Memories of  the Early Days of St. Petersburg

City Loses Landmark Linked With Memories of Early Days
Haines Building was built in 1888; Home of First Bank

     Removal of the old Haines Building to make way for a new five story building block at Third street and Central avenue, takes away one of St. Petersburg’s earliest landmarks.
     The building is linked closely with memories of Central avenue as it appeared in 1888, the year the building was built. Proof that the structure was built to outlive St. Petersburg was found when workman prepared the building for its journey to the south side of St. Petersburg. Timbers were found to be as sturdy as they were when the building was constructed.
     The Haines building was built primarily for a residence but the march of business from the waterfront up Sixth avenue, as Central avenue was then designated, caused the structure to be turned into a business building with rooms above. The structure at that time stood ten feet back of the avenue, which consisted only of a cleared patch of white sand, several blocks long,  with duck-board walks in front of the stores.

Once Home of Bank 

     In the early days the building was occupied by St. Petersburg’s only financial institution, known as the State Bank of Florida. It was operated by John Bishop. Later the building was occupied by the Orange Belt Investment Company, builders of the first rail road into St. Petersburg.
     Searching for a healthful climate, Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Haines left Philadelphia during the year, 1893. After visiting various points on the east coast, they came to St. Petersburg after hearing wondrous reports of the climate here. They bought the building known now as the Haines building from the Orange Belt company.

Starts Jewelry Store 

Starting a jewelry store in a fishing village with hardly more than 300 population proved to be a bold step, but Mr. and Mrs. Haines struggled ahead with their little store, growing with the town and increasing their business year after year. The store was operated continuously from 1898 until after the death of Mr. Haines in 1915, when the building was leased to the Owen-Cotter company of Tampa.
     When the Haines jewelry store was opened few businesses were on Central avenue. The Detroit hotel was the outstanding structure, with the old Paxton house (now Beach hotel), occupying the waterfront. An old pond occupied the lower part of Sixth avenue, between the city and the bay Shore. 

Livery Stable on Avenue 

Tom McCall had a livery stable on the present site of the Arcade hotel. Other structures were stretched at intervals, along the avenue to Ninth street, where business picked up again. Several business structures occupied the territory here. Probably the most handsome structure was the Norwood store at the corner of Sixth avenue and Ninth street.
     Mrs. Haines recalled the pioneer days when all the drinking water was carried from Mirror Lake. 

Williams Park 

Williams Park in the olden days was a park in name only, according to Mrs. Haines. She told of how the residents of the town gathered at the park one day to cut the transversing paths through the timber. Later the W. T. I. A. built walks around the park plot and planted the oak trees that now border the park. Mr. Haines set out the posts for a fence which encircled the park in the early days. These posts were removed only a few years ago. 

Fishing Principal Occupation 

     Surprising to say St. Petersburg had better port facilities in the early days than at the present day, according to Mrs. Haines. In the olden days the Atlantic Coast Line, then the Orange Belt, pier extended for almost a mile in the bay. Fishing was the principal occupation of the residents. Mrs. Haines told of how she and a party of three or four had caught 75 mackerel with one line in only a short time. She said the long pier was always lined with anglers.
     Steamers plied regularly between St. Petersburg and Port Tampa. In those days the Port Tampa Inn was one of the finest on the west coast. Port Tampa was a busy shipping point. Lumber for the pioneer houses in St. Petersburg was brought by water. It was a common sight to see big lumber schooners unloading their cargoes at the end of the railroad pier.
     St. Petersburg was then a city without automobiles, telephones, garages, ice plants, street cars, electric lights, vacuum cleaners, wireless stations, moles, spas, but not without real estate agents. The real estate agents came with the railroad and have been here since.

Source: St. Petersburg Times: 6-3-22 (Story by Ralph Reed)

Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers


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