In the Beginning....

           St. Petersburg (often referred to by locals as St. Pete, and more recently as the 'burg) is a city in Pinellas County, Florida. The city is known as a vacation destination for North American and European vacationers, as well as a politically important battleground in U.S. Presidential politics and the home of the highly regarded St. Petersburg Times.

          As of the 2000 census, the city population was 248,232. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 249,090 [1], making it the fourth largest city in the state of Florida. St. Petersburg is the second largest city in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, which is composed of roughly 2.6 million residents, making it the second largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the state behind Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, and the third largest in the southeast.

          The city is located on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the mainland to the north, connected with the city of Tampa, Florida to the east by causeways and bridges across Tampa Bay, and to Bradenton, Florida in the south by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (Interstate 275), which traverses the mouth of the bay. It is also served by Interstates 175 and 375, which branch off of 275 into the southern and northern areas of downtown respectively.

           With a purported average of some 360 days of sunshine each year, it is nicknamed “The Sunshine City.” For that reason, the city is a popular tourist destination, especially for those in the United States from colder Northern climates.

           The city was co-founded by John C. Williams, formerly of Detroit, Michigan, who purchased the land in 1876, and by Peter Demens, who was instrumental in bringing the terminus of a railroad there in 1888. St. Petersburg was incorporated on February 29, 1892, when it had a population of only some 300 people.

           It was named after Saint Petersburg, Russia, the birthplace of Peter Demens. A local legend says that John C. Williams and Peter Demens flipped a coin to see who would have the honor of naming the city. Peter Demens won and named the city after his birthplace, while John C. Williams named the first hotel after his birthplace, Detroit. The Detroit Hotel still exists downtown.

          The city’s first major industry was born in 1899 when Henry W. Hibbs, a native of Newport, N.C., established his wholesale fish business at the end of the railroad pier, which extended out to the shipping channel. Within a year, Hibbs Fish Company was shipping more than 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of fish each day.

Dredging of a deeper shipping channel from 1906 to 1908 opened St. Petersburg to larger shipping. Further dredging improved the port facilities through the 1910s. By then the city’s population had quadrupled to 4,127.

             In 1914, airplane service across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back was initiated, generally considered the first commercial airline. The company name was the “Airboat Line” and the pilot was Tony Jannus. The Tony Jannus award is presented annually for prestigious work in the airline industry. There is also a very popular local music/entertainment venue named after Tony Jannus called Jannus Landing on Central Avenue in Downtown. Air service was discontinued in 1924 with the opening of Gandy Bridge, the first across Tampa Bay, which allowed automobile traffic between the two cities.

              The city population continued to multiply during the twentieth century through the 1970s as the town became a popular retirement destination for Americans from midwestern cities, reaching 238,647 in the 1980 census. By the 1980s, however, the population had levelled off, and has grown by only 10,000 since then, primarily as a result of being “built-out”. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

             St Petersburg has always attracted gays and lesbians, drawn by the areas climate and proximity to the beaches. Downtown St Petersburg’s rebirth has been centered on the arts, with seven world-class museums, many art galleries, and live theater. With historic neighborhoods surrounding downtown and to the west, gays and lesbians have always been involved in the revitalization of the charming neighborhoods that had fallen into disrepair in the 70’s and 80’s.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 August 2006 )

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