The Historic Old Northeast neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. The concentration and diversity of early 20th century homes built on a grid of narrow brick streets with granite curbing and hexblock sidewalks, all shaded by a mature tree canopy, are hallmarks of the neighborhood. Maintaining these characteristics is a key objective of the neighborhood association, as the economic benefits of preservation are well known. The Granada Terrace neighborhood, a Local Historic District designated in 1988, is located within the boundaries of Historic Old Northeast, in addition to ten local Landmarks.
The Association fosters an appreciation of historic preservation through its twice-yearly walking tours focusing on architecture and co-sponsorship of various workshops. The publication of Souvenir of St. Petersburg, Views from the Vinoy is our most ambitious project to date. In addition, neighborhood volunteers are available to answer your questions and direct you to additional preservation resources.
Partnerships in Education
To further the Old Northeast’s education mission, the Association has partnered with Sunken Gardens, the Renaissance Vinoy, the Museum of History, St. Petersburg Preservation and the Pinellas County School system on a number of projects. All, with the exception of Pinellas County Schools, are venues for the sale of Souvenir of St. Petersburg, Views from the Vinoy.
Fifty copies of ‘Souvenir’ have been donated by the Association to every elementary school in St. Petersburg, Gulfport, and Pinellas Park and to private schools upon request. Working with Sunken Gardens and the Vinoy, Old Northeast has sponsored workshops for teachers and promotes field trips for students to both the Gardens and the Vinoy.
Joining with the Museum of History and St. Petersburg Preservation, Old Northeast is participating in Box City, a project for high school geography students. Students in the program learn about city planning, preservation, and history by planning and building a miniature city. Copies of ‘Souvenir’ are made available to teachers to use in their classrooms. Click HERE for a copy of the Teacher’s Guide.
Residents of Historic Old Northeast lead a portion of St. Petersburg Preservation’s North by Old Northeast Tour, a regular offering of the organization during the cooler months.
Sunken Gardens, the Vinoy and the neighborhood offer Package Tours to groups of 15 or more individuals. Included are guided tours of Sunken Gardens and the Vinoy, a self-guided tour brochure about the Historic Old Northeast, and lunch at the Vinoy. Click Here.
What do you think when you see a beautiful bronze plaque on a home? Perhaps you wonder if someone famous lived there? Or if there is something special about the architecture of the building? Or if something important happened there years ago? Any or all of these things could be the reason the house has been ‘landmarked’ or specially designated as ‘historic’. The owners of these buildings know they live in a special place. Probably they have spent time researching the history of their house and are proud to share its past with others by placing a plaque on their home.
You may not know that St. Petersburg has a landmarking program called the Local Register of Historic Places, an official listing of neighborhoods, properties, sites and buildings throughout the City that are architecturally and historically important to the community. To join this illustrious group, an owner must contact the city’s Historic Preservation Office to see if his or her property qualifies, and if so, make application to the City for approval.
In addition to ‘pride of place’, there are other benefits and also some obligations to the homeowner. Exterior alterations (other than routine maintenance) require review and approval by the City though the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process. (It may be of interest to note that since the historic preservation program began in 1987, 97% of all COA applications have been approved.) Interior changes are NOT reviewed unless they are part of an application for the City’s ad valorem tax relief program. This program entitles owners of eligible properties to a freeze on City and County taxes incurred from rehabilitating a historic property for a period of 10 years. Designated properties are also exempt from meeting the literal application of certain parts of the Florida Building Code.
Our Neighborhood Landmarks
The Historic Old Northeast neighborhood is home to eight sites that have the distinction of being listed on St. Petersburg’s Historic Register. Properties can be significant to the history of St. Petersburg in a number of ways: they are reminders of the cultural heritage of the City, are identified with people who contributed significantly to our City, were designed by noted architects, are exceptional examples of a particular architectural style, or feature particular construction materials. These special Landmarks in the Old Northeast include:
The Vinoy Park Hotel, 501 5th Avenue NE – An excellent example of Mediterranean Revival architecture, the hotel opened on New Year’s Eve, 1925. Designed by architect Henry Taylor, it was the centerpiece of St. Petersburg’s skyline for many years. In the 1970s, it fell into disrepair and closed. Vacant for almost twenty years, its restoration and re-opening in 1992 were cause for celebration, particularly in the Old Northeast where the hotel is considered the cornerstone of the neighborhood.
The Jones-Laughner Residence, 556 Beach Drive NE – Built ca. 1909 by Dr. Louis Jones, City Physician and Health Officer, this home is an excellent example of Craftsman style architecture using rusticated concrete block construction. Virginia Burnside, a leader among St. Petersburg’s women who resided in the house during WWI, made significant contributions to the war effort. In the 1920s, the founder of the Vinoy Park Hotel, Aymer Vinoy Laughner, purchased the home for the use of hotel personnel. His son, Paul, and daughter-in-law eventually made it their home.
