Old Northeast

Courtesy of Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association

Today’s Old Northeast neighborhood was the first established neighborhood within the City of St. Petersburg. Its amenities, proximity to downtown and parks, and coherent and traditional sense of neighborhood continue to be its strengths nearly a full century after it first became a residential area. An article in the St. Petersburg Times (Jul 1, 2001) described the neighborhood in these words:

“If the heart of St. Petersburg is its downtown, the city’s soul probably resides in the North Shore area. It was there, in the section now called Old Northeast, that St. Petersburg blossomed from a village of farmers’ homesteads to a town born of boom-time prosperity.

It thrives still, having the oldest and perhaps most influential neighborhood association in the city. Real estate values, even in some of the lower-income pockets, continue to rise. Most of St. Petersburg’s movers and shakers have lived at one time or another in a North Shore neighborhood…”

Our neighborhood land originally was comprised of pine trees, palmettos, sand flats, salt marshes, and several streams, ponds, and artesian wells. Today’s Sunken Gardens was a lake, fed in part by runoff from Crescent Lake. The land has a natural and gradual downward slope from 4th Street to the waterfront; the highest point is just over 40 feet near 9th Avenue N and 4th Street. The geology was formed by the sea level’s intermittent rise and fall over thousands of years that created shoreline bluffs and marine terraces. Prior to land redevelopment, the shoreline north of 5th Avenue had small white sand bluffs, four to five feet high, and a sandy beach below.

The Tocobaga were the last Native American tribe to occupy this area. They predominantly fished and hunted, and built many shell mounds throughout the county for varied purposes. Most mounds have been destroyed but there is a remnant of a mound at Baywood Park, on the east side of Beach Drive between 6th Ave NE and 7th Ave NE behind the Vinoy Hotel.

In the late 1800s, the land was used for some agricultural purposes, mostly citrus groves. In the more modern era, C. Perry Snell was instrumental in the inception of our neighborhood for residential purposes. In 1905, he started on a small scale by organizing the Bayshore Land Company with F.A. Wood, A.E. Hoxie and A.C. Clewis. They developed the land east of 1st Street from 5th Avenue to 12th Avenue North by making it suitable for building houses. They leveled the land, laid streets, added water and sewer, etc., and then promoted the area as the “premier residential address.” They sold lots for subdivisions named Bayshore (5th to 8th Avenue) and Bayfront (9th to12th Avenue).

In 1910, Snell advanced to a larger scale by teaming with J.C. Hamlett. They purchased 600 acres from 13th Avenue to the tip of Coffeepot Bayou. This rugged land was filled with palmetto scrub, creeks and ponds. Their changes included trolley lines, seawalls, sidewalks, and a waterfront park. They called this new subdivision the North Shore. In 1925, Snell started Granada Terrace. He specified that all houses be stucco and built in Spanish or Italian style and painted specific exterior colors. Just north of this area, a ballpark existed for a short while.

Throughout St. Petersburg and our neighborhood, residential home building activity declined during the Depression. Over the next couple of decades, new homes slowly occupied vacant lots until the neighborhood was built-out by the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the appeal of new suburbs prompted homebuyers to look elsewhere and portions of our neighborhood reached a nadir for lack of maintenance and loss of vitality. [The neighborhood association was founded in 1974.]

Prompted by a new desire for urban living and tax laws that favored home rehabilitation, the neighborhood started a rejuvenation in the 1980s. After being threatened with demolition about this time, the Vinoy Hotel underwent a total restoration and re-opened in 1992 thus inspiring a keener interest in the surrounding areas of the neighborhood.

Those preservation efforts were rewarded with the acceptance of our neighborhood in 2003 as a landmark in the National Register of Historic Places, which is administered by the National Park Service. Within our neighborhood, the Grenada Terrace subdivision is also recognized as a Local Historic District by the City of St. Petersburg.

Today, the Old Northeast Neighborhood continues to be a thriving neighborhod and the proud home of approximately 7,500 people and 4,100 households.