St. Pete Museum of History turns 100, preps for 10,000-square-foot expansion

St. Pete Museum of History turns 100, preps for 10,000-square-foot expansion

aerial rendering of a waterfront museum

The St. Petersburg Museum of History recently celebrated its centennial here in the Sunshine City. This museum tells the story of St. Petersburg. From our brick streets and myriad piers, to two heads calfs and historic maps, St. Petersburg is given new life inside the exhibits.

In late 1921, a group of civic leaders headed by Mary Wheeler Eaton approached the Mayor and City Council about donating an abandoned aquarium building on the city’s municipal pier as a museum to house the young city’s history. On February 11, 1922 the St. Petersburg Historical Society’s Museum opened its doors. To celebrate the centennial milestone, the St. Petersburg Museum of History is throwing a party on February 11, 2022.

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VIDEO Take a tour inside the St. Petersburg Museum of History

Rui Farias, executive director of the Museum showcases renderings for the museum’s 10,000-square-foot expansion

St. Pete Museum of History prepares for major expansion

Soon, the St. Petersburg Museum of History will begin work on a 10,000-square-foot expansion. This expansion will include prolific artist Ya La’Ford’s largest art installation to date. Titled Intersections, the piece will wrap the second-level and rooftop terrace exterior of the upcoming expansion.

Rendering of Intersections by Ya La’Ford. The installation is part of the SPMOH’s massive expansion

Intersections is La’ford’s creative, interactive interpretation of a 1891 Florida railway map illustrating the routes and intersections that delivers Americans back to where our nation’s history started – Florida.

More than 4,800 autographed baseballs are on display inside the museum

Ya La’Ford crating her largest art installation

“My work as an artist is in alignment with the values of the St. Petersburg Museum of History—to preserve, record, and communicate our rich and storied past while also charting and creating the future,” La’ford said. “With the power of a line, the intricate design of the building’s exterior is a bridge between past and future. ‘Intersection’ is a physical record and interpretation of the intersecting lines formed throughout Florida’s transportation network. Just like each of us, these roads will change and evolve. Yet every time we travel, we have the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect through our visits with each other and through incredible places of learning like the St. Pete History Museum.”

The 10,000-square-foot expansion will also include a ground-level Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Welcome Center and St. Pete-themed gift shop; Explore Florida!, the Museum’s new exhibit, which will bring St. Petersburg, as well as Florida history to life fills the second level; and the Flight Deck—a rooftop terrace for special events.

The Museum’s expansion was designed by ARC3 Architecture and will be built by Hennessy Construction.

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The history of the St. Pete Pier features original lamps from the Million Dollar Pier

Making local history since 1922

“Ya La’ford’s fusion of our history with her spectacular abstract art was the final touch to this historic expansion that we searched for,” said Rui Farias, executive director of the Museum in a release. “This piece shares our historical narratives and rich heritage through dynamic and breathtaking public art.”

The brainchild of Mary Wheeler Eaton and the city’s Historical Society, the Museum started making its own history in 1922, when it opened in a small, former aquarium building on the Municipal Pier approach.

The Museum quickly started collecting historical artifacts that now number in the tens of thousands, including a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy and a two-headed calf. The original building was replaced in 1950, and in 1992 expanded to house the world’s only working replica of the Benoist airboat—the world’s first airliner. In 2003, the Museum of History added a conservation laboratory, a public resource room, and a collections & archives vault that preserves the city’s past.

Rui Farias shows historic maps of St. Pete neighborhoods now on display inside the museum.

Now, as demand for more exhibits and access grows, the Museum must grow with it.

The Museum of History is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Noon – 5 pm.m and is located at 335 2nd Avenue NE at the entrance of the St. Pete Pier. 

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