Princess Ulele bust removed from Tampa Riverwalk

Removal ordered by City of Tampa
Posted at 5:42 AM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 12:27:10-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A unique sight on the Tampa Riverwalk is disappearing, for now.

The City of Tampa says the massive bronze bust of Princess Ulele had to go.

Called "Ulele and the Lost Tribes," Columbia President Richard Gonzmart commissioned the bronze statue to represent and celebrate Florida's Native Americans.

It was placed outside Gonzmart's Ulele restaurant, right along the Riverwalk, in December of 2017 and the public art has been a popular photo opportunity ever since.

Gonzmart says, for some reason, Mayor Bob Buckhorn wanted the statue gone. Since the statue is technically on city property, and not on Gonzmart's property, the City of Tampa ordered it removed.

The mayor's office tells the Tampa Bay Times that the city wants to keep the entire Riverwalk free of "clutter" and that's the reason they asked for the Ulele bust to go. It's possible that others wanted to have things, like art, on the Riverwalk as well, and city leaders would rather it be clear of personal items.

There are actually two statues of Ulele: the bust and another statue of the princess walking through fire. Only the bust, which is on the Riverwalk, was requested to be moved.

It wasn't an easy process for crews Tuesday morning because the bust is 1,800 lbs. and 11 feet tall. 

↓ WATCH: Crews remove Princess Ulele bust ↓


The statues and restaurant are named for a Native American princess who is believed to have lived in Florida in the 1500's.

The artist is Vala Ola of Cave Creek, Ariz., who also created the Ulele statue that's closer to the restaurant.

The Columbia Restaurant Group is moving the large bust to a warehouse until Gonzmart decides where he wants to move it next.

"I ordered and paid for this statue to honor the Native Americans, such as Ulele, who lived in this area long before us," Gonzmart said. "It's been a wonderful addition to the Riverwalk and guests have taken thousands of photos of it. But I have been told repeatedly that Mayor Buckhorn wants it moved from that location."

Gonzmart could have simply moved the statue to a different part of the Ulele restaurant property space, but a Gonzmart employee tells ABC Action News that they didn't want the statue blocking customers views of the river. So, for now, it will wait in storage.

Gonzmart is best known as the fourth generation owner of the Columbia 1905 restaurant, among other popular dining spots across the Tampa Bay Area.