The Society for Commercial Archeology’s (SCA) 2014 conference was held in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 9-12.
From the beginning the growth of St. Petersburg depended on selling the city as a destination. In relying on natural and recreational amenities, the city boomed first in the 1920s and then again after World War II. In that second mid-century growth spurt, development moved away from downtown towards the beaches and western side of the peninsula.
Two bus tours during the conference allowed attendees to see roadside resources of the Gulf coast from Weeki Wachee to Sarasota, with particular emphasis on the recreational resources of the golden age of roadside attractions.
Sunshine Skyway to Sarasota Modern Bus Tour
Our first tour reviewed some of the 20th century resources in downtown St. Pete and southern Pinellas County including the iconic World Liquor globe, the Gulfport Casino, mid-century churches and the wonderful hotels and motels of Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. Traveling across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Sarasota, we explored the mid-century survivors of the Sarasota School of Architecture, both residential and commercial, and then visited Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a surviving vintage roadside attraction. On our return we traveled down the Tamiami Trail stopping at sites in Bradenton including historic McKechnie Field.
Floridiana Bazaar at the St. Petersburg Shuffle, 7 – 11 p.m.
Every Friday night the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club opens its doors to shufflers of all ages as generations meet to play what is becoming the hip game of shuffleboard. As part of the conference festivities the club offered a Floridiana Bazaar for vendors of vintage Florida products. Participants included authors Lu Vickers (“Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida’s Oldest Roadside Attractions”), Rick Kilby (“Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de León and Florida’s Magical Waters”) and Ken Breslauer (“Roadside Paradise – The Golden Age of Florida’s Tourist Attractions”), among others.
Saturday, April 12, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Windows to the Past: Sponges, Mermaids & Cigars Bus Tour
This tour headed north for a big day of touring and exploring, including our closing dinner. We started by viewing vintage motels on 4th Street and made a quick stop at vintage attraction Sunken Gardens. After exploring one of the area’s many trailer parks full of vintage travel trailers, we traveled to the legendary Kapok Tree Restaurant site in Clearwater. From there we stopped at a former Sinclair gas station shaped like a dinosaur and headed to Weeki Wachee Springs, home of legendary mermaids. Finally traveling to Tampa, we spotted roadside resources including a former tin can tourist camp on our way to famed Ybor City, site of Tampa’s famed cigar industry.
For those who joined us for the closing dinner, we enjoyed the old world ambiance, dinner and a flamenco floor show at the original Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City, a Florida tradition since 1905. Reputed to be Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world, the Columbia has won numerous dining awards—including being named one of 50 named All-American Icon by Nation’s Restaurant News.
2012 SCA Conference:
Presented by the Society for Commercial Archeology with generous support from the Doo Wop Preservation League, the Morey Organization, and the Shalimar Resort and Conference Center
In 2012 we toured The Wildwoods, New Jersey— including Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood! The SCA’s 2012 Conference celebrated the organization’s 35th anniversary at the site of the largest concentration of mid-century resort architecture in the U.S. The conference highlighted transportation’s impact on the growth of tourism in coastal New Jersey.