TAMPA BAY TIMES
The New Age of St. Pete – 2015
In my book, St. Petersburg is the prettiest city in Florida. I moved there twice, drawn by its mood of romantic melancholy and its beautiful old houses. And twice I moved away, bored out of my mind.
Now I’m thinking of moving back. St. Pete has somehow managed to shake itself back to life. The shabbiness has been painted over and made attractive. The downtown, described 20 years ago as “comatose” by Florida Trend magazine, is now lively and bustling. There are new restaurants, new attractions and museums, hip nightlife, great shopping. Gone are the dilapidated rooming houses with their rickety front porches full of sad-looking people who had reached the end of the line. Now it’s luxury condos and townhouses.
St. Pete was sort of like Havana. The rest of the world had moved on, but it was stuck in a time warp. The various booms and busts that changed the rest of Florida had little effect here. The city was too old-fashioned, too unhip, too trapped in the sad and almost comic image it had developed over the years, that of genteel old people, retired and trying to live on fixed incomes that weren’t quite big enough.
It’s hard to pinpoint when the change began. Maybe five years ago, maybe 10. But younger people started moving in, many of them artists, many of them gay, and most of them entrepreneurial. They are drawn by the easy pace of life and the abundance of spaces they can turn into shops, homes and studios. The local government had little to do with this and still doesn’t seem to understand what is happening. It was very much a grassroots movement. But the result is a city that is turning all its negatives into pluses and reinventing itself…. Continue Reading
TAMPA BAY TIMES
It was 1993 when cosmopolitan Frenchman Emmanuel Roux decided he wanted to move to St. Petersburg.
Born in Tunisia and also raised in France, Roux, a restaurateur who once owned the Garden on Central Avenue, had many places to measure St. Petersburg against.
In addition to living on the Tunisian farm owned by his French expatriate parents and living and studying in France, Roux previously lived in England, Switzerland (where he studied hotel management) and desolate parts of Algeria, Niger and Mali (where he did oil research). Roux also sailed the globe to serve in the French navy. In 1975, he moved to the United States to live in New York City and then moved to Savannah, Ga.
By the 1990s, this man of the world wanted to find the best spot in St. Petersburg. To get the lay of the land, he said, he started in the city’s northeast and drove south along the edge of Tampa Bay until he happened upon Driftwood, a neighborhood of narrow, barely paved streets lined — and sometimes, detoured around — with towering oaks and indigenous plants allowed to grow as they will… Continue Reading
I LOVE THE BURG
One joy of living in the ‘Burg is the discovery of hidden gems like the Driftwood neighborhood, one of the oldest settlements of St. Pete and a jungled slice of history and peace.
iLovetheBurg.com arranged a walkabout with Driftwood residents Laurie, owner of Local Landmark designated “the Dodd house” and Kim, whose family has lived in Driftwood for four generations. Laurie greets us into her modest-sized home.
“I feel like it (Driftwood) is a retreat from the city, in the city,” she says with a serene smile. “It’s so restful here.” Her house was built in 1936 and is one of 19 homes that influential ‘Burger Mark Dickson Dodd and his business partner Archie Parish constructed in Driftwood. The duo built many iconic St. Pete buildings such as the old YMCA (116 5th St. S). It is thought the Dodd house is where Mr. Dodd actually lived and has many features characteristic of his style and one of his paintings hangs above the original fireplace. He painted a piece for each of his houses and they are customarily included in the sale of the homes they were painted for. “I love how it feels like a neighborhood. People care for one another but aren’t intruding,” Laurie says as we take a walk past the little dock on the water where community socials are held and to Kim’s house down the road… Continue Reading
A quirky neighborhood owes its existence to a builder with an alter ego.
By PETER MEINKE
High in the Yew tree Lombo lies,
Tossed betwixt the seas and skies,
In faith a merry place to sit
To whet the edge of Lombo’s wit.
When Jeanne and I fell in love with our little cottage, we were intrigued with its builder, Mark Dixon Dodd (1888-1952), who designed the 19 quirkily charming houses forming the center core of the Driftwood neighborhood in Southeast St. Pete. A little research told us he was “an artist, a teacher, a designer of fine homes, and honored citizen of St. Petersburg. He was all of these things and much more.” How much more we’ve only just begun to discover.
After we moved in, we were told he had left one of his paintings in each house. When we heard this, we stared at the wall above our fireplace, the only surface covered by new-looking pine panels. We began imagining a hidden painting, some Doddish Dorian Gray — but when, with the help of friends and a few beers, we pried off some of the boards, we saw only a ragged gray surface, as if something there had rotted, disintegrated, or been eaten by bugs. Hastily, we boarded it up again, and rehung our own painting.
Although Dodd grew up in St. Louis, I was pleased to learn he spent a formative year (1904-1905) at Clinton Preparatory School in upstate New York. He would have been familiar with Hamilton College, my alma mater, and its abundance of mammoth ancient oaks and elms, along with its neo-gothic architecture — both romantic and spooky. Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff and Edgar Allan Poe’s Roderick Usher, among many other overheated misfits, would have fit in perfectly there. (I felt comfortable, myself.)…Continue Reading
FL PUBLIC ARCHEOLOGY
Experience Archeology – 2011
Each year FPAN regional centers are asked to compile objectives and goals for the upcoming fiscal cycle and arrange these targets into an Annual Work Plan. The plan guides each center throughout the year and helps make sure that our aim remains true. The projects and activities included in the Work Plan are, as always, related to FPAN’s three main work areas: public outreach, assisting local governments, and assistance to the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The documents are public record. I thought, in the case that some of you might be interested, to share a bit from ours… Part of the how-we-do-what-we-do is through attending and participating at area festivals. Many fests occur in the late winter and early spring when the south Florida weather along the Gulf Coast is best. Last year and years before, we participated in archaeology days and festivals organized by local chapters of the Florida Anthropological Society. We hope to take part in these again this coming year. Examples of other festivals where we’ll be table-topping are the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival located in Cortez (in Manatee County) and the Pioneer Festival in Arcadia (Desoto County)…Continue Reading
TAMPA BAY TIMES
ST. PETERSBURG — The Driftwood neighborhood has a long history of finds in its soil, the latest of which local archaeologists are calling the “mystery box.”
Neighborhood resident Kim O’Brien discovered the box about three months ago, and now archaeologists and local volunteers are excavating with an eye toward figuring out what it is. The best guess to this point is a cistern or septic tank from the beginnings of the last century.
Archaeological discoveries are nothing new in the neighborhood. About 150 years ago, a Pinellas pioneer found an old shell fort thought to be used by natives. About 100 years ago, the son of the co-founder of St. Petersburg built the “Mullet Farm,” where children later found a Civil War cannonball, an old rosary box and several arrowheads. O’Brien was one of those children.
“This area is imbued with history,” she said. The mystery box proved that Driftwood is still a hot spot for archaeological discoveries 151 years after Pinellas pioneers Abel Miranda and John Bethel found that old shell fort, as Bethel wrote in Bethel’s History of Point Pinellas.
O’Brien said her family moved to the Mullet Farm, a 1910 residence by Big Bayou, in 1920. Her family also made its mark on Pinellas history, including her grandfather, George Gandy Jr., of Gandy Bridge fame. This spawned O’Brien’s interest in Driftwood history and may have led to the discovery of the mystery box…Continue Reading
Unique: Home to the Narvaez/Anderson Mound, one of the most well-preserved pre-historic Indian sites in the state of Florida – aka “Sacred Lands,” it is the site of an ancient Tocobaga Indian village. While St.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”