The Ridgely Residence, 600 Beach Drive NE – Dentist Roy Ridgely, builder of this home, was an “ardent booster of the Sunshine City”. He established the Eureka Stone and Paving Company, a pioneer in the concrete business in St. Petersburg. His Craftsman style home is an excellent example of the rusticated concrete block manufactured by his company.
The Robert West House (Pineapple House), 101 6th Avenue NE – This is the 1912 home of Robert West who designed the first concrete bridge and first concrete sea wall in St. Petersburg. His design talents were also applied to the first City-owned gas plant, and plans for building and financing the City’s road system.
The Boyce Guest House, 635 Bay Street NE – Built in the mid to late teens, this vernacular style residence provided tourists with comfortable accommodations for twenty years following World War II. Almost thirty years later, the daughter of the earlier hosts and her husband, purchased the home and established the Sunset Bay Inn. Today it is once again a private home.
The Thomas Whitted House, 656 1st Street N – Thomas Whitted, the builder of this 1911 vernacular style house, owned the largest lumber supply business in St. Petersburg. He and his wife, Julia, raised eleven children, one of whom was Albert who became an aviator and operated the first commercial charter air flights out of St. Petersburg’s airport (later named after him).
The Monticello Apartments, 730 3rd Street N – This c. 1909 Neoclassical Revival home is another example of rare rusticated concrete block construction. In the 1920s it was converted to apartments catering to seasonal guests, and after WWII, became home to a group of artists. Later returned to single-family use, it was moved from 3rd Avenue North to its current location in 2005.
The Pace Residence, 705 16th Avenue NE – This 1932 home, designed by architect Elliott B. Hadley and built by Helen Pace Lawler and her husband, is an excellent example of the Mediterranean Revival style. One of the City’s earliest professional business women, Mrs. Pace Lawler’s shop, Sherman’s, offered the latest in fashion to the women of St. Petersburg for over 50 years.
Sunken Gardens, 1825 4th Street N – Plumber George Turner began gardening as a hobby, but eventually gave up the business to devote himself full-time to developing Turner’s Sunken Gardens, one of Florida’s famed “roadside attractions”. Originally specializing in fruits and tropical plants, over the years he added birds and other small animals to the attraction.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 253 5th Avenue N – Currently known as the Palladium Theater, the building is an excellent example of Italian Renaissance style architecture. Designed by Howard Cheney and constructed by the George A. Fuller Construction Company in 1926, the floor plan is typical of early 20th century First Church of Christ, Scientist designs. For almost seventy years, the congregation worshipped at this location. In the 1990s, it was repurposed as the Palladium Theater.
Souvenir of St. Petersburg – Views from the Vinoy is an 80-page, full color book featuring a highly visual and interactive approach to history, architecture, preservation, culture and community development.
In May 2009, the book was recognized with a 2009 Preservation Award for outstanding achievement in the education/media category by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The state award recognizes significant contributions in historic preservation including restoration/rehabilitation, design, craftsmanship, education and advocacy.
The book received the Neighborhood Partnership Award for “Innovation and Production” of Souvenir in October 2009.
The book received a City of St. Petersburg Sunshine Ambassador Award in June 2009.
Inside the Book:
Published and produced by the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, the book was designed to be both educational and entertaining. It traces the history of one of St. Petersburg’s oldest neighborhoods in the context of the growth of St. Petersburg. The Old Northeast started as farm land and sandy scrub pine forest, and became today’s approximately 425 acres of homes, waterfront parks, businesses, and restaurants.
Views from the Vinoy includes images and stories of the city’s first railroad, the 1924 Gandy Bridge opening, the rise, fall and rebirth of The Vinoy hotel, and other milestones in the history of St. Petersburg. Some of the city’s gems, such as Sunken Gardens, the Palladium Theater, and landmarks in the Old Northeast neighborhood are explored through stories, photographs, illustrations, thought-provoking activities and scavenger hunts.
Partnering for Education:
The Historic Old Northeast Neigborhood Association is proud to be partnering with the Pinellas County School District and Sunken Gardens to bring the books into classrooms. A set of books and teacher guides are available to each elementary school in St. Petersburg, and to local private schools upon request. Also available for download from this web site is the Teacher’s Guide (pdf), an educational resource for the book.
Where to Buy a Copy:
The following businesses and museums support the neighborhood by offering Souvenir for sale: Haslam’s, ARTicles, Marion’s, Museum of Fine Arts, Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg Museum of History, Sunken Gardens, Henry B. Plant Museum, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and Inkwood Books.