Let New England claim its pre-Revolutionary War historic buildings. Any Floridian worth his salt knows that Florida has the oldest city in the United States. Washington, D.C. can keep its massive museums (although the Smithsonian does make for an interesting couple of days). Florida has something even better- history so recent the people who made it seem right beside us as we explore the past.
Tucked away on 10th Avenue in Pass-A-Grille you’ll find the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum.Its exhibits tell the story of St. Pete Beach.
In 1917 the Pass-A-Grille Community Church went up on 10th Avenue. For 42 years the congregation worshipped in the small white building, moving to 16th Avenue in 1959 when it outgrew the building. A year later Joan Haley bought the building because, as she told local Frank Hurley, Jr., “they were thinking of tearing it down. I couldn’t let them do that.”
Haley, a Washington, D.C. socialite, society editor, and preservationist, moved to Pass-A-Grille after her husband died. Once she purchased the church building, she renovated it and filled it with antiques.
Mrs. Haley died in 1989, willing her home to Pinellas County on one condition: her home would become a museum that showcased Gulf Beaches history. Four years later the county opened her home as the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum.
BEST Part: While Florida does boast the country’s oldest city (St. Augustine), most of our history does take place over the past century. While many historians are used to digging through documents several hundred years old, recent history has a way of jumping to life for everyone.
A visit to the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum will make the area’s history come alive. Photographs of the “new” Don CeSar and firsthand accounts of local legend Silas Dent as well as over 150 books filled with photographs, news clippings and other memorabilia all give visitors a vibrant idea of the area’s history.
Part: The museum lacks the space and staff it needs to do as well of a job as it could. The existing building and staff both do a splendid job, but it would be wonderful to see the museum open five days a week.
Question: The Museum charges nothing for admission, although it does accept donations. You can get an annual membership, which includes gift shop discounts, invites to special events, and a periodic newsletter. Membership costs $10 for individuals, $15 for families and $25 for businesses.
The museum, staffed entirely by volunteers, operates from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from noon until 4 p.m. on Sundays.
115 10th Avenue on St. Pete Beach. Call 552-1610 or visit the county’s web site at www.pinellascounty.org/Heritage/gulf_beach_museum.htm.
On November 7th the Museum, in conjunction with the Montessori School on 16th, will host the traditional Fish Broil. Historically, Gulf Beaches Elementary hosted the Fish Broil. With the closure of the school this year locals didn’t want the tradition to die.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@TheGabber.com.