Pass-a-Grille: The Original Tampa Bay Beach Town

PASS-A-GRILLE BEACH, the Southernmost of Pinellas County’s barrier beaches, was the first beach community on the Gulf of Mexico to develop as a weekend residential spot for successful Tampa and St. Petersburg residents. Originally, home to fishermen, homesteaders, and lumber men like Zephaniah Phillips, the island opened up when Roy S. Hanna and Tampa cigar magnate Selwyn Morey started in the 1880’s to develop lots for houses and hotels and a ferry service.  The completion of a bridge from the mainland came twenty years later.

James H. Forquer, manager of St. Petersburg’s Detroit Hotel, set up a floating hotel for excursionists and in 1898 George Henri Lizotte, a French travel agent for Thomas Cook Company, opened the first permanent hotel.

FLORIDATRAVELER passagrille-beachPOSTCARD

Merged with St. Petersburg Beach since 1957, Pass-A-Grille maintains its arty and bohemian life style, in part, because the village is but one block wide and 31 blocks long. There are restaurants on the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.

WHERE TO START: The island is ideal for walkers if you PARK AT THE SOUTH END OF GULF WAY by the beach. DRIVERS would appreciate the weekdays when you can loop around the narrow roads.

DRIVE EAST ON FIRST AVENUE toward Pass-A-Grille Channel to see how condos and apartments now block the point. Only 103 First Avenue, a two story frame with an old metal stove chimney is an early house. (1) LANDS END is a cottage colony at the very tip of Pass-A-Grille with a view toward the mouth of Tampa Bay. The island to the south is Fort DeSoto Park.

TURN LEFT (north) ON GULF and PASS SECOND AVENUE. On your left are four early 1920’s cottages: (2) 200 Pass-A-Grillea fine 2 1/2- story frame structure with a large front porch.

TURN LEFT ON THIRD AVENUE. All the cottages on your left predate 1925, including the (3) DR. EDMUND MELVILE HOUSE(1906), 104 Third Avenue, a two story that was moved from the Point to make way for apartments. At 110 Third Avenue was the (4)THOMAS WATSON COTTAGE SITE, the winter home of Thomas Watson, co-inventor of the telephone.

FLORIDATRAVELER 103 12th avenue 1923 2 story

1923 Cottage With In-Law Apt at 103 12th Avenue

TURN RIGHT ON GULF and then RIGHT ON FOURTH AVENUE.

On your left is the (5) HOTEL CASTLE (1906) one of the older beach establishments and an unusual style of a beach colony. On your right is the (6) FIRST SCHOOLHOUSE (1912) , 105 Fourth Avenue, a one room school, now a residence. Across the street lived William Staub, editor of the St. Petersburg Times (111 Fourth) .

At the end of the block on the right is the (7) HAROLD McPHERSON HOUSE (1903), 308 Pass-A-Grille, once an old fish camp, now a large frame house.

TURN LEFT ON PASS-A-GRILLE.

The next four houses on your left are fine older homes. The first one is the (8) WALDRON HOUSE (1910), 400 Pass-A-Grille, with a wonderful stone fence and cement yard.

TURN LEFT ON FIFTH AVENUE where old cottages line both sides. The first house on your left is the (9) CAPTAIN RANDON MILES HOUSE (1900), 102 Fifth Avenue, one of the island’s oldest, complete with fluted chimney. The last house on the left is the (11) JAMES SIMMONS HOUSE (1911), 108 Fifth Avenue, a big waterfront owned by the New York Congressman.  Babe Ruth was wintered here in a long gone cottage.

TURN RIGHT ON GULF and right on SIXTH AVENUE. This entire block is mostly 1920’s cottages. The last house on the left stands where Zephaniah Phillips  built his saw mill in 1884.

TURN LEFT ON PASS-A-GRILLE and LEFT ON SEVENTH.

The first house on your left is the (11) AMELIA WILLIAMS HOUSE (l9l9), 612 Pass-A-Grille. At 608 Pass-A-Grille is the (12)ZEPHANIAH PHILLIPS HOUSE (1886), probably the oldest home on the island. On your right is the 1917 (13) V. K. OUTLANDS HOUSE (1917), home of a noted poet, batter known locally as the “Cat Woman.” Here and at 702 Pass-A-Grille were located the Old Spanish Fishing Ranchos in the 1880’s.

FLORIDATRAVELER 702 PassAGRille 2.3 million

Selling at $2 Million is 1925 house at 702 Pass-A-Grille

At 102 Seventh Avenue is the (14) GEORGE GRANGER HOUSE (1901), one of the five oldest beach cottages in Pinellas.

TURN RIGHT ON GULF WAY and RIGHT ON EIGHTH AVENUE, downtown Pass-A- Grille.  The two story buildings with their open or enclosed second floor porches give downtown a frontier look except at 111 Eighth, a delightfully tiny pink storefront advertising “psychotherapy.” A block away is the towering HURRICANE RESTAURANT, where people drive for miles for a grouper sandwich and a sunset.

FLORIDATRAVELER Hurricane-Seafood-Restaurant

The Rooftop at Hurricane Restaurant Is A Party Spot

Next door at 107 Eighth Avenue is the (16JOSEPH MERRY BAIT SHOP(l911). The fancy building at 106 Eighth Avenue is the 1913 (17) J. J. DUFFY GROCERY, started by the first Mayor and major developer of this area. The Coin Shop is housed at the (18) CAPTAIN KEN MERRY BUILDING (1936), 105 Eighth Avenue, once the Kay Metz store. At 102 Eighth Avenue was the (19)JAMES MASON HOUSE (1923), one of the earliest hotels.

TURN LEFT ON PASS-A-GRILLE and LEFT on one-way NINTH AVENUE.

On your right is the Pass-A-Grille Park. On your left at 808 Pass-A-Grille is the (20) JUDGE L. S. SCHWERDTFEBER HOUSE (JEWETT VILLA)(1908), a big house with three dormers. The Seaside Grille Pavilion across Gulf Way along the public beach continues a tradition started in 1905 by Charles S. Page who opened a beachside snack bar. This postcard of the PASSA-GRILLE HOTEL AND CASINO is dated 1921.
TURN RIGHT ON GULF WAY and RIGHT ON TENTH AVENUE.

One can’t miss the (21) PASS-A-GRILLE COMMUNITY CHURCH (1911), 115 Tenth Avenue, now a history museum for the Pinellas islands. Stop by and visit the exhibits if the building is open. (22) 105 Tenth Avenue once housed the 1913 Women’s Club but it moved to 2201 PassAGrille Way in 1938.

FLORIDATRAVELER museum passagrille

The Museum Once A Church

At 103 Tenth Avenue is the (23) E. C. KITTRIGHT HOUSE (1903), one of the island’s oldest and moved from downtown. At the end of the block is the 1906 (24) ALPHONSE THAYER HOUSE, 1000 Pass-A-Grille. The art gallery on the back side was the studio of noted artist Ralph McKey.

TURN LEFT ON PASS-A-GRILLE past the 1910 Mac Granger House at 1002 Pass-A-Grille, and TURN LEFT ON ELEVENTH AVENUE. At 109 Eleventh Avenue is the delightful (24) CHARLES BEINERT COTTAGE, (1921), better known as the “Staten Island Cottage.”

FLORIDATRAVELER seacritters on intracoastal

Sea Critters Restaurant Over the Waterway

This ends of the original Pass-A-Grille district. At 113 Twelfth Street is the (25) VASHTI BARLETTE COTTAGE (1918) and at 1202 Pass-A-Grille Way is the (26) HAROLD McPHERSON HOUSE.  Film fans might want to travel north to the yellow cottage at 1805 Pass-A-Grille, the 1927 home of movie actress Norman Talmadge.

 

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About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
This entry was posted in attractions, dining, environment, Florida Food, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, museums, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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