Back in the 1930’s, Art Modine, from Wisconsin and Marion Boone, from Michigan visualized a community amid the wildlife and stately old oaks of land in South Pinellas. They hired Mark Dixon Dodd, the first professional artist in St Petersburg to design 19 homes, strategically placed along lanes winding among beautiful oak and pine-treed property adjacent to the Big Bayou waterfront. Mark Dixon Dodd designed 19 distinctive homes in an area that was to become known as ‘Driftwood.’ He enriched each cottage-style home with fine architectural features such as Cuban or site-manufactured tiles, fireplaces, exotic woods, beamed ceilings, plaster walls, intimate patios and balconies. Dodd turned to local contractor, Archie Parish for plan approval of his storybook structures. He once noted that “a beautifully designed home contains all the elements of a fine painting; composition, balance, color and individuality.”
Today, narrow streets access the 45 home sites that comprise modern day Driftwood. Its lush tropical landscape embraces gray squirrels, raccoons, cardinals, blue jays and all manner of sea birds and other wildlife. A treasured presence of what Florida used to be, Driftwood’s natural habitat reflects its residents’ un-manicured approach to the ferns and azaleas, bamboo and gingers that grow so naturally among the moss-laden oaks. Currently, a diverse array of architectural styles further enhance the beauty and interest of the neighborhood.
The area’s true history, though, starts long before the 1930’s. More than 1000 years ago, the inhabitants of what is now Driftwood lived in palm-thatched huts, fished the waters and worked the land. They were the Tocobaga Indians, who prospered in harmony with nature until the 1530’s when Spanish soldiers, armed with weapons, disease and a lust for gold killed them all.
Then, in 1857, one Able Miranda settled in Big Bayou (Driftwood) to revive the area’s fishing trade to Cuba. When the Civil War began, Miranda, a Confederate, lost his fish ranch and home to shells launched by Union Navy boats stationed at Egmont Key.
Fellow pioneer, John Bethel later assumed Miranda’s property, with Bethel’s cottage serving as the area’s first post office until 1885. That year, the first steamboat on Florida’s West Coast was constructed and dispatched from Big Bayou.
A warm welcome to the special, historic, and beloved place called Driftwood.
Please share any stories you might have heard…
*This shark was caught in what seems like the 1920’s right out in the bay.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”