name of Bay of Spiritu(o) Santo.

The United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1819. The name Spirito Santo seems to have disappeared from maps of the region in favor of “Tampa Bay” (sometimes divided into Tampa and Hillsboro Bays) soon after Fort Brooke was established at the mouth of the Hillsborough River in 1824.

The Tampa Bay Area is the region of west central Florida adjacent to Tampa Bay. Definitions of the region vary. It is often considered equivalent to the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area (or MSA) defined by the United States Census Bureau.

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