A statue of St. Petersburg trailblazer Elder Jordan Sr. now stands at the Historic Manhattan Casino, one of the many city landmarks he brought to life.
City and civic leaders unveiled the statue Wednesday afternoon, in what Jordan’s grandson, Rev. Dr. Basha Jordan, called an historic and momentous occasion.
It’s the first statue of its kind to be commissioned by the City of St. Petersburg.
“We don’t erect many statues here in St. Pete. In fact, we’re not sure that the city has ever really taken this kind of role in erecting a statue previously, which I think speaks to the extraordinary contributions of Elder Jordan,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman. “He was a remarkable man who didn’t just build a dance hall or fight to get a school constructed. He built opportunity. He paved the way for much progress here in St. Pete and we thank him and his family.”
Elder Jordan Sr. was born into slavery and became a successful businessman, according to a 2014 report in The Weekly Challenger. Before he died in 1936, he built the Jordan dance hall, now the Manhattan Casino. He fought for a school for Black children, and Jordan Park Elementary, which opened in 1925, is named for him. He donated the land for the Jordan Park housing development. He also established a bus line and a beach for African Americans during segregation.
His accomplishments helped shape the community, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.
“His vision of African American ownership, entrepreneurship and enterprise is firmly rooted on the foundation on which you stand. We know his legacy. It envelopes us here on historic 22nd Street and the surrounding community, and with the unveiling of today’s statue all who find their way to this sacred place in St. Pete’s history will also know,” Tomalin said. “This great man, born into bondage but never enslaved, clearly his soul knew its purpose and refused to yield.”
Basha Jordan said the work his grandfather undertook should not stop now.
“My question is now, what is going to happen after today, after this historic moment today, what will we do to continue the legacy, to continue to give hope, to continue to give faith to African Americans not only on the south side of St. Petersburg, but all through St. Petersburg,” Jordan said.
The sculpture was created by local artist Jon Hair.
“The reason I like to do these kind of pieces is because it can inspire a whole community to do positive things for your community such as Elder Jordan,” Hair said.
Wayne Atherholt, director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and his department also played a key role in the statue’s creation, said Veatrice Farrell, executive director of The Deuces Live, a nonprofit that promotes economic revitalization along the 22nd Street corridor. She also credited community leader Gwendolyn Reese; Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum; and Carla Bristol, owner of Gallerie 909.