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Historic designation planned for building that houses the Woodson Museum

The building that currently is home to the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum could soon be designated a local historic landmark.

The St. Petersburg Community Planning and Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the structure be listed in the city’s Register of Historic Places. Final approval is up to the St. Petersburg City Council, which initiated the process for designating the building as a local historic landmark last year.

The property, at 2240 9th Ave. S., was built in about 1939 and originally served as an office and community center for the adjacent Jordan Park Housing Development. Jordan Park initially was constructed as a segregated housing project for the African American residents of St. Petersburg and it stimulated the growth of the 22nd Street South commercial corridor, a report from the city staff said.

“The administration building was an important meeting space for a number of significant events that occurred during the civil rights movement and it is important to St. Petersburg’s history for that reason,” said Laura Duvekot, a historic preservationist on the city’s staff.

The Jordan Park administration building hosted gatherings for the Black community at a time when parks and beaches were accessible for white citizens only, the staff report said. It was the site for several historic events, including a vote by municipal sanitation workers, most of whom were Black, to initiate a 1968 strike that would become a pivotal point in the fight for equal working conditions and political will for African Americans in St. Pete, the report said.   

The original building had a minimalist, traditional style, and it was altered to have a Craftsman look around 2000, Duvekot said. Designation as a local historic landmark would create the need for a certificate of appropriateness for exterior alterations, but it wouldn’t impact the use of the building, Duvekot said.

Preserve the ‘Burg  supports the designation of the Jordan Park building as a local historic landmark, Emily Elwyn, a historic preservationist and Preserve the ‘Burg board member, told the commission.

“It is incredibly important that we as a community try to close the diversity gap between what we have created as landmarks and how people have lived our history,” Elwyn said. “Historic preservation is moving away from designating the grand landmarks. We need designations for places like the Snell Arcade, of course they’re wonderful. But as I said, as we live our history, as our history is important to all of us, we need to think about some of these more vernacular spaces that don’t present as elite landmarks, but they’re equally important to our city.”

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum is expected to relocate to a new building on 22nd Street South. A construction schedule has not yet been publicly announced.

No one from the museum spoke during the commission’s public hearing, but that could occur when the City Council takes up the landmark designation.

If you want to learn more about the significance of the Jordan Park development in St. Petersburg’s history, click here.

Margie Manning

Margie started her journalism career as a radio news reporter in St. Louis, before putting down her microphone and picking up a pen to work at the St. Louis Business Journal. Unable to resist the call of warm weather and beaches, Margie took an entrepreneurial detour to run an ice cream shop in Treasure Island with her husband. Before joining the Catalyst, Margie spent 14 years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal where she wrote about business successes, failures and the exciting world of innovation and start-ups. Her writing coaches are Bonnie the Dog and Coffee the Cat, joined recently by a new edition, Jack the Cat. Margie can be contacted at margie@stpetecatalyst.com

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