One of the most exciting parts of the new St. Pete Pier opening is the heightened visibility of Hops & Props and St. Pete Museum of History. The ‘Burg’s museum is now officially reopen with a new exhibit titled “Building the Sunshine City.” The rendering featured in the cover photo is a glimpse at the potential future of the Museum of History. The expansion will include an extra 8,000-square-feet of space, a new exhibit gallery, a visitor’s center and a roof-top terrace overlooking the bay.
“For 150 years, dreamers and schemers have made their way to St. Petersburg to create fortunes and own a piece of the Florida Dream,” wrote Museum officials in a release.
Museum curator Nevin Sitler and Collections & Archives Manager Jessy Breckenridge searched through thousands of items in the Museum’s vast collection to help create Building the Sunshine City – the City’s journey from a fishing village to a vibrant business and arts and cultural destination.
With the generosity of corporate support from Hennessy Construction, and grants from the City of St. Petersburg and the Mildred M. and Robert S. Baynard Charitable Trust, the exhibit showcases images, blueprints, plat maps, video and artifacts highlighting the City’s growth.
As visitors enter the exhibit they are greeted by an exhibit case which contains documents that lay out the birth of St. Petersburg. An article in the 1886 Sea Breeze – the penninsula’s first newspaper – about Detroit businessman John C. Williams purchasing a tract of land north of Big Bayou, and a document from John and Sarah Williams turning over parts of that land to Peter Demens and the Orange Belt Railway.
The exhibit features large panels and images dating back to the late 1800s when African American labor cleared land, paved streets with Augusta bricks and built our first luxury hotels, to dozens of framed plat maps of St. Pete neighborhoods – including some that were never built. And plenty of artifacts never before seen, such as a piece of the electric trolley rail that was escavated during the construction of the St. Pete Pier.
Also new on exhibit in the Museum is the Odditorium – a gallery filled with unique and unusual artifacts that make St. Pete, well, St. Pete.
The Egyptian mummy and two-headed calf are joined by rarely seen collections items such as President William Howard Taft’s pajamas, Lt. Col. George Custer’s reading glasses, iconic historical figure Geronimo’s autograph as well as a baby’s “Don’t Kiss Me!” necklace worn during the early 1900s turberculosis pandemic.
St. Pete Museum of History, 335 2nd Avenue NE