Downtown Tour: Orange Route

Start this tour on St. Petersburg’s “First Block,” essentially where the ‘Burg started. First Block includes the individually landmarked Detroit Hotel building on Central Avenue and the historic Bishop Hotel building on 1st Ave. N. It is the oldest and most significant block in the city, the location for some of the city’s earliest businesses. The majority of the buildings with the block are pre 1910 structures. These buildings are associated with city founders and pioneers, designed and built by prominent architects, contractors, and developers.

Peacock Row, ca. 1926. Frances G. Wagner Photographs, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.
Peacock Row, ca. 1926. Frances G. Wagner Photographs, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.


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Click a site number and scroll down for more information.

Detroit Hotel

215 Central Avenue

The Detroit Hotel was built in 1888 after an agreement was reached between John Constantine Williams and Peter Demens to bring the Orange Belt Railway to St. Petersburg. As St. Petersburg’s first hotel, the building encouraged local settlement and growth. The original wood frame hotel consisted of three and a half stories, a steeply pitched roof, and a full-width front porch. The brick west wing was added in 1911 and the east wing was added in 1913, the original 1888 portion remains in the center of the hotel.

James Hotel, St. Charles Hotel, and Lewis Building

James Hotel

231-235 Central Avenue
Designed by Edgar Ferdon, who is believed to be the city’s first professional architect, and constructed in 1909, this building was originally known as the Michigan Building. Edgar Tonnelier first owned the property which was designed to accommodate stores on the first floor and a 10 room hotel on the second floor.

St. Charles Hotel

237-247 Central Avenue
The St. Charles Hotel, also known as the Ramsey Block, was constructed in 1904 by owner Mary Ramsey. This building once held the Royal Palms Theater, one of the first with electricity, and the McPherson-Dent Bakery on the first floor. The second floor served as the St. Charles Hotel.

Lewis Building

277 Central Avenue

Constructed by owner Edson T. Lewis in 1894, this building originally served as Lewis’ grocery store on the first floor and a hotel on the second floor. By the late 1890s, Lewis was working as a banker and helped establish the Central National Bank in 1904. He served as a City Councilman, advocated for the use of brick to pave streets, and was instrumental in the movement for municipal ownership of the waterfront and utilities.

Binnie Bishop Hotel

BinnieBishop

256 1st Avenue N.

The Bishop Hotel was built for Henry Binnie, a pioneer blacksmith and business man. Binnie opened his blacksmith shop on this site in 1901 with his stepfather. In 1912, he constructed the hotel and rooming house that stands today. He also rebuilt his adjacent blacksmith shop using brick and including a second floor where his family lived. In 1921, the hotel was significantly enlarged. Roy Bishop purchased the hotel in 1940 and added many of the ornamental elements present today.

Snell Building and Arcade

405 Central Avenue

Designed by architect Richard Kiehnel of Kiehnel and Elliott, the Snell Building and Arcade was constructed in 1926 for local land developer C. Perry Snell. After its construction, Snell operated his real estate office from this building. Snell mortgaged the building in order to finance the development of Snell Isle and eventually lost the building to foreclosure during the depression.

Tramor Cafeteria

Tramor Cafeteria

123 4th Street S.

The Tramor Cafeteria was constructed in 1929 and is an excellent example of the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture. As a product of the collaboration between architect Elliott Hadley, engineer Emil Nordstrom, and contractor Rueben Clarson, the building is constructed using 70-foot long hangar trusses left from an abandoned airport construction project on Weedon Island.

St. Petersburg Lodge 139 F. & A.M.

139 F. & A.M.
114 4th Street S.

The St. Petersburg Lodge #139 F. & A.M., founded by nine prominent community members, was chartered on January 17, 1894. In 1910, the lodge purchased this property and constructed a Temple six years later. In 1955, the entire building was demolished and the existing Temple was constructed.

YMCA

YMCA

16 5th Street S.

The 1926 YMCA building was one of the first community funded projects in St. Petersburg. It was designed by local architects Clarence Brown (Woolvert & Brown) and Archie G. Parish, and constructed in 1927 by local contractor Edward S. Moore & Sons. The building includes significant interior features such as pecky cypress beams and Mayan inspired decorative tiles.

Kress Building

475 Central Avenue

Kress 5 & 10 stores were an important retail enterprise that shaped American downtowns during the 1920s and 1930s. Samuel H. Kress envisioned his stores as public works of art and wanted to distinguish his stores from those of his competitors. Kress was among the first to achieve retail branding success through standardized signage and graphics, distinctive architecture, and efficient design. The St. Petersburg store is a fine example of a classically styled commercial building with Beaux Arts detailing.

McCrory 5 & 10 Store

441 Central Avenue

Built in 1904, this building was the home of McCrory 5 & 10 Store on the first floor and the 40-room Preston Hotel on the upper floors. The building was updated in the late 1920s to give it a more streamlined appearance that was popular at that time.

U.S. Open Air Post Office

400 1st Avenue N.

The 1916 U.S. Open Air Post Office was designed by Postmaster Roy Hanna and architect George Stuart. Hanna’s vision for the building came from a hospital in Florence, Italy, the 1424 Ospedale degli Innocenti, designed by one of the icons of early Italian Renaissance, Filipp Brunellschi. Its Renaissance inspired style of architecture eventually transitioned into the Mediterranean Revival style for which St. Petersburg is most noted